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/

 

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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





Bison B.C. w/ Sin Dealer, Teethmarks, Madman @ Sneaky Dee’s, Toronto ON, Oct. 22, 2010

28 10 2010

This review was written exclusively for the folks over at Hellbound.ca. The original article with accompanying photos can be viewed here: http://met.al/ci5  Happy reading!

I arrived at the infamous Sneaky Dee’s on Friday night with a ball of restless anticipation churning in the pit of my stomach. I had been waiting for the chance to catch Bison B.C. since March, when I had first witnessed them fill an opening slot for Shadows Fall. It was a short set but it was one which had absolutely blown my mind and left me breathless. Lucky for me the boys in Bison (the band insists that the B.C. is silent) are road hardened workaholics, and the seven months between shows only felt like an eternity. This time around they would be headlining, and since it was also a Friday night I did my best to check my high expectations at the door and prepared to enjoy the night I had been waiting months for.

With most of Toronto’s metal heads over at The Opera House catching the Nevermore gig, Oshawa’s Madman opened to a sparsely populated room. It’s a real shame too because this barely legal three-piece proved quite the spectacle. Complete with bullet belts and leather jackets, these boys play a brand of early 80’s thrash and traditional style doom that is surprisingly authentic, especially when you consider the fact that they grew up in the era of St. Anger rather than Kill ‘Em All. Impressing the small crowd with anthem style songs like “Toxic Metal” and the Black Sabbath inspired “Born a Witch”, Madman’s set provided the perfect atmosphere in which to get acquainted with the bar.

Teethmarks are a hard band to pin down, both in the musical and the physical sense. Playing a scuzzy blend of metal, punk and party rock that reminded me a bit of Norway’s Kvelertak, they are the type of live band that can energize a crowd through visual antics alone. Though entertaining as a group, it was their bald headed frontman who was the most engaging. He bounded around the stage as if privy to his own private well of adrenaline, jumping up and down and fist fighting the sky. I looked up from headbanging at one point only to catch him hanging from the ceiling (literally). While the music would have held up on its own, it was the performance which had me convinced. Teethmarks were fun, filthy and an overall welcome addition to the night’s roster of bands.

The crowd had swelled tenfold by the time Sin Dealer appeared on stage illuminated by an eerie red glow. The lighting transformed Sneaky Dee’s by giving the venue a warm, hellish feel that matched the band’s southern fried riffs and down tuned rock ‘n roll. The songs had a certain swagger, but what Sin Dealer amassed in groove they seemed to lack in personality and presence. Frontman Eric Kuthe and the band around him gave off a Daddy-O cool vibe that was almost too laid back, especially when compared to the energetic performance that preceded them. Their stripped down, back-to-basics rock did little to capture my attention, even when closing with a cover of AC/DC’s “Walk All Over You”. If the loud applause following their set was any indication however, it would appear that my opinion was an isolated one.

As everyone else made their way to the bar between sets, I staked out a spot at the front of the stage. I wanted to be as close to the headliners as possible, a decision which I did not regret when the mighty Bison B.C. jumped head first into the thunderous opening notes of “Slow Hand of Death”. I was immediately struck by the rawness of their sound, distorted and fuzzy and positively enormous in scale. The chemistry between all four members is undeniable when experienced live, and the crackling energy that passes between them combines to create a deadly force field you can actually feel hanging in the air. It is exactly this type of kinetic fuel that seemed to feed the audience, drinking greedily while the band stomped and swayed, pounding out riff after riff and solo after solo. It is the kind performance that is steeped in genuine emotion, giving you the sense that the band really feels the purpose and consequence behind every note played. Refusing a typical encore, Bison B.C. finished the show by instead thanking the fans, reaching far into their back catalogue to pull out the rare track “From Dark Skies” off their debut album Earthbound. As they exited stage left James gently placed his guitar against a stack of amps, the ravished audience left with only an empty stage and one thick final note vibrating in the PA.  

When I finally regained by bearings, I exited the venue feeling cheerfully disoriented. My neck ached and my head pounded, but inside I was filled with the type of astonished relief that tends only to couple experiences that exceed your wildest expectations. In times of drought I had suffered, but in the name of Bison I was born anew.





Deathmarch/Esoteric Doctrine/Hallows Die/Twilight Child @ The Corktown Pub, Hamilton, ON, Aug. 18, 2010

24 08 2010

This article was originally written for and published on Hellbound.ca. You can view the original article complete with photos (also taken by yours truly) here: http://www.hellbound.ca/2010/08/deathmarch-esoteric-doctrine-hallows-die-twilight-child-hamilton-on-aug-18-2010/ Be sure to leave me some comment love!

Oh the local show, a place where bands go to hock their collective wares, gain some experience and exposure, and have a bit of fun. That this would be my first review for Hellbound seems only fitting. We all start somewhere and for me it’s at The Corktown Pub, a venue that is as you might imagine it complete with fireplace, pinball machine and a couch that is more inviting than it is comfortable. With relatively few people milling around inside, I grabbed a drink and a seat, eager to see what the evening had in store.

Twilight Child kicked things off in grand fashion, backs towards the audience and an epic choral soundtrack overhead. They played a competent style of melodic death metal that was complimented by a heavy layer of keyboards, giving their sound depth as well as ambiance. It’s within this sense of atmosphere that they excel, convincing me they’ll do well opening for Katatonia/Swallow The Sun later this September.    

I was in the unique position of being able to see Hallows Die perform on the first and last date of their “Ruin the East” tour, tonight being the latter. After playing live every night for almost two weeks straight, I was interested in how the two shows might compare. The first was good, but I could tell right from sound check that the second would be even better. Not only did they play their solid slab of melodic death metal with ferocity and fervour, but as a band they sounded tighter than ever. The crackling energy that was just below the surface of their previous performance had swelled until it could no longer be contained, bursting from fingertips, feet and lungs. Even their stage presence had improved, throwing in moments of choreographed headbanging which reminded me at once of a more fun-loving Behemoth. The always charismatic and humorous vocalist/guitarist Ryan Bovaird cracked jokes throughout, going as far as to insist that touring made the band smell like “Bigfoot’s dick”. Hey, it might be heavy metal but who says it can’t be fun?

The first thing that struck me about Orillia’s Esoteric Doctrine was the diversity of their sound. Combining black metal style tremolo picking with death metal inspired riffs, guttural growls and stoner-esque clean vocal passages, they are clearly a band with a healthy number of influences. Initially I was a bit thrown off – they’re death metal, no wait, black metal – but once I had dismissed the inherent need to categorize them neatly within a genre, Esoteric Doctrine proved to be an enjoyable experience. They didn’t play so much as march, a linear and forward moving set that was both the same and different, shifting from one influence to the next without being jarring or obvious. By the time they left the stage I had concluded that they were simply fucking heavy.

Next on the docket was Hamilton’s own Deathmarch. For reasons I’m not fully aware of they were without a drummer tonight, getting by with a drum track and Northern Storm Records label head Rob Cranny. By this I mean that Rob sat in the middle of the stage, shirtless with drum sticks in hand, phantom drumming throughout the entire set. Remember what I said about metal being fun? I don’t know if it was the music, the “drumming” or the fact that Deathmarch had been away from the stage for months but they managed to garner the largest crowd response, a string of fans willing to relinquish their seat and their beer in favour of a good old fashioned mosh pit. Even vocalist Jarrett Lowry got in on the action, frequently jumping into the pit and leading the crowd in chants of “Hey! Hey! Hey!” Their blend of black, death and folk metal was enticing and their performance fun and energetic.  The only pitfall for me was the lack of live drumming which seemed to dampen their sound. The instruments being played were underlined by a robotic tone from the drum track, blending human warmth with cold, calculating electronics. I don’t fault them for this however, and as entertaining as Rob is I’d love to see them again with a drum kit in tow.

It was well after midnight when Deathmarch descended from the stage, and although Strings of Ares has yet to play, I decided to leave with the majority of the crowd. Tonight was a lesson in humble beginnings, a celebration of local metal and the community that helps it flourish. I was glad to be a part of it.





Opeth – Evolution XX Tour @ Terminal 5, NYC – April 7, 2010

11 08 2010

On the evening of April 7th,  I was a tourist in New York City. Although it was my first time visiting the “Big Apple”, I wasn’t basking in the glow of Times Square or taking in a Broadway play. I wasn’t dining at a fancy restaurant, strolling through Central Park, or doing one of the millions of other things a first time visitor to New York City would be expected to do. Quite the contrary. On the evening of April 7th I was seated on a curb outside a gritty, industrial venue known as Terminal 5, melting in an unseasonably warm 35 degree heat and feeling lost in a sea of Opeth fans. I was one amongst 3000.  Everywhere I turned there was one elegant Opeth logo after another, tattooed on shoulders or plastered across t-shirts, each representing a different era of the band’s exceptional 20 year career. Many in attendance had flown in from other states or even countries (myself and accompanying party included), here to bear witness to what had been dubbed Opeth’s “Evolution XX Tour”.  The second last show on an exclusive six date tour and the first of only two North American stops, the feeling was one of exclusivity and excitement. Not only were we promised a 3 hour set which included many rare/never-been-played songs, but we were going to hear Opeth’s acclaimed album Blackwater Park played live in its entirety. The distance travelled or country of origin wasn’t what mattered tonight. What mattered was that we were all united under one flag; that of the mighty Opeth.

After some pretty horrendous acts of organizational incompetency by the staff at Terminal 5 (such as allowing 3 separate lines to form on both sides of the street and not allowing the first two hundred people to the barricade once doors had opened) we managed to settle into a decent spot at the side of the stage. The venue was sold out, a packed house chattering and writhing with restless anticipation. At 8 o’clock sharp the house lights went down and the opening notes of “The Leper Affinity” erupted through the speakers. The wait was finally over.

Seamlessly flowing from one Blackwater Park classic to another, the band played with the kind of precise tightness that fans have come to expect from a live Opeth show. To preserve the album’s integrity, the usually talkative vocalist/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt resisted the urge to banter with the audience. Given his reputation for being somewhat of a comedian on stage the silence was almost odd, but I didn’t need to hear him talk to understand how he must be feeling. Despite having numerous lineup changes and almost leaving it all behind during the recording of Ghost Reveries, tonight was a testament to the power of hard work, perseverance and integrity in a crumbling industry. Being the group’s founding member, it was clear that this was a time for celebration and Mikael was practically glowing with pride. The entire band emitted the aura of larger-than-life Rock Gods, all swaying and headbanging, guitar stances present and accounted for. They didn’t just play the music, the really felt it, and the heavy to soft dynamics of songs like “Bleak” and “Dirge For November” worked perfectly to their advantage. The crowd sang every note, moshing when appropriate and clapping even when it wasn’t.  Every wave of energy sent forth by the band was reciprocated by the audience until the beautiful, final notes of the album’s title track had faded in the speakers. The band left the stage for a quick break, leaving just enough time for some last-minute speculation on what would be played next.  “Face of Melinda”, “Master’s Apprentices” and the twenty minute epic “Black Rose Immortal” were at the top of my personal song wish list, but I had been careful to avoid any set list leaks in order to preserve the element of surprise. Blackwater Park was like the stocking stuffer – fun yet expected, and I was eager to see what Opeth had left for us under the tree.

When the band finally re-appeared on stage, they did so to ecstatic applause. “We are Opeth from Stockholm, Sweden” came Mikael’s customary greeting. It was clear that whatever banter was lacking in the first set would be made up for in the second.  Starting with 1995’s Orchid and working their way up in chronological order, we were treated to a recap of Opeth’s complete history by Akerfeldt himself. Like a metal version of VH1’s Storytellers, each little tidbit was followed by a song from that album.  The complete set list looked like this: 

Forest Of October (Orchid, 1995)
Advent (Morningrise, 1996)
April Ethereal (My Arms, Your Hearse, 1998)
The Moor (Still Life, 1999)
Wreath (Deliverance, 2002)
Hope Leaves (Damnation, 2002)
Harlequin Forest (Ghost Reveries, 2005)
The Lotus Eater (Watershed, 2008) 

 Although none of the songs on my wish list made an appearance, I couldn’t complain. The set list was varied, the playing impeccable. Highlights included “Hope Leaves”, “Advent”  and “Harlequin Forest”, the last of which I found to be especially impressive live. These were all songs that I had heard a hundred times on album but had never had the pleasure of experiencing live. I suppose that was the point.

These six little shows in dingy clubs around the world weren’t some opportunistic promotional tool put together by a label rep, and they were more than just an outlet for the band to celebrate their two decades of existence. This was about giving back to the fans who, without even realizing it, had become an integral part in contributing to Opeth’s success. This tour was about building memories between a band and their fans, about creating an experience. It provided an evening to reminisce over with friends and gave us a story to share. We can now recount the time we travelled X number of kilometers just to “be there”. It was an event as much for the fans as it was for the band and it was a success.

So here’s to you Opeth, and here’s to your impressive career. No matter what the future has in store we’ll always have New York.

Opethhttp://www.myspace.com/opeth





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/





Shadows Fall w/ Bison b.c., Baptized In Blood, Nothing Left For Tomorrow @ The Opera House – Mar. 4, 2010

9 03 2010

Before I get into the meat and potatos of this review I offer you all a full disclosure; I am not what you might call a Shadows Fall “fan”. It’s not that I dislike them. In fact “Light  That Blinds” is one of my favourite Guitar Hero 2 tracks. I’ve even been known to keep a dusty copy of The War Within stored somewhere between the “R” and “T” sections of my music catalog. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what they do as musicians, it’s that I just don’t really care. One can only listen to something so many times without “getting it” before interest starts to wane, you know?  So when my boyfriend revealed to me that the ‘Shads would make their first headlining trek through Canada with Bison b.c. and Baptized in Blood my inital reaction was less “OMG SHADOWS FALL” and more “HOLY SHIT BISON B.C.!!!” There was no way I was missing the opportunity to see them live for the first time and Shadows Fall were just going to have to take a back seat.  Knowing that I would still have to take a journalistic approach to this review however, I made a vow then and there to evaluate each band with the same level of unbiased enthusiasm. When the evening in question finally arrived, I’m proud to say I (mostly) kept that promise.

Ontario’s Nothing Left For Tomorrow kicked off the evening with a loud growl from a darkened stage. Murmurs of “Wow, that’s a chick?” circulated as the light revealed frontwoman Yasmina and the band behind her. I had heard the band’s demo material on MySpace previously and was delighted to see that their performances were much improved in a  live setting. They played their brand of melodic death metal with a fury that seemed to impress the handful of people who bothered to show up early. Alternating between singing and growling, Yasmina belted out her indecipherable lyrics with confidence and aggression. Although tight and competent throughout, the shining moments were the brief ones where they slowed down and allowed themselves a chance to groove. With a few more years to hone their stage presence and find their own voice, this local band could move on to do great things.

Maybe it was the suspicious number of bros in flat billed hats lining the stage which made we wary of what Baptized In Blood were about to deliver, or maybe it was their decision to sign with Roadrunner Records. Whatever the reason, my worst fears were realized the moment I heard the first breakdown somewhere near the middle of the opening song. While breakdowns aren’t really my “thing”, the rest of the crowd didn’t seem to mind one bit.   Exchanging  simple head banging for full-out body thrashing and fist pumping, the floor was transformed into a pit of dude worship. While the whole band seemed to channel this energy, bounding about the stage , it was vocalist Johl Fendley who impressed me the most. Making his home at the edge of the stage helped him connect with fans, reaching out and singing with them at various points in the set.  In the end it was their Canadian boy charm which won me over much more than their music, but if you were already a fan there is no way you left disappointed.

Being somewhat of a dark horse on the roster, I wasn’t sure how this audience would take to Vancouver’s Bison b.c.. A jam band at heart, their style of sludge n’roll was quite a contrast from the hardcore thrash of Baptized In Blood. Regardless, I knew that the songs would translate well in a live setting and I was interested in seeing what they could do with a road worn 3 stringed bass and drum kit with only one tom. I didn’t have to wait long before the four piece made their entrance and settled into the opening groove of “Slow Hand of Death”. Thick layers of smoke erupted from the stage, leaving the audience with only scattered glimpses of beard and guitar. It could have been the small number of people in attendance, but it suddenly felt as if the Opera House had shrunk to half the size. The riffs were fuzzed out, monumental. The addition of three new tracks provided a feeling of exclusivity, like being invited to sit in on an impromptu jam session. Simultaneously dangerous and infectious, each track built upon the other and I couldn’t help but feeling like I was in Bison’s personal practice space, walls closing in and the ceiling slowly decaying above. It’s at this point, choking on riffs and smoke, that you want to run but don’t dare turn away. Instead you stomp and head bang and accept the inevitable Armageddon you’ve found yourself in the middle of. The band swaggers and pounds, falling over themselves, drunk on the crackling energy that is everywhere. Momentum builds to an explosive finale in the sing-along chorus of “These Are My Dress Clothes”, sweeping up members of the audience along the way. When it’s all said and done the band can’t walk across the stage without applause, sign of a crowd that’s grateful yet astonished by what the hell just happened.

So how do you follow a set like that? If you’re Shadows Fall frontman Brian Fair, you do it with a lot of beer. “Tonight is not just a show, it’s a PARTY!” he exclaims, making use of the small crowd and inviting everyone to the front to get down. Playing a set list consisting of mostly new songs, the band seems right at home on stage which is either a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view. While they do manage to deliver an ultra tight performance complete with signature solos, they also tend to look slightly bored while doing it. With the exception of  the ever charismatic frontman it’s almost as if they are just going through the motions, finishing a mundane job rather than living out their dreams on stage. Either way the fans seem satisfied and they show it by crowd surfing, mosh pitting and screaming along.

As for me, old habits die hard and my tendency to lose interest begins to surface by the third song. I have come to expect this from my relationship with Shadows Fall, each of us asking the other one to change. After tonight I can accept it for what it is; a casual flirtation with someone who is just not my type. Besides, I’ve already got a boyfriend and he’s at the bar sharing a drink and some laughs with the boys in Bison b.c.

Nothing Left For Tomorrowhttp://www.myspace.com/nothingleftfortomorrow

Baptized In Bloodhttp://www.myspace.com/baptizedinblood

Bison b.c.http://www.myspace.com/bisoneastvan

Shadows Fall  – http://www.myspace.com/shadowsfall








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