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

 

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Cancer Bats/ 3 Inches of Blood/ Barn Burner@ The Mod Club, Toronto, ON, May 19, 2011

27 05 2011

When the “Warriors of the Great White North” tour rolled through Toronto last Thursday night, rearing its ugly red and white head, it brought with it a crowd as diverse as the nation it represented. From metal heads dressed all in black to hardcore kids in flannel, it seemed you could distinguish who was a fan of each band by what kind of shirt they were wearing. The roster of bands was small but distinct, each providing their own take on what it means to be heavy.

An earlier than normal set time meant that Montreal’s Barn Burner were put in the unfortunate position of opening to a sparsely populated (albeit fairly receptive) crowd. The band made quick work of proving themselves however, showcasing their own potent blend of stoner-meets-classic rock riffing with infectious energy and obvious skill.  While up-tempo tracks “Runnin Reds” and “Holy Smokes” got onlookers banging their heads, it was the slow and doomy haze of “Wizard Island” that was most impressive live. They even debuted a few new songs from their forthcoming album, and with clever titles such as “Dark Side of The Barn” and “Keg Stand and Deliver” it’s no secret that they have a blast doing what they do, especially when what they do is kick ass.

They might look like a motley bunch of misfit thrashers, but 3 Inches of Blood have been working tirelessly over the years to cement themselves as champions of the road. And why not?  Consistently hocking their traditional metal wares across remote parts of the country has not only garnered them a rabid following and honed their performance abilities, but it has seemingly taught them how to deliver on the demanding expectations of their audience. Straight out of the gate it becomes apparent that tonight’s show will be no exception. Opening with long time fan favourites “The Goatrider’s Horde” and “Destroy the Orks” prove to be good choices, helping to whip the crowd into a chaotic frenzy while making one thing crystal clear; they aren’t about to waste anyone’s time with filler. In fact, the 45 minute set was dominated by rare cuts and classic tracks, stopping only to improvise a few Rush riffs here and promote a couple tunes from the new 7” EP “Anthems for the Victorious” there. Although these were songs you had heard a hundred times before, they felt different somehow. Tonight they had an air of mutual respect and adoration. Simply put, this could very well be 3 Inches of Blood’s tightest, most energetic performance in Toronto to date.

It was a type of homecoming for the Cancer Bats who spent much of their early days honing their live chops in venues throughout the city. Playing more hardcore punk than metal, there was clear division between fans of this band and fans of the previous two. While those more metal strayed to the back of the venue, all the rest got right up front, lost in a sea of arms and bodies. Vocalist Liam Cormier bounded from one end of the stage to the other, enticing the crowd to sing along. For the Cancer Bats and their fans, this set was a reason to celebrate. For the rest it seemed, a reason to leave early.

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Want to know more about these bands? Check out the links below!

Barn Burner – http://www.myspace.com/theinfamousbarnburner

3 Inches of Blood – http://www.myspace.com/3iob

Cancer Bats – http://www.myspace.com/cancerbats

 





Titan’s Eve – The Divine Equal

21 04 2011

With the thrash scene currently bursting at the seams with ’80s nostalgia and born-too-late youngsters, there is something refreshingly genuine about Vancouver’s Titan’s Eve.  It’s something in the way they pay homage to their influences without that quasi-annoying wink and nod employed by too many of their contemporaries, but there’s something else there as well. It’s that undefined thing, that attitude that says “We’re not here to fuck around”. And it’s no wonder when you consider the inspiration for their debut full-length The Divine Equal is drawn from such literary sources as The Book of Genesis and John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost”. While it’s true that such intellectual subject matter could undoubtedly result in an album that is heavier in thematics than it is in sound, this is thankfully not the case.

The record opens with the slow building instrumental “Mourning Star” before picking up the pace considerably on the track “Judgement”. Energetic and almost anthemic in nature it is precisely here that the album reveals itself, settling into a satisfying string of up-tempo, hook laden tunes. Whether it’s the huge, sing-along chorus of “Becoming the Demon” or the sudden machine gun riffing on “Serpent Rising”, Titan’s Eve does a great job of creating truly memorable moments through out . Even putting aside the solid instrumental skill and song writing, it is really this formula of hooks and choruses that will help cement The Divine Equal as a constant in your regular rotation of music.

Of course this isn’t to say that the record has no flaws, and there are elements, namely the cymbal work, which could definitely benefit from a crisper sound production-wise. There are also times when it seems like the band are restraining themselves a bit emotionally, never fully unveiling the fury they often hint at.  But of course these are not things detrimental to the enjoyment of the album, and there is more offered up in talent and performance than a majority of bands are even capable of at this level. Having already garnered a number one spot on College Radio charts across Canada and currently preparing a cross country tour this summer, Titan’s Eve are a rising star on the horizon of modern thrash.





Eluveitie/ Death Angel/ 3 Inches of Blood/ Holy Grail/ Lazarus A.D./ System Divide @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, February 6, 2011

24 03 2011

Originally written as a joint review for Hellbound.ca, the following is one half of a collaboration between myself and the always amazing Natalie Zed. The full article complete with Ms. Zed’s portion of the review and photos by Adam Wills  can be found here: http://met.al/oea. Enjoy!

If the large crowd at The Opera House on Sunday night was any indication then it would be fair to assume that metal heads aren’t really into football. It’s either that or the allure of two very different tours meeting up for one show right here in T.O. was too intriguing to pass up, or at least more intriguing than commercials and chilli. Death Angel vs. Eluveitie? Now there’s a match up to sink your teeth into! If you couldn’t make it, never fear because Hellbound’s own metal insiders were on hand to bring you the play by play.

Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one. There’s this melodic death metal band that sounds kind of like Soilwork only with two singers. Let’s call them System Divide. It’s sort of a beast meets harlot scenario where the guy sings all these low, guttural verses and the girl sings all the choruses in this clean, operatic voice. They’ve got atmospheric keyboard intros without really having a keyboardist and…Oh wait, you have heard this before? Let’s just move on then, shall we?

Lazarus A.D. might be just another thrash band but theirs is a redundancy that is more tongue-in-cheek fun than it is boring facsimile. They play just what you’d expect from a thrash band and somehow that’s okay. With material chalk full of guitar solos and double kick, they put on an entertaining performance save for some initial moments of lackluster stiffness I’ll attribute to nerves. By the time they closed the set with their new single “Ultimate Sacrifice” they were thrashing with a passion. Besides, any band that has a drummer who can windmill headbang whilst playing has got my seal of approval!

I had no previous encounters with Holy Grail but I suppose in the back of my head I was expecting something along the lines of traditional metal coupled with nerdy themes involving battles and swordplay. I’m glad I was right because what they delivered was all that and then some, performing with a level of energy and fervour I wasn’t prepared for. There was wailing falsetto, fist pumping and sing-along’s with a crowd that was more than willing to participate. When all was said and done I was left with a positive impression, their debut album and $13 fewer dollars in my pocket.

As the crowd grew in size, so did the party atmosphere. Liquor was flowing, people were socializing and somewhere in the distance Vancouver’s 3 Inches of Blood were storming the stage to the theme from Star Trek. Clearly this is a band that is serious about having a good time. Gleaning from a set list that read more like a greatest hits package, they reached deep into their back catalogue to pull out one favourite after another. Songs like “Goatrider’s Horde”, “Destroy the Orcs”, “Night Marauders” and “Fear on the Bridge” were upstaged only by a fantastic cover of Rush’s “Anthem”. Throw in a new unreleased track (“Lord of Change”), denim vests and a couple of gnarly mosh pits and you’ve got yourself a party!

The biggest surprise of the night for me came courtesy of Death Angel. I had never seen them live before and although I was anticipating a fine tuned dose of thrash metal from a band that had been doing this for ages, I was unexpectedly blown away by their performance. Frontman Mark Osegueda is charismatic in the most genuine of ways, repeatedly thanking fans both new and old and injecting a bit of good natured humour into his between song banter. Not only that, but their bay area brand of thrash sounds just as heavy and relevant as anything that’s been released in the past five years. Although they no doubt played numerous hits I was unfamiliar with, even the hardcore fans were surprised when Toronto’s own Danko Jones joined them on stage, helping out during the circle-pit-friendly anthem “Thrashers”. What did it for me however was when they broke into an impeccable rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” in the middle of the song “Bored”. It was a spot on, grin inducing tribute to Dio that has since provoked me to dig the entire album out of my collection and put it into obsessive rotation. Talk about impressive!

Elueveitie are undoubtedly a sight to behold. With eight members on one stage and more instruments than people to play them, this is something that should go without saying. I took them in a bit like I would a glass of wine, sipping and savouring each element in turn. From hurdy gurdy to violin, there was always something new to take in. Bringing out bagpipes for the track “Inis Mona” is a perfect demonstration to this point, and was an obvious crowd pleaser. Both fun and fierce, Eluveitie’s blend of melodic death metal and folk brought the perfect balance to an eclectic night of metal.

 

Death Angel http://www.myspace.com/deathangel

Eluveitiehttp://www.myspace.com/eluveitie

3 Inches of Bloodhttp://www.myspace.com/3iob

Holy Grailhttp://www.myspace.com/holygrail

Lazarus ADhttp://www.myspace.com/lazarus1

System Dividehttp://www.myspace.com/systemdivide

 





Various Artists – We Wish you a Metal Xmas (And a Happy New Year)

30 12 2010

In yet another review for Hellbound.ca I bring you my opinion on not just another metal album, but a HOLIDAY metal album. Think of it as my Christmas gift you all, and before you protest just think of how much worse it could be. It could be (yet another) ugly sweater. Count your blessings and enjoy!

Christmas carols, aren’t they swell? Exorbitantly covered, syrupy sweet jingles purposefully used to fuel the fires of holiday commercialism and ignite the jolly old soul in all of us. Usually by this point in the season they have gnawed their merry way into our ear holes enough times to make dousing ones head with kerosene and setting it ablaze seem like a reasonable response. Now I know Christmas and metal have never really been synonymous, but how many mediocre pop renditions of “Santa Baby” does the world honestly need?

Thankfully someone from Armoury Records had the decency to throw us a bone in the form of “We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year”. A compilation of holiday classics tailored to the needs of the neglected metal masses, it boasts an impressive collaboration of artists including Tony Iommi, Lemmy Kilmister, Chuck Billy and Ronnie James Dio to name but a few. One glance through the track listing and my curiosity was officially piqued. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” featuring Devildriver’s Dez Fafara? There was no way I hadn’t already heard worse.

As it turns out, the combination of heavy metal and Christmas songs is as entertaining and hilariously ironic as it seems. It truly is testament to what tempo and style can do to inform the way a listener interprets a song. Here, a piano driven boogie like “Run Rudolph Run” becomes a nicotine-stained party song in the hands of Lemmy and his signature rasp. Girlschool’s cover of “Auld Lang Syne” isn’t much different; a slow and reflective tune turned into something you can’t help but drink to. In terms of authenticity and sincerity however, it is the religious themed “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” that (surprisingly) stands out the most. The opening passage is unmistakably Tony Iommi; a slow and doomy guitar riff that sounds more much more sinister than it does joyful. Coupled with Dio’s powerful vocal performance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were singing from Satan’s point of view. It almost makes me wish Heaven and Hell had released a full length Christmas album when they had the chance.

While not every track can boast the same impressive quality, “We Wish you as Merry Xmas…” offers a bit of sonic relief from the repetitive soundtrack that normally accompanies the Christmas season. If you take it with a grain of salt and pinch of irony, you might even find yourself enjoying a carol or two.





Skeletonwitch/ Withered/ Landmine Marathon @ Club Absinthe, Hamilton, ON, November 25, 2010

30 12 2010

Originally published on Hellbound.ca (and available here:http://met.al/dsn) I figured it was time I got around to posting my review of “The Skullsplitter” tour. If you didn’t get to check it out for yourself, you missed out on a fantastic show with the rare occurrence of an all around great line up.  Thankfully, you have me to dutifully recap my experiences for you. You’re welcome!

I am of the firm belief that there is both good and evil inherent in all of us. I also believe that humanity has, for the most part, paved the road with good intentions. But as sweet and as pleasant and as ethical as we were all raised to be, sometimes there is no denying that throbbing blackness residing deep within us. This is one of the reasons I love metal so much, and probably also the reason I will jump at any opportunity to catch Skeletonwitch live. Finally slotted as a headlining band and growing in popularity, I knew that Thursday night’s performance in a venue as small as Club Absinthe was bound to illicit some rowdiness. I was looking forward to the chaos, an escape from everyday “acceptable” behaviour. I arrived that night with the intention of losing my mind.

As it turns out, Landmine Marathon seem to know a thing or two about temporary insanity. Targeting the cerebral cortex rather than the jugular vein, they play the type of death metal that doesn’t just sound heavy but actually feels it. My eye was continually drawn to vocalist Grace Perry throughout their set, her stage antics rather than her growled vocals and lack of Y chromosome drawing my interest. She is the type of front woman who drips with passion and I found myself positively enchanted by the insanity she expelled. She went into an immediate trancelike state, clawing at her face and neck, pulling her hair and at one point strangling herself with the microphone cord. It was a lesson in letting go, and a great way to start the evening.

Atlanta’s Withered were next on the bill, their city of origin offering no clues as to the type of sonic punishment they would unleash. Instead of sludgy and progressive rock ala Mastodon and Baroness, they played a ferocious style of blackened death metal punctuated by dual vocals and insanely fast blast beats. They aren’t a one-note band however, and what Withered giveth they can also taketh away. There were moments of atmospheric melody in which they slowed the pace without any warning, too unexpected to be anything by entertaining. Still, they delivered most their material at a pace which was breakneck, almost dangerous. Sonically, it was the equivalent of a steam roller. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I noticed the strangest thing; no one in the crowd was moving. Not one person. In fact, no one would come within 3 feet of the stage. It was as if everyone was in glued in place by a mixture of respect and fear, an act of caution rather than boredom. It was a strangely refreshing experience, and a fantastic contrast to the set that was to follow.

Skeletonwitch is the type of band that any self respecting metal head should be a fan of. They play thrashy death metal, sing about murder and sport the most bad ass arm gauntlets and beards. I’m serious when I say that there is absolutely NOTHING not to love. Having seen them play a multitude of opening spots in the past, I looked forward to receiving the full Skeletonwitch treatment this time around. I got my wish and just before midnight the band took the stage and proceeded to decimate everything around them. “Submit To The Suffering” gave way to “Blinding Black Rage” which rolled into “Upon Wings of Black”. They played no less than 17 songs, one furious blast after another. Vocalist Chance Garnett is a natural born frontman and knows how to entice a crowd. He paces back and forth, holding invisible oranges to the sky while guitarists Scott Hedrick and N8 Feet Under take turns demonstrating their fret board mastery.

The whole thing felt like it was over before it had begun but I took it all in with insatiable hunger, expelling every frustration and negative emotion I never knew I had. I celebrated the dark nature of humanity and by the end I felt lighter, happier. It was the best therapy that fifteen bucks could buy.





Black Anvil – Triumvirate

1 12 2010

Note: This album review was originally written for and posted on Hellbound.ca. You can view the original link here: http://met.al/dtm

How important are geographical surroundings to developing a genre’s sound? When it comes to black metal, I would argue that they are pretty important. Just listen to any of the Norwegian black metal bands that helped pioneer the genre in the early 90’s and try to tell me the opposite. You can almost feel the long, frigid Scandinavian winters in their music; the isolation, the closeness to nature. Combine this with a county’s historical struggles against Christianity and a penchant for rebellion and you’ve pretty much defined the genre. Of course, this is a new decade and the dark underbelly of black metal has spread its influence throughout the world, often to those who merely imitate with insincere, copy-cat theatrics.

I might be forgiven then for being initially sceptical of Black Anvil, a band who calls the bright lights and urban sprawl of New York City home. Fortunately for them, their sophomore album Triumvirate makes a case for itself, offering up a truly authentic yet wholly different approach to black metal. The basic principles are there – tremolo picking, sweeping guitars, puked out vocals – but the way it is presented is what makes it different. The typically low-fi, recorded-inside-a-tin-can production value is replaced by a layer of grit and smog, a coldness that comes from polished concrete rather than ice and snow. The short and atmospheric transition track “Cripple” gives rise to this idea, incorporating what sounds like a police siren faintly in the background.

The album does have a tenancy to blur together at times and while there is nothing overly groundbreaking about the song writing on Triumvirate, there are enough shining moments to garner some repeat listens. The final handful of tracks are especially noteworthy with periods of slow groove (“Dead and Left”) giving way to quick bursts of sonic pummelling (“With Transparent Blood”) and a little bit of everything in between (“Scalping”).

In the end, Black Anvil has given us a decent collection of songs with a genuine spin that can only reflect positively on the new wave of black metal in North America. If you’re a fan of the genre already and are looking for something new and exciting, you could do a lot worse than Triumvirate.

Rating: 7.5/10








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