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

 

 

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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/)





Reviews Revisited: Fatality/ Reanimator/ Ash Lee Blade/ Eternal Judgement/ Titan’s Eve/ Spewgore @ The Blue Moon, Toronto, ON, July 2, 2011

7 03 2012

So, it’s been awhile. I know, I know. I didn’t write, I didn’t call. Worst of all I haven’t posted a single review in the better part of a year. But I can assure you that despite my neglect I HAVE been writing here and there. I thought I would share with you a few of those archived reviews, and while they’re not entirely new, they’re new here. I have decided to title these posts “Reviews Revisited” and will continue updating these in the next few days. This one was originally written for Hellbound.ca, and you can find the original post along with photos by yours truly over at  http://www.hellbound.ca/2011/07/thrash-bash-toronto-on-july-2-2011/. Enjoy!

In my quest to live a life full of polarizing experiences, I chose to spend my Canada day long weekend in two very different ways. First it was an evening of rock, taking in a patriotic outdoor Canada Day performance by our country’s own radio darlings The Tragically Hip. With no less than 40,000 others in attendance it was a massive show to be sure, if not exactly metal head friendly. By contrast, my following night was spent in the Blue Moon pub at an event appropriately titled “Thrash Bash”. Showcasing a plethora of Canadian thrash bands and attended by only 50 or so others, this was not only my redemption into the realm of metal; it was a scenario I felt immediately more comfortable in. I suppose that there’s something to be said for the ability of a small, dimly lit venue and loud, angry music to make a metal head feel at home.  

Spewgore were the second band of the night but the first to make acquaintance with my ear holes.  They play a style of thrash that combines a healthy mix of early 80’s speed metal with a dash of punk and grind, and I have to say that they play it with conviction. The fact that the members are old enough to be my father seemed to add to the charm, coming across as seasoned, hard working dudes who refuse to abandon their love of metal and the community it’s spawned. Silver haired vocalist Bill Brown in particular seems like the type of guy who’d share a pint of beer with you while spouting off every song Slayer ever recorded in alphabetical order, and it is this feeling of authoritative expertise that is translated live. Playing in bursts of speed and furiosity with just the right amount of attitude, Spewgore won over the small crowd and even obliged requests for “One more song!” with the seasonally appropriate “Canadian Pride”. Awesome.

Hailing from Vancouver, Titan’s Eve played the night’s most modern and original take on the thrash genre. Combining memorable choruses and mature song writing, they are a band who isn’t satisfied with simply rehashing what has been done before them. On record, songs like “Tides of Doom” and “Becoming the Demon” suffer from a lack of richness that is more due to production than anything else. Live however, with all instruments in proper balance, those same songs are elevated, almost transformed with a new sense of depth.  Between their memorable hooks, song writing chops and high level of professional acuity, it’s about time Titan’s Eve graduated to a bigger stage.

Next up was Eternal Judgment and their slab of technical trash. Unfortunately, it is here that my ability to critique becomes tricky. While I know I was impressed by their obvious guitar chops and intricate bass interludes, I can’t for the life of me remember anything else of note. No antics, no banter, no memorable highs or lows; just consistently pleasant thrash played with obvious skill. Take from this what you will.

 For a supposed thrash bash, Ash Lee Blade stuck out like a couple of thin kids at fat camp. They might have some fast paced riffs and up tempo drumming, but deep down in their core they are a traditional metal band with NWOBHM in their soul. Vocalist A.L. Blade’s high falsetto is what carries the band’s sound, and when combined with classic metal riffs and blistering solos the results are pretty satisfying. With band members bounding around the tiny stage and fans thrashing in the pit, the only real downfall to their set were the microphone problems they seemed to experience near the end.

While Ash Lee Blade brought a new flavour to the party, Quebec’s Reanimator were intent on being the party itself. Taking periodical swigs from a gas can and moving spastically around the stage, the band was nothing if not energetic. Drummer Francis Labelle in particular is the picture of unbridled enthusiasm, standing on his drum stool and calling on the crowd between songs. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. While the instrumental elements were all well played, it was vocalist Patrick Martin’s metalcore type screech which ultimately lost me. I found myself growing tired with the lack of variation and even Francis’s crazy stage antics became over extended after awhile, dragging out what felt like the longest set of the night.

Toronto’s own Fatality took the stage around 1:00am to much fan fare. Acting as our gracious hosts for the evening, they seemed to take a personal interest in showing everyone a good time. Pulling material from their debut album “Beers from the Grave” and the new “T.F.E.S.” demo (that’s “Thrash. Fuck. Eat. Sleep.” for those keeping track), we were treated to one furious blast of old school style thrash after another. Fans pushed and shoved their way to the front of the stage, and at one point vocalist Spencer LaVon asked, ever so politely, if he could stage dive onto them. This spirit of friendship and camaraderie are what Fatality have built their reputation on, and I have no doubt they will be well received as they head out on their Western Annihilation Tour this week.

After a long weekend of celebrating my home and native land, I decided that 1:30am was a good a time as any to throw in the proverbial towel. My jam packed schedule had left me exhausted but happy. Whether it was mainstream rock or underground thrash, I had proof of our nation’s ability to produce home grown talent and it made me proud. Happy Canada day indeed!

 

Fatalityhttp://www.myspace.com/fatalitythrashfuck

Reanimator – http://www.myspace.com/reanimatorthrash

Ash Lee Bladehttp://www.myspace.com/ashleeblade

Eternal Judgementhttp://www.myspace.com/eternaljudgment

Titan’s Evehttp://www.myspace.com/titanseveofficial

Spewgorehttp://www.myspace.com/spewgore

 





Life lessons – an update.

9 08 2010

I have learned that as a twenty-something finding a place in the world I must play many roles, the most signficant of which is that of a juggler. I find myself constantly juggling responsibilities as if they were bean bags – work, relationships, home life and hobbies – adding and rearranging elements one at a time in order to achieve a perfect balance. This blog is just another element to be juggled, a bean bag with an interesting new shape. Like anything new it takes some getting comfortable with before it can be added confidently into a regular routine. Although meaning to update regularly on this site my time has been consumed with handling larger responsibilities, ones which have required more attention to keep them from falling out of my grasp.

I guess this is my way of apologizing. I realize I have some reviews which are long overdue and I’m sorry for not posting in a more timely manner. Regardless, I hope someone out there can find value in old news or a least enjoy reading about my adventures. I will be updating the site with a few new reviews in the coming weeks (I promise), so be sure to keep an eye out. 

The journey towards perfection takes practice. It is often plagued by disappointments, failure and mistakes but it is this process which makes the end results rewarding. Juggling takes practice and my routine might be a bit messy at first, but this time I won’t drop the ball.

Now go listen to some Slayer or something.





Throwing the horns around the world…or at least North America.

1 04 2010

Metal is a global culture and as such it is only natural that metalheads are wanting and willing to travel to any corner of the globe for a good metal show. The excellent documentaries “Metal: A headbanger’s journey” and “Global Metal” are testament to this notion, and massive metalfests such as Wacken attract thousands of tourists each year. While I sadly have yet to reach my dream of touring the European festival circuit, I still plan on doing some metal related travels of my own this year. If you know me personally, you’ve probably already heard me blabber on endlessly about my impeding trip to New York City. You’re probably also about ready to jam a fork into your eyesocket at the mere mention of aforementioned trip.  Well guys, you better go get some cutlery because in 4  days time I will on a plane headed for NYC to witness the greatness that will be Opeth‘s 20th Anniversary tour.

Encompassing only 6 dates in 6 different citites and playing their career defining album Blackwater Park in it’s entirety, not to mention a second set of rare and never-before-played tunes, it goes without saying that this an Opeth fan’s dream. Armed with a boatload of Opeth albums and a strong desire to visit New York City, this was a concert opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. Of course, in true horn throwing fashion, I will be reporting back with all the details following Wednesday night’s sure-to-be-epic performance. 

And while we’re on the subject of travel and reviews, I feel it is necessary to announced that my metal commrades and I (also geekishly refered to as “The Fellowship” by, urm, ourselves) will be taking a trek out to Montreal for the second annual Heavy MTL music fest this July. While we will most likely be attending only the first of two days and I will definately be writing a review, you should probably pick up tickets and check this one out for yourselves. Click the link below for a rundown of the lineup of far (Mastodon! High on Fire! SLLLAAAYYYYYEEEER!) and let me know  if your planning to attend in the comments section. In fact, feel free to share any metal related adventures of your own since I’m always up for living vicariously through others! With enough positive thoughts (and financial support) I might even make it to Europe some day!

For your referencing pleasure:

Opethhttp://www.myspace.com/opeth

Heavy MTLhttp://www.heavymtl.com/en/








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