Archive for August, 2010

Charred Walls of the Damned/ Piledriver/ Ash Lee Blade @ The Opera House, July 4 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , on August 20, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review of the Charred Walls of the Damned/ Piledriver/ Ash Lee Blade show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at The Opera House on July 4th 2010. You can read the original here, and marvel at my wondrous cell phone pictures.

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First and foremost: where the heck were y’all, Toronto? When I arrived at the Opera House at 8:15 pm, just in time to see Ash Lee Blade start up, I found myself a member of an audience composed of maybe 30 people. I’ve never seen the Opera House so empty. We were a happy and enthusiastic audience though, which made all the difference in the world; later in the evening, Ripper of Charred Walls of the Damned would comment that it felt like playing at a private party. Everyone who opted to sit this one out: all banged out after Maiden, eh?
Ash Lee Blade are certainly entertaining, embracing all the goofiest aspects of traditional metal; the lead guitarist wore a pair of white PVC bellbottom pants with black flames on them. That alone is certainly worth my entertainment dollar. In calling them goofy, however, I do not mean to be dismissive because they are a great live band. Their songs have a merciful simplicity to them, a trait that is particularly evident in the tune “Live For Heavy Metal.” Their music is infinitely singable, the kind of thing that easily gets stuck in your head. Some part of my brain is entirely piloted by Garth Algar, and that part adored this experience. Lily the Pirate dug Ash Lee Blade as well, as she has a significant soft spot for traditional metal. For me, it comes down to the fact that these guys are seriously interested in having fun, and it shows. And I appreciate that.
Next up: Piledriver. The legendary frontman/vocalist Gord Kirchin/ Pile Driver is really the band; drums, guitar and bass were all performed by members of Spewgore. Most of the band came on stage dressed like zombies in torn suits and greenish black facepaint; Pile Driver himself however, wore disturbingly revealing side-laced leather pants, a bondage harness, and a gimp/executioner’s mask covered in spikes. He’s also a huge, sweaty dude. While they operate within a completely different aesthetic, I can see why these two openers were paired up. They were both extremely fun, and did not take themselves too seriously—at one point, Pile Driver offered the crowd some belly button lint, and then demanded to know who farted when a particularly foul odour engulfed the stage (seriously though: who was responsible for that emission? It was LEGENDARY). The song “Sex with Satan” stands out as emblematic of the whole performance: amusingly gross, straightforward, aesthetically on point, thoroughly entertaining. What they perform is not high art, and because it isn’t pretending to be, it’s great.

The awkwardly-named Charred Walls of the Damned delivered a solid headlining performance. While the other bands they shared the stage with has set a decidedly un-serious precedent, CWotD were much more straightforward and earnest in their presentation. Not to say that they were stuffy or stoic. They play unabashedly entertaining power/thrash metal, but choose not to caricature themselves to the point of complete cartoonification. The have a casual, confident stage presence that suited the small crowd very well, emphasizing the house party feel of the show.

It goes without saying that every single member of Charred Walls of the Damned is a spectacular musician.Richard Christy‘s drumming arrested my attention the most. He is both fierce and neat, attacking his drum kit with a brutal kind of precision. He also makes it look deceptively easy, elegant even, the way that a blacksmith might hammer out a horseshoe in a swift, fluid motion that comes so naturally it obscures exactly how skilled the artisan really is. Steve DiGiorgio also impressed the hell out of me; he performed a bass solo that dropped my jaw. From start to finish, I was completely enraptured by the level of musical talent each band member brings to the table. The real joy for me here is not necessarily the music itself, but in how well they performed it.

There were a few things about this show that broke my sense of suspended disbelief and kept me from losing myself in the experience completely. Don Jamieson of VH1 provided a comedic interlude before Charred Walls of the Damned took the stage and managed to be spectacularly unfunny. His presence also made the performance feel more highly commercialized. This was further emphasized by the fact that both Richard Christy and Ripper wore conspicuously new Monster Energy Drink hats during the entire performance, and Ripper un-subtly sipped from a tall can of Monster as well. (Aside: Monster truly is the Nickleback of the beverage industry: they somehow enjoy complete market saturation, and yet I seem to not know a single person who actually consumes the product. Strange.) While certainly not deal-breakers, these small details kept me from fully losing myself in the performance. They annoyed me just enough that I observed the show from a slightly detached, less visceral place than I would have if their image had been just a bit more dirty, raw and real.

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Iron Maiden @ Molson Amphitheater, July 3 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on August 20, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review of the Iron Maiden show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at the Molson Amphitheatre on July 3 2010. You can read the original here, along with Lord High Executioner Sea Palmerston’s take on the event, and take a gander and some fine photos by Albert Mansour.

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It’s a bit of a challenge for me to write about this particular show experience. The typical rules of a metal-show review don’t work for Iron Maiden. The set list was circulated long before the show took place, complete with encore, so reporting on that seems unnecessary. Of course the musicianship was excellent. Of course the set pieces and special effects rocked. Of course the sound was blistering and the lighting incredible. Bruce Dickinson positively flew onto the stage, leaping over monitors and climbing the rocketship set, and did not stop moving the whole time. The unflagging energy and enthusiasm exhibited by the entire band was fantastic—but also, I realized, expected.

I am not even sure that I need to discuss the tribute to Ronnie James Dio that Bruce offered, dedicating “Blood Brothers” to the fallen icon. The moment actually made me get a bit teary-eyed, watching thousands of horns raised skyward; it was deeply moving. I also knew it was going to happen, having read reviews of shows in Edmonton and Saskatoon as this tour gradually moved East through Canada. Unlike most metal tours, The Final Frontier tour has been meticulously documented in photographs and live reviews in publications across the Internet.

So. How to talk about it?

First, I suppose I should get personal. This was my very first Iron Maiden show. Prior to this particular Saturday night, I was a Maiden virgin—a Maiden maiden, if you’d like. I joked about my imminent “deflowering” ahead of time, and then after the show, found that my there was a deep grain of truth running through those statements. Once my “Maidenhead” had been claimed by this show, I felt…different. Like my devotion to metal had somehow been consummated.

Enjoying Iron Maiden is deeply personal; it is also a collective, communal experience. This was driven home as soon as I stepped onto the lawn and surveyed the crowd. 16,000 people were packed into the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. Prior to this, I doubt I’ve been in a room with as many as 1600. Never having been to Wacken or Download or another major festival, I’d never seen so many metalheads all in one place. And because this was Maiden, they came in droves, from all over the GTA and beyond, filling every Go-Train into the city and every streetcar heading down to the venue with an army of cheerful folks in hideous t-shirts. I saw many families there, gangly kids just as excited as their slightly rotund and balding parents, grinning ear to ear. A crowd of 16,000 people, all completely thrilled to be there, singing and screaming their lungs out for an hour and a half, is a remarkable thing to be a part of.

Of course Iron Maiden were fantastic. They couldn’t help be. The crowd allowed them to be wonderful, willed the entire show to be nothing less.

Rush Extravaganza

Posted in CD reviews with tags on August 20, 2010 by Natalie Zed

For Canada Day, Hellbound.ca featured several articles on Rush. Here are my contributions to that feature. You can read the originals here and here, along with other fantastic contributions from the rest of Team Hellbound.

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Favourite Rush song of all time: “Limelight”

I know that this is cliche as all hell, but I love it. I love the blatant Shakespeare references; I love the slight, lilting melancholy that infuses both the tone and the lyrics; I love the way Geddy Lee’s voice sounds simultaneously celebratory and scared shitless. This song is infinitely re-playable, and infinitely coverable. It reminds me of riding around Calgary in a friend’s beat-up Silver Volkswagon bug, eating chicken wings and scream-singing at the top of my lungs. Also, I am fairly certain that one of my boyfriends in high school asked me out solely because I knew every single one of the lyrics to this song.

Favourite Rush album of all time: A Farewell To Kings

Come on. “Xanadu” is an extended Samuel Taylor Coleridge reference. “Closer to the Heart” always touches mine. “Cygnus X-1” plays with all the strange, comforting imagery that draws me to science fiction. This album is perfectly aligned with nearly everything about my personality that makes me a shameless nerd; I am built to love it.

Fatality @ The Blue Moon, June 19 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on August 20, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review of the Fatality show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at The Blue Moon on June 19 2010. You can read the original here.

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If ever an epic journey was undertaken to get to a show (one that was in the same bloody city that I started out in, anyway), that journey happened this night.

The full line-up for this show consisted of Fatality, Vindicator, Manahan, Aggressor andRazorwire. It happened to be a friend’s birthday, so we swung by his apartment to down some vodka & cranberry juice and watch planet earth. After wishing him well, we embarked on what we thought would be a simple jaunt down Queen, but ended up being a complete TTC shitshow. A combination of set-up for the Much Music Video Awards and NXNE festivities raging meant that we wound up walking nearly all the way from Front & Fleet to Queen East & Broadview. Several times along the journey, Lily the Pirate and I briefly considered giving up and turning back, concerned that there might not even be any show left to enjoy by the time we got there. In the end, however, we proved our mettle (har har) and arrived at The Blue Moon around 12:30am—just in time to see Fatality take the stage.

I can wholeheartedly say that Fatality were worth both the voyage and the cover price all on their own. They didn’t just put on a show; they threw a party. A few songs into their riotous set, the band members were inviting the crowd on stage to do beer bongs with them. They showered the crowd with both affection and free merch, and despite the fact that it was hot as all hell in the venue (I can only imagine how it must have felt on stage), Fatality’s enthusiasm never flagged. They raged through the entire performance, seemingly tireless, never for a moment hinting that they would like to be anywhere but on that stage, performing for that audience.

Fatality loved the crowd at The Blue Moon, and the crowd loved them right back. While metalheads are usually a cheerful, congenial bunch, this evening they were positively ebullient. Long-haired boys roamed around the pit, grins plastered across their faces, drinking beer straight from the pitcher. Everyone’s arms found their way around everyone else’s shoulders. For the last few songs, Fatality  actually invited everyone on stage with them to sing and drink. It was one of those shows that truly warmed the cockles of my black little heart.

NXNE 2010: Mudhoney @ Yonge-Dundas Square, June 17 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags on August 20, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is an excerpt from a larger feature I wrote, originally for Hellbound.ca, on the NXNE festivities. You can read the original here, along with some additional recaps by Commander-on-Chief Sean Palmerston.

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Blarg, my head.

It’s been a hell of a weekend for those who enjoy sweetly torturing their eardrums. NXNE visited Toronto, and it has been one hell of a raucous houseguest.

I kicked off NXNE in style on Thursday night, walking directly from work to Dundas Square to see Mudhoneywith Hellbound Overlord Sean Palmerston. Their set was straightforward and intensely satisfying, in terms of song choice; I expected to hear “Touch Me I’m Sick,” and indeed I did. Mudhoney, for their astronomical popularity, are a difficult band to pin down. Being a seminal band in the Seattle grunge explosion, and a major influence on more than one genre, their sound has always struck me as nebulous. They’ve accreted characteristics of grunge and blues, punk and funk, plaiting these sounds together to create a whole infinitely stronger than the apparent sum of its parts. The crowd that gathered at Dundas Square echoed this eclecticism. Patch-covered punks and hipsters with babes in arms mingled seamlessly in front of the stage, strange and casual. In being so much all at once, Mudhoney attracts a large and extremely varied fanbase. Their name a perfect match for their sound: dirty and sweet, thick and light, gold and brown, full-throated and rich while never taking itself too seriously. Their welcoming strangeness, broad appeal, and complex-yet-fun sound provided an ideal beginning to a weekend full of music and debauchery.