Concert Review – Amon Amarth (Rebel, Toronto, ON, 10/09/2019)

A night of epic battles, endless circle pits and heavy-as-hell anthems offered by a horde of Swedish bands to all of us “Vikings” in Toronto, spearheaded by one of the biggest names of the current metal scene.

OPENING ACTS: Grand Magus, At The Gates and Arch Enemy

What a fun night, my fellow Vikings! The Swedish invasion that took the city of Toronto by storm last night at Rebel was beyond entertaining, and I can’t find the right words to describe the heaviness and power from all four bands of the night, Grand Magus, At The Gates, Arch Enemy and the almighty Amon Amarth (all hailing from Sweden, of course). There was a lot of beer drinking, endless mosh pits, lots of screaming, horns in the air, the encounter (although playing at different times with their respective bands) of the talented “Erlandsson Brothers” Adrian and Daniel, and a humongous dosage of our good old Heavy Metal.

The first band of the night was Stockholm-based Heavy/Doom Metal power trio GRAND MAGUS, which I confess I didn’t know much before last night. And let me tell you they kick some serious ass with their fusion of classic doom with Nordic themes, setting the stage on fire with their crisp and thunderous performance. Currently promoting their new album Wolf God, the band comprised of vocalist and guitarist JB Christoffersson, bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig Witt thanked all fans that were able to arrive early at Rebel to witness their fantastic concert, with their closing song, the battle hymn entitled Hammer of the North, being the icing on the cake to their flawless performance. I hope they return to Toronto soon for another killer concert, and if I were you I would search for their music right now on Spotify or on YouTube as it’s definitely worth it.

Setlist
I, the Jury
Dawn of Fire
Like the Oar Strikes the Water
Iron Will
Hammer of the North

Band members
JB Christoffersson – vocals, guitar
Fox Skinner – bass
Ludwig Witt – drums 

After a very short break it was time for Gothenburg’s own Melodic Death Metal institution AT THE GATES to bring to Toronto all their rage and darkness, inspiring the fans that were already filling up all the spaces at the venue to ignite some serious circle pits. Also, although the band has recently released two EP’s named The Mirror Black and With the Pantheons Blind, it felt like they “ignored” that and kept playing the same setlist used during their tour to promote their 2018 album To Drink from the Night Itself, with songs such as To Drink From the Night Itself and The Colours of the Beast being among my favorite ones of their solid performance. Needless to say, Tomas Lindberg was amazing with his harsh, desperate vocals throughout the entire concert, as well as Adrian Erlandsson, who was perhaps trying to “set the tone” for his brother Daniel with Arch Enemy right after that. A great warm-up concert as usual, and a great band for anyone who loves violence and mosh pits from the bottom of their blackened hearts.

Setlist
Der Widerstand
To Drink From the Night Itself
Slaughter of the Soul
At War With Reality
The Colours of the Beast
Cold
Heroes and Tombs
El Altar del Dios Desconocido
Death and the Labyrinth
Blinded by Fear
The Night Eternal

Band members
Tomas Lindberg – vocals
Martin Larsson – guitars
Jonas Stålhammar – guitars
Jonas Björler – bass
Adrian Erlandsson – drums

The venue was already packed when the one and only ARCH ENEMY hit the stage and began their high-octane, incendiary concert, and within a few seconds the entire floor section was already turned into a massive circle pit for our total delight. The multi-talented frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz was absolutely brutal and unstoppable, reminding us all she was the only Canadian in this tour and, consequently, asking us all to show those Swedish guys how awesome Canadian metallers are. Their setlist was quite solid for the time they had available, mixing a few songs from their latest album Will to Power, released in 2017, with some of their older classics. Also, I guess I don’t need to say how brilliant both Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis were with their axes, right? And if you were there last night, I bet you know what the words Ravenous and Nemesis mean to your neck, elbows and throat.

Setlist
Set Flame to the Night
The World Is Yours
War Eternal
My Apocalypse
Ravenous
The Eagle Flies Alone
First Day in Hell
Saturnine
As the Pages Burn
Nemesis
Enter the Machine

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars, backing vocals
Jeff Loomis – lead guitars, backing vocals
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

AMON AMARTH

After all those insanely heavy and electrifying bands warmed us up really well on a not-so-cold Torontonian night, we were more than ready to join the berserkers from AMON AMARTH on their musical journey to Valhalla, and that journey was perfect from start to finish, no doubt about that. Playing a good chunk of songs form their 2019 opus Berserker, which by the way worked really well live as the whole album kicks ass, such as Raven’s Flight, Crack the Sky, Fafner’s Gold and one of my favorites of the night, the battle hymn Shield Wall, the Swedish horde spearheaded by Johan Hegg showed us everything they got, including a Viking ship, a Viking battle, a demonic entity that looked like a skeleton version of Loki, and their traditional beer drinking horn during the party anthem Raise Your Horns.

Not sure if you noticed what I’m about to say, but all my photos of the concert are really bad, and that’s solely because it was impossible to stand still and try to take any decent pictures in the floor section due to the never-ending, gigantic and brutal circle pits happening. There was a bit of everything into the pit, from giant Viking guys to tiny (but still violent) Chinese girls, proving how big Amon Amarth are getting and how their theatrical performance combined with their powerful music is attracting more and more people to their concerts. And what can I say about what the fans did during a good part of their all-time classic Twilight of the Thunder God? I would say more than half of the floor section simply sat down on the floor and started rowing all together, as if they were true Vikings on a Viking ship sailing towards battle! That was a memorable and extremely fun moment of the night (and I don’t recall seeing that happen anywhere else, unless it’s a new thing during Amon Amarth concerts that I’m not aware of), and something that only proves how strong the band has become since their inception.

The entire band was more than happy with the reception they got from us here in Toronto, smiling back to us and banging their heads nonstop, and only stopping all that devastation to say THANK YOU, TORONTO! a thousand times. If that wasn’t a statement that they’re coming back to our city again and again, and every single time with a bigger and better concert, I don’t know what would be. Would Amon Amarth be the next “metal giant” after dinosaurs like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Metallica and Slayer call it quits? Will those classic bands pass the torch to our beloved Swedish Vikings? Well, only time will tell, but based on the quality of their discography and, above all, the high energy and epicness of their live performances, they more than deserve that place among the metal gods. All hail Amon Amarth, and may Toronto witness their epic, heavy-as-hell metal hymns and onstage battles countless more times in the coming decades!

Setlist
Raven’s Flight
Runes to My Memory
Deceiver of the Gods
First Kill
Fafner’s Gold
Crack the Sky
The Way of Vikings
Shield Wall
Guardians of Asgaard
Raise Your Horns
The Pursuit of Vikings
Twilight of the Thunder God

Band members
Johan Hegg – vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass guitar
Jocke Wallgren – drums

Concert Review – Trivium & Arch Enemy (The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON, 11/07/2017)

Over 1,500 metalheads headed over to Toronto’s Greektown for a flammable night of modern and vibrant contemporary metal music, courtesy of the iconic Arch Enemy and the unstoppable Trivium.

OPENING ACTS: Fit For An Autopsy and While She Sleeps

Although it’s getting colder and colder as the month of November begins to switch from the colors of fall to the monochromatic look of winter, I guess no one can complain about the clear and not-so-chilly weather yesterday in Toronto, turning the night into the perfect occasion to head to The Danforth Music Hall, located at the easternmost side of what’s known as “Greektown”, to watch the fulminant performances by two of the most important bands in contemporary metal music, Swedish Melodic Death Metal masters Arch Enemy and American Heavy Metal troopers Trivium, both promoting their brand new kick-ass albums. Not only that, weeks before the concert all tickets were already sold out, which means we were going to experience around 1,500 metalmaniacs screaming, jumping up and down and slamming into the pit together with the bands. It can’t get any better than this, my friends.

The two bands chosen to warm up the crowd in a night of modern and aggressive heavy music were American Deathcore act Fit For An Autopsy and British Metalcore group While She Sleeps, with FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY being the first to hit the stage at 6:30pm. Formed in 2008 in Jersey City, in the state of New Jersey, United States, the band is supporting Arch Enemy and Trivium during their fall tour by promoting their latest album, titled The Great Collapse, released earlier this year. If Deathcore is your cup of tea, go check The Great Collapse in full on YouTube as their setlist was 2/3 formed of songs from that album, and also watch their official video for Black Mammoth, the closing song of their performance.

Setlist
Hydra
Heads Will Hang
Absolute Hope Absolute Hell
Still We Destroy
Iron Moon
Black Mammoth

Band members
Joe Badolato – vocals
Will Putney – guitar
Patrick Sheridan – guitar
Tim Howley – guitar
Peter Spinazola – bass
Josean Orta – drums

After that good start it was time for WHILE SHE SLEEPS to blast their Metalcore precisely at 7:15pm to all metalheads that were already at the venue (and the ones arriving a little late). Formed in 2006, this Sheffield-based squad is currently promoting their new album You Are We, with their setlist also being almost 100% based on it. New songs like the opening tune You Are We, Silence Speaks, and the closing one Hurricane kept the audience warm enough for the main attractions of the night, with lead singer Lawrence Taylor and bassist Aaran Mckenzie being absolutely on fire from start to finish.

Setlist
You Are We
Civil Isolation
Brainwashed
Feel
Silence Speaks
Hurricane

Band members
Lawrence Taylor – vocals
Sean Long – guitar
Mat Welsh – guitar, vocals
Aaran Mckenzie – bass
Adam Savage -drums

ARCH ENEMY

Finally, after over three long years (the last time the band was in town was in 2014 together with Kreator), Toronto had the pleasure of witnessing another bestial performance by ARCH ENEMY, precisely at 8:05pm (the punctuality of the concerts in Toronto always amazes me), and let me tell you that this time the whole band was even sharper and heavier than last time. Well, let’s say that is most probably due to the fact that in their new album, the excellent Will to Power, Arch Enemy put the pedal to the metal, sounding less melodic and more ruthless, and when their new songs were transferred to the stage the result couldn’t be different than some insane mosh pits, lots of growling and fists and horns in the air.

Frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz (with her always exotic and apocalyptic attire) seemed extremely happy and excited (as expected) to be with Arch Enemy once again in her homeland Canada, saying that it might be difficult for the band to cross the ocean to play in North America, but when they’re able to finally come to Canada and the US, it’s definitely worth it. She said that although she’s originally from Montreal, Quebec, she nurtures a deep passion and respect for Toronto, and the fans responded to that statement with a lot of enthusiasm, banging their heads nonstop to each and every song played by Arch Enemy. As mentioned, the new songs worked extremely well, in special the high-octane Slayer-ish tornado titled The Race, which by the way Alissa said is her favorite of the new album (and mine too), and the classy and groovy Blood in the Water.

Sharlee D’Angelo and Daniel Erlandsson were as precise and competent as usual with their bass and drums, respectively, but I must say it’s impressive how crystal clear, blazing and tuneful the guitars by Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis sounded during their entire performance. Those guys are true BEASTS with their cutting riffs and solos, sounding so perfect to the point you couldn’t tell if they were playing live or if it was the studio version of the songs. Whoever adjusts their instruments prior to the shows is a technical genius, no doubt about that, and if you get to see Arch Enemy live anywhere during this tour simply close your eyes and let each note played by Mr. Amott during the classic instrumental piece Snow Bound penetrate deep into your soul. The only “complaint” I have about their concert was the presence of not-so-exciting songs in their setlist, like Stolen Life, You Will Know My Name and Avalanche, which worked well, I have to admit that, but imagine if they played some of their more obscure and scathing classic tunes, like what happened with Ravenous, Dead Bury Their Dead and especially Nemesis? Well, we’ll have to wait for their next Canadian tour to see what they’ll do to their setlist (and I can’t wait for that).

Setlist
Set Flame to the Night (Intro)
The World Is Yours
Ravenous
Stolen Life
War Eternal
My Apocalypse
Blood in the Water
You Will Know My Name
The Race
The Eagle Flies Alone
As the Pages Burn
Dead Bury Their Dead
We Will Rise
Avalanche
Snow Bound
Nemesis
Enter the Machine (Outro)

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars, backing vocals
Jeff Loomis – lead guitars, backing vocals
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

TRIVIUM

After a short break, where the house DJ played some all-time classics on the speakers such as Iron Maiden’s “The Prisoner” and Motörhead’s “Born to Raise Hell” to keep the momentum created by Arch Enemy going, Orlando-based metallers TRIVIUM took the stage by storm at 9:45pm sharp already with the opening track of their superb new opus, The Sin and the Sentence, the title-track The Sin and the Sentence, which made the crowd explode in awe and ignited some serious mosh pits all over the venue. Matt Heafy, Corey Beaulieu and Paolo Gregoletto were as electrified and in sync as usual, with Matt leading the fans with his “meme-generator” faces and gestures, but it was newcomer Alex Bent who stole the spotlight. Holy shit, that guy is a relentless killing machine on drums, elevating the band’s already heavy sonority to a whole new level. Needless to say, he played all songs to perfection, in special one of the best of the new album and a serious candidate to become a Trivium classic, the Black Metal-inspired tune Betrayer.

Surprisingly (at least for me), one of the songs with the strongest reaction from fans was Until the World Goes Cold, which is a pretty nice ballad but, let’s be realistic, it’s far from being as awesome as classics like Down From the Sky and Kirisute Gomen. Two of the other songs from The Sin and the Sentence, the radio-friendly The Heart From Your Hate and Thrown Into the Fire, also sounded and felt truly heavy and thrilling, proving once again that Trivium are one of the most effective bands in heavy music when composing both heavier and slower, more melodic songs. Just like what happened with Arch Enemy, I missed a few songs in their setlist, especially some of the more complex tunes from Shogun, but Matt & Co. know what they were doing when they put this setlist together, trying to encompass all of the band’s phases in a little less than one hour and a half.

Last but not least, when the intro Capsizing the Sea started playing we all knew the show was coming to an end, but not before Matt thanked Toronto for another fantastic night of metal, promising to always return to the city with another blast of Trivium music, and asking everyone present at the venue to get down or kneel before one of their biggest classics, if not the biggest of all, In Waves. If you enjoy Slipknot you’ve already seen Corey Taylor and his bandmates do the same during their concerts, and with In Waves that Slipknot-ish formula worked extremely well like a precise time bomb, with all fans jumping up and down like maniacs while bursting their lungs screaming the two words from the song’s name. I guess there wasn’t a single fan that wasn’t eager for more Trivium when the show was over, as both Arch Enemy and Trivium had shorter-than-usual time slots to play for co-headlining the tour, but again, we must learn to be patient and wait for Trivium to get back in town in a not-so-distant future, right? At least Matt promised to be back soon, and we must trust the man.

Setlist
The Sin and the Sentence
Down From the Sky
Betrayer
Until the World Goes Cold
Like Light to the Flies
Rain
Dusk Dismantled
Strife
The Heart From Your Hate
Kirisute Gomen
Thrown Into the Fire

Encore:
Capsizing the Sea (Intro)
In Waves

Band members
Matt Heafy – lead vocals, guitar
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, backing vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, backing vocals
Alex Bent – drums, percussion

Album Review – Arch Enemy / Will to Power (2017)

A good balance between the classic days of the band with the more modern path they decided to venture after the arrival of frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz. But please, they need to stay away from clean vocals.

Will to Power, the tenth studio album by Swedish Melodic Death Metal icons Arch Enemy, might be far from being a masterpiece, but at least in my humble opinion it’s a considerable improvement from their previous installment, the uninspired War Eternal, released in 2014. The first Arch Enemy album to feature guitarist Jeff Loomis (Nevermore, Conquering Dystopia) as well as clean singing as lead vocals, Will to Power presents a good balance between the classic days of the band with Angela Gossow on vocals with the more modern path they decided to venture after the arrival of frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz, with each song having its own soul and purpose on the album.

Although Jeff definitely brought a new dynamism to the music by Arch Enemy after joining the band in 2014, I guess it was the departure of Nick Cordle that same year that had the most positive impact on the songwriting by Michael Amott, who seems to have gotten rid of the damaging “generic” virus that infested his music in War Eternal. Furthermore, another nice touch in Will to Power is the album’s stylish and meaningful cover art, designed by American artist Alex Reisfar. “The human skull as a central focal point, the flesh sort of falling off into the circular pattern. The snake ouroboros weaving in and out of the mouths and throats of the severed heads of a wolf, a goat and a vampire bat… All representing self-determination and a predatory, almost parasitic will to power”, explained Mr. Amott, and as the music progresses in the album you’ll realize how powerful the art is and how much it enhances the impact of the whole album.

Set Flame to the Night is a classy intro perfect for their live performances, warming up the listener for the high-octane anthem The Race, my favorite song of the album, where Alissa and drummer Daniel Erlandsson take the lead with their wicked growls and unstoppable beats, respectively, violently questioning the dangerous direction our society is taking (“I heard there was a race / Where we’re all one race / Color, gender, age never could dictate / I saw there was a time / When we valued all life / Nobody oppressed, everyone had rights / Suddenly, in an age where the distance between us is binary / All we see, is an internal war friendly fire in the sky and respect on the floor”). Less intense and more melodic, Blood in the Water, another fantastic choice for their live concerts, transpires old school Arch Enemy with a pinch of their contemporary creations, with the flawless guitar duo comprised of Michael and Jeff being absolutely on fire, blasting slashing riffs and solos throughout the whole song. And in The World Is Yours we face more insane riffs by Michael and Jeff, not to mention the always awesome keys by guest musician Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) and the song’s sing-along, catchy chorus (“If you want the world / Use your mind / Take control / Feel the strength / Rise from within / If you really want it the world is yours”).

One of the first tracks in Will to Power to be revealed, The Eagle Flies Alone, is not as gripping as the rest of the album despite its powerful lyrics, with Alissa showcasing a good vocal performance, though, as well as the good job done by Michael and Jeff on the guitars; followed by Reason to Believe, which really feels like if Arch Enemy meets The Agonist as it’s the first ever Arch Enemy song with lead clean vocals in almost its entirety (with some growls added to make it less cheesy). It’s indeed a power ballad that might make their newer fans happy, but it’s unfortunately too generic compared to what they’re capable of. Not even Michael’s own brother, ex-Arch Enemy guitarist Christopher Amott, is capable of saving it from being tiresome. On the other hand, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo kicks off the dark and belligerent tune Murder Scene, where Alissa sounds truly enraged adding even more electricity to the song’s already boisterous rhythm. Put differently, it’s top-notch Melodic Death Metal with hints of traditional Death Metal, with highlights to the superb job done by both Michael and Jeff with their fiery strings; whereas First Day in Hell, the most ominous of all songs, brings forward a neck-breaking main riff boosted by Alissa’s obscure, deep gnarls and screams, and as the story being told evolves you’ll feel your soul getting darker and darker.

Then we have the instrumental bridge Saturnine, shaping up the sonority for the multi-layered and gripping Dreams of Retribution, a Melodic Death Metal feast that brings together the past, present and future of the band, with its guitars and bass being in total sync while Daniel adds progressiveness to the musicality and Jens once again kicks ass with his spot-on keyboard notes. The second to last song of the regular version of the album, titled My Shadow and I, is another violent creation by Arch Enemy, sounding slightly less inspired than some of the previous songs but still above average, mainly due to the intricacy found in drums and bass lines. Finally, A Fight I Must Win might be slower than most songs, but that doesn’t mean it’s not cohesive, piercing and metallic, representing almost to perfection the path Arch Enemy has been following with their latest albums, closing Will to Power in a strong way. Actually, if you go for the limited edition digipak, you’ll be treated to their cover for English Street Punk band Charged GBH’s 1982 song City Baby Attacked by Rats (you can listen to the original version HERE), an amazing version by Michael, Alissa & Co. that’s definitely worth the investment in the special edition of the album.

Overall, Will to Power is a pretty decent album by Michael and his crew, being recommended for all fans of modern Melodic Death Metal. After listening to the album for the very first time, I had some mixed feelings about some of the songs, while others (the ones where clean vocals where pretty much nonexistent) hit me in a very positive manner right from the first second, proving that, at least to my ears and my heart, Arch Enemy still got it and can deliver high-end metal music if they want to. I honestly believe the best thing the band can do right now is to stay away from the idea that clean vocals are a good addition or variation to their music, because in the end that’s certainly not what made this band so relevant and admired in Heavy Metal. I’m not saying Alissa is not a good singer when using her clean voice; quite the contrary, she’s an incredible vocalist, but Arch Enemy are a synonym to rebelliousness and anger, things that can only be represented by some high dosages of rabid screams and deep guttural growls.

Best moments of the album: The Race, Blood in the Water, Murder Scene and Dreams of Retribution.

Worst moments of the album: The Eagle Flies Alone and Reason to Believe.

Released in 2017 Century Media

Track listing
1. Set Flame to the Night (instrumental) 1:18
2. The Race 3:15
3. Blood in the Water 3:55
4. The World Is Yours 4:53
5. The Eagle Flies Alone 5:15
6. Reason to Believe 4:47
7. Murder Scene 3:50
8. First Day in Hell 4:48
9. Saturnine (instrumental) 1:09
10. Dreams of Retribution 6:40
11. My Shadow and I 4:05
12. A Fight I Must Win 6:37

Limited Edition Digipak bonus track
13. City Baby Attacked by Rats (Charged GBH cover) 2:48

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars, backing vocals
Jeff Loomis – lead guitars, backing vocals
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

Guest musicians
Jens Johansson – keyboards on “The World Is Yours”, “Saturnine” and “Dreams of Retribution”
Christopher Amott – guitars & keyboards on “Reason to Believe”