Abbath – Abbath

27 02 2016

Note: This review was originally written for Exclaim! It was edited down and rearranged there, so I thought I would share my original article here instead. The alternative version can be found here: http://exclaim.ca/music/article/abbath-abbath

With the legal battle over rights to Immortal’s band namabbathabbathe officially in the past, fans – depending of course on which side of the fence they’re on – finally have something to rejoice about. Still donning his signature corpse paint, Abbath has returned from a six year musical drought with an impressive self-titled debut. Expanding on Immortal’s black metal blueprint, his solo material ups the ante with elements of thrash, death metal and classic rock.

The opening track “To War!” sets the tone with a thundering gallop, making it abundantly clear that Abbath means business. Thematically, it almost feels like a call to arms – a battle cry that echoes through the entire album. There are piles of stand-out moments throughout, including a horn section that punctuates brightly through the heavier elements in “Ashes of the Damned” and a foreboding acoustic interjection in the otherwise riff-heavy “Winterbane”. Bassist King (Gorgoroth, Ov Hell) adds some evil personality into the tracks, contributing some truly meaty bass runs while drummer Creature (aka Kevin Foley) thrashes and blasts with technical precision. Even the front man’s recognizable croak sounds more menacing than it does amusing, and while you might expect a certain level of cheesiness, you won’t find much here.

The journey may have been treacherous, but this time Abbath has emerged unscathed. He’s proven that he doesn’t need the Immortal name to expand his black metal legacy – all he needs is a little help from his friends.

Available now on Season of Mist.

Stream the album here: https://abbath.bandcamp.com/

 





Clutch / Orange Goblin / Lionize / Scorpion Child @ Sound Academy, Toronto ON, April 18, 2013

18 08 2013

 This review was originally written for Hellbound.ca and published as a headliner on the front page of the website. The article along with photos can be viewed here: http://tiny.cc/7b3z1w

Arriving to the Sound Academy before the doors opened at the early hour of 6:30pm, I was surprised to discover a lineup that was sparsely populated. It was one of the warmest days Southern Ontario had seen since spring had officially been declared sprung, so while most ticket holders were enjoying the last of the sunshine my accompanying party and I staked claim to a spot with a decent vantage point of the stage (practically a luxury in this venue). The nice weather had put everyone in a jovial mood, and with the promise of an interesting lineup before us the small crowd was poised for an evening of good old fashioned rock n’ roll.

One of the lesser known bands on the bill, Scorpion Child made it clear right away that they have their musical roots planted in the same 70s hard rock soil as that of Nuclear Blast labelmates Graveyard and Witchcraft. Not content to display their influences on one mere sleeve however, the Texas five-piece have chosen instead to construct an entire bell bottomed wardrobe. Vocalist Aryn Black in particular radiated with the aura of bands that came before, approaching the frontman role with obvious relish as he performed. From his leather vest to his soaring falsetto, he moved with a flamboyance that channeled a young Robert Plant with eerie similarity. While certainly entertaining, there came a point when the constant Led Zeppelin comparisons made it difficult to look at Scorpion Child as their own entity. They definitely have talent, but in the end I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d heard it all before.

As Lionize began their set they struck me as a band that might feel more at home in a dusty little jazz club. I can see them now; improvising jams while fedora clad gentleman down whisky and smoke cigarettes. They could be best described as an indie blues band with rock sensibilities, combining elements of jazz, reggae and stoner rock in a way that somehow still feels organic. There is an ease in the way they play off one another, a sense of comfort in their grooves. At one point they wandered into a jam only to be joined on stage by Clutch’s Tim Sult and Orange Goblin’s Joe Hoare on their guitars. The band comes across as one big, music loving family and the crowd clearly fed off the positive vibes. With all that was going on you might expect some level of pretense, but Lionize only beamed with natural humility and humble pride throughout.

Opening with their latest single “Red Tide Rising” from 2011’s A Eulogy For The Damned, Orange Goblin managed to arouse the first mosh pit of the night. Since this was their first time playing in Toronto since forming the band in 1995, it was evident that the crowd was ready to make up for lost time. While their particular brand of whisky soaked biker metal goes down smoother on record, it has much more impact live. It’s louder, grittier even, which makes the set that much heavier than the bands that came before. Vocalist Ben Ward has a massive physical presence and he uses it to energize the crowd with appropriate response. Fun, celebratory and just a little bit dangerous, Orange Goblin was a perfect precursor for what was to come.

I had heard many great things about Clutch’s live performances, but this would be my first time experiencing the Maryland legends for myself. With the venue packed to the rafters and beer flowing freely, the lights dimmed and the moment we had all been waiting for was upon us. Vocalist Neil Fallon walked out on stage and with a wave of the hand and just two little words he managed to incite an entire mob of onlookers: “Let’s party,” he said simply, and with that the positive chaos ensued. As the band tore into a blistering rendition of “Crucial Velocity” off of this year’s excellent album Earth Rocker, the crowd began its metamorphosis into one singular entity; a living, breathing cyclone of energy. For the next 90 minutes Neil commanded the stage like a preacher gone mad, pointing his fingers wildly in the air while delivering lines about who stole his rock and roll in a sermon-like fashion. The band churned out one rocking track after another, playing most of the new album as well as fan-favourites like “The Mob Goes Wild” and “Burning Beard”. Even drummer Jean-Paul Gaster was given a moment to shine, delivering a brilliantly organic drum solo with technical precision. Definitive pure rock fury.

Clutchhttps://soundcloud.com/mgm-distribution-1/clutch-earth-rocker

Orange Goblinhttp://candlelightrecordsusa.bandcamp.com/album/a-eulogy-for-the-damned

Lionizehttp://pentimentomusicco.bandcamp.com/album/superczar-and-the-vulture

Scorpion Childhttp://www.reverbnation.com/scorpionchild





Graveyard / The Shrine @ The Shelter, Detroit, MI, February 4, 2013

18 08 2013

As you can probably tell by reading it, this review is one that is pretty near and dear to my heart. The trip I took to see Graveyard for the first time live was special for a number of reasons. Mostly, it was an amazing show but secondly it was a cure to all that seemed to be ailing me at the time. I wrote this review for Hellbound.ca and you can see the original review along with photos by yours truly by clicking the following link: http://tiny.cc/6n1z1w

Good things come to those who wait, or so the adage goes. It’s meant to extol the concept of patience as a virtue, but patience doesn’t come in infinite supply. Sometimes you’ve got to take action. For these situations I have another saying: good things await those who seek them. Graveyard taught me that.

I first heard about this tour back in July when, hot off the heels of tremendous crossover success and critical acclaim in the form of their sophomore album Hisingen Blues, Graveyard announced via their Facebook page that they were planning a “proper North American tour”. When the dates were finally revealed in November, the fact that a full tour had been reduced to U.S. only markets was a disappointing blow. Prior to this they had played shows in the U.S., but never in Canada and never any closer to home than New York City. I had been waiting for a Canadian date but my patience had worn as thin as gauze. If they wouldn’t come to me, I would have to go to them.

This is how I found myself in Detroit on a snowy Monday evening, enjoying the warmth and refuge of The Shelter, an aptly named venue if I’d ever heard one. Located in the basement of the larger St. Andrew’s Hall, the surroundings evoked a strange sense of familiarity despite having never been there before. The low ceilings, dim lighting and knee high stage were not unlike the small clubs I frequented for metal shows in Toronto or Hamilton, and the crowd wasn’t much different either. It was a nice contrast to the drab and sketchy city streets I had just escaped, and for the first time since arriving in Detroit I felt right at home.

With no local openers, California’s The Shrine was the first band on stage. Playing a fast and loose combination of stoner rock and skate-punk, they struck me as a laid-back, west coast version of Barn Burner. With music tailor made for long nights of drinking in biker bars and getting into fights, songs like the fun-loving “Zipper Tripper” and raucous “Deep River (Livin’ To Die)” had an air of reckless celebration. Guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau shredded his guitar in a manner that suggested it might catch on fire at any moment, while bassist Court Murphy and drummer Jeff Murray maintained energetic levels of low end fuzz and rhythmic debauchery. Graveyard might have been the major draw for the night but it’s fair to say that The Shrine left the swelling audience suitably impressed.

With a full capacity crowd finally in place, there was a discernible level of anticipation in the room. It seemed I wasn’t the only one with a hearty fondness for Graveyard. When the opening siren call of “An Industry of Murder” from 2012’s Lights Out sounded, the crowd erupted with joyous fanfare. In reciprocation, the Swedes stomped through a magical 60 minute set that ranged from 70’s influenced rock ‘n roll scorchers (“Seven Seven”, “Ain’t Fit To Live Here”) to swirling blues ballads (“Uncomfortably Numb”, “Hard Times Lovin’”) and everything in between (“As The Years Pass By, The Hours Bend”). Each song was encompassed by a layer of warmth and richness, the buttery tones proving a perfect complement to the plush velvet of Joakim Nilsson’s vocals. His voice was just as powerful as on record, something I expected, but live it dripped with a new level of emotional intensity that gave me chills. As a band, Graveyard plays with near telepathic ability, silently communicating through fleeting looks and nods. When they’d lock into a groove or wander into a jam they did so with an ease of comfort that was truly mesmerizing. It all culminated into an unforgettable, show stopping performance highlighted by an encore rendition of their bluesy masterpiece “The Siren”.

When it was over I stood by the stage for several moments, unable to speak. It felt like every emotion had just been exercised; happiness, love, sadness, regret. I realized that it doesn’t matter whether you’re on stage or in the audience, when you strip everything back we all have the same beating heart, the same vulnerability. Graveyard had tapped into a human condition that made a roomful of strangers no longer seem strange. It’s not something you can experience every day, but it’s certainly something worth waiting for.

Graveyardhttps://soundcloud.com/nuclearblastrecords/graveyard-hisingen-blues

The Shrinehttp://theshrine.bandcamp.com/





High On Fire / Goatwhore / Primate / Lo-Pan @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, November 26, 2012

18 08 2013

As with most of my review, this one was also originally written for use on Hellbound.ca. Check out the original post with photos of the show by clicking the link: http://tiny.cc/6n1z1w

A perfectly curated touring package is a rare and wonderful thing, but it’s not often we are treated to one as curious as the tour that rolled through the Opera House last Monday night. Any genre blending lineup of bands has the potential for disaster, but when it works, it works sumptuously well. Here, each band’s style complemented rather than emanated and the sets flowed smoothly from one to the next with nothing seeming out of place. It really was one of those occasions where the whole was much richer and momentous than the sum of its parts.

Kicking off the night was the stoner rock styling of Ohio’s Lo-Pan, the warmth of their sound immediately helping to fend off the bitter chill from outside. The lesser known of the four bands on the bill, their particular brand of rock is based in the down-and-dirty South and then brushed with a subtle palate of bluesy goodness. Vocalist Jeff Martin is a massive figure; both in stature and vocal delivery, and his smooth yet powerful voice remained the clear focus of their set. Reminiscent of bands like Clutch or Kyuss, Lo-Pan played a solid set of no-frills rock to a growing (and obviously impressed) crowd.

With Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp on vocals and Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher on guitar, you could say that Primate‘s members are more famous than the music they create. What they create, by the way, is punk infused grindcore with a bit of a southern drawl. Playing mostly tracks off of their recently re-issued debut Draw Back A Stump (and a few Black Flag covers to boot), their easy going attitude and laid back attire (see: Kevin’s bare feet and floppy hat) had nothing to do with their ability to play. Executing particularly vicious renditions of “Get the Fuck off My Lawn” and “Global Division” they managed to coax more than a couple sweaty bodies out of the sidelines and into the pit.

Continuing into even heavier realms, New Orleans’ Goatwhore is no stranger to the Toronto stage. Having made their home on the road for a number of years, it’s become apparent by their consistently growing fan base that the fruits of their labour are finally ripening. Even as they took to the stage, bound in leather and armed with their signature blend of blackened thrash and death metal, the crowd surged with an influx of eager and blood thirsty onlookers. Ripping into the opening notes of “Collapse in Eternal Worth” with barely a moment of pause, the band continued with a blistering set focused heavily on this year’s acclaimed album Blood for the Master. Commanding the audience with his magnetic presence, vocalist Ben Falgoust always seems much larger when up on stage. He spits each line with a dark and venomous conviction, always reaching for the jugular vein. When they played their final song, the fan-favourite “Apocalyptic Havoc”, the crowd responded as much with cheer as cathartic violence.

In order to facilitate front-man Matt Pike’s alcohol rehabilitation, High On Fire were forced to cancel their appearance at this year’s Heavy T.O. festival. As a result, it’s been more than two years since the band last stepped foot on a Toronto stage. Luckily for them, absence really does make the heart grow fonder and after kicking things off with “Serums of Liao”, the opening track off their recently released album De Vermis Mysteriis, the audience was a writhing hub of sweat-soaked shirts and flailing limbs. Appearing healthier and more focused than ever, the band proceeded to deliver well over an hour of career spanning material including “10,000 Years” and “Last” from 2000’s The Art of Self Defense, and “Speedwolf” from 2002’s Surrounded by Thieves. With music so luxuriantly rich and thunderously loud, experiencing it live is a necessity. If you somehow missed this one, you truly and genuinely missed out.

High On Firehttp://highonfiresl.bandcamp.com/releases

Goatwhorehttps://myspace.com/goatwhore/music/songs

Primatehttp://primategrind.bandcamp.com/releases

Lo Panhttps://myspace.com/lopandemic/music/songs

 

 





Children of Bodom/ Eluveitie/ Revocation/ Threat Signal @ Sound Academy, Toronto ON, February 27, 2012

18 08 2013

Although I’ve been away for a bit, I haven’t stopped writing. I will be posting a few older reviews here for prosperity’s sake. As usual, this review was originally written for use and published by Hellbound.ca. You can check out the article along with photos of the gig by clicking the link: http://tiny.cc/pmzz1w

I will preface this review by saying one thing: my teenage self would have absolutely loved this show. That’s not to say my adult self didn’t enjoy it of course, but standing there inside the Sound Academy, feeling the crowd’s surging, voltaic energy around me, all I can remember thinking is how much more stoked on life I’d be if I was still seventeen.

It’s funny then that my first live encounter with openers Threat Signal came at a time when I was saying goodbye to those years, celebrating my 20th birthday at a small venue in Hamilton. Six years, three albums and a major label signing later and Threat Signal have come a long way from that dingy club basement in their hometown. On the Sound Academy’s big stage vocalist Jon Howard was just as energetic as I remember, easily commanding the eager crowd despite the early start time. Their latest, self-titled album as well as the sophomore release Vigilance made up most of the set, resulting in a solid performance that shone with polished aggression.

Once Revocation took the stage one thing became clear; they weren’t leaving without making new fans. Playing an impressive blend of technical death metal and thrash, the band seamlessly incorporates progressive passages and jazzy interludes to great effect in songs like “Conjuring the Cataclysm” and “Across the Forests and Fjords”. But it was front man David Davidson’s comedic banter rather than his virtuous guitar playing that really endeared him to the crowd, somehow making hilarious connections between his music, Skyrim and partying sex demons. For a band with such serious musical chops, it’s nice to see that Revocation hasn’t forgotten how to have a good time.

If you’re an eight-piece melodic death metal band who includes a hurdy gurdy, violin and flute in a list of oft used instruments, you’re probably going to stand out on a tour like this one. Despite playing the part of black sheep, Switzerland’s Eluveitie actually had a substantial draw and those fans generated a level of hype that was difficult to ignore as the band took to the stage. Jumping straight into the title track from 2010’s “Everything Remains (As It Never Was)”, the entire venue seemed awash in awe and curiosity. Actually, the whole performance felt like a bit of a spectacle with front man Chrigel Glanzmann alternating between harsh vocals and playing the flute, and hurdy gurdyist Anna Murphy lending her voice for a spectacular rendition of “A Rose for Epona”. Eluveitie’s brand of folk metal might have been a bit out of place on paper, but it proved to be a welcome and entertaining change of pace.

I’ve always credited Finland’s Children of Bodom with helping to further my interest and involvement in metal, and in all those years I’ve seen them live a countless number of times. Somehow though, this show felt different. It felt special. Whether it was the ravenous crowd, my nostalgic mood, or the fact that this was the band’s 15th anniversary tour, the moment I heard the opening riffs of “Sixpounder” I just couldn’t stop smiling. From here they blazed through a career spanning set list, placing a surprising emphasis on both older tracks and fan favourites throughout. Perhaps the most memorable moment of the night came when, after asking if we’d like to “hear some old shit”, Alexi Laiho and Co. mashed up “Deadnight Warrior”, the opening track from their debut album, with the recognizable keyboard intro of “Hate Me!”

Everything they played they played with gusto, and you could truly sense the brotherhood and camaraderie up on stage. When it came time to end the night with the obligatory track “Downfall”, Children of Bodom had shown that, even after fifteen years, it’s sometimes nice to go back and revisit your past.

Children of Bodomhttps://myspace.com/childrenofbodom/music/songs

Eluveitiehttps://myspace.com/eluveitie/music/songs

Revocationhttp://revocation.bandcamp.com/

Threat Signalhttps://myspace.com/threatsignal/music/songs





Reviews Revisited: Torche/ Big Business/ Helm’s Alee @ Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY, July 22, 2011

7 03 2012

Here is yet another review I wrote for Hellbound.ca. What can I say? They’ve always got my back. Here’s the original link with some of my worst concert photos to date: http://www.hellbound.ca/2011/07/torche-big-business-helms-alee-buffalo-ny-july-22-2011/. Horns up!

I was enamored with Mohawk Place from the moment I stepped through the door. With tin ceilings overhead, old band paraphernalia adorning the walls and strings of Christmas lights providing an ambient glow, I felt like I had stepped into the beginning levels of a Guitar Hero game. Seemingly home to every rock band cliché from graffiti on the walls to bathroom stalls without locks, a lack of proper ventilation seemed standard. On the heels of a record breaking heat wave however, this meant that it was not only humid inside, it was HOT. Luckily, ice cold beer was only three bucks a can and water was handed out for free. Besides, complaining about the heat would seem trivial with High on Fire’s entire discography in rotation and an interesting roster of Hydra Head bands poised to take the stage. It was a night for exploration and discovery, and this tour seemed to promise just that.

 To understand opener’s Helm’s Alee, I think, is to envision of them as artists – builders of sound sculptures rather than songs. This three-piece post rock outfit use each instrument as a tool for building tone and texture, weaving both male and female vocals through thundering bass and cascades of guitar. The riffs, thick and heavy, often seemed suspended in time, clinging to the venue’s stagnant air. They walk a delicate line between suffocating darkness and the ethereal light, often incorporating moments of silence as contrast to the sounds they create. If your mind is open, Helm’s Alee will alter it for the better.

Despite signs on the wall proclaiming them the evening’s headliners, Big Business were next to take the stage. Utilizing fuzzy riffs and repetitive verses for emphasis, they play the type of straight forward stoner rock that’s easy to sing along to. Stylistically, they were a perfect fit for the bill and it really seemed had a large draw. Nearly everyone in the audience was singing along, sweat soaking through their shirts and fists pumping frantically in the air. Lead singer Jared Warren injected a strange level of surrealism into their music when he choose to address the crowd, at one point insisting the beer spilled on him would cause hops to multiply and sprout from his pores. Weird to be sure, but in a place like this weird can also be wonderful.   

Torche may be notoriously loud live but their infectious brand of stoner pop seeped quietly into the room, getting under everyone’s skin and inciting movement throughout. In no time flat Mohawk Place was transformed into a house party from hell. There was jovial dancing in the mosh pit and beer sloshing in celebration. Not one person remained static, including the band themselves who seemed happy just to be on stage. From 2007’s In Return to latest offering Songs for Singles, Torche played a career spanning set list with humour and finesse. The one-two punch of Meanderthal’s “Healer” and “Across Shields” proved the real highlight however, setting fire to an already energetic set.  

Although the venue was uncomfortably hot and sticky by the show’s end, there was nothing I could do to stop grinning. I liked Torche before but I absolutely adore them now, and like I said it’s hard to complain. The water was free, booze was cheap and the music was loud. Totally worth the last minute drive to Buffalo if you ask me.





Toxic Holocaust – Conjure and Command

7 03 2012

ImageToxic Holocaust’s latest release “Conjure and Command” is an album made for reckless summer driving. Aggressively fast and rebellious in nature, it’s the type of crusty thrash that leaves you feeling exhausted and gritty just for having heard it. If Joel Grind wrote the soundtrack to a successful car jacking, this is what it would sound like.  

While the production here is fairly warm and enveloping, the vocals have a rawer edge which consciously de-polishes the entire thing. Songs like “I am Disease” inject a bit of black metal reverb while personal favourite “Bitch” adds a dose of punk. Really though, these are just seasonings for what is a true speed metal album through and through. It’s fast, dirty and not too serious, but it sure is a hell of a ride.

 Simply put, “Conjure and Command” is Joel Grind at his most vicious and it’s Toxic Holocaust’s most noticeable album to date. Whatever’s pissing this dude off we’re lucky to be reaping all the benefits.

(This article was originally written for Hellbound.ca. The original article is available here: http://www.hellbound.ca/2011/07/toxic-holocaust-conjure-and-command/)








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