Soilwork/ Death Angel/ Mutiny Within @ The Opera House, July 19 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on September 17, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my live review of the Soilwork/Death Angel/Mutiny Within show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at The Opera House in July 19, 2010. You can ready the original here, along with photos by Albert Mansour.

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As is often a hazard at early shows, I missed two of the early opening bands (Swashbuckle and Remain), casualties of my work schedule. I’ve wound up seeing (or almost-seeing, as was the case at the Hypocrisy show) Swashbuckle about once every couple of months, as they are on just about every tour in the universe these days. I enjoy their presence at a show; they’re fun and irreverent, and whenever they are part of a lineup, there’ll be kids in the audience wearing pirate hats and t-shirts with ridiculous crotch and scurvy references—all of which only contribute to a positive atmosphere. This was unfortunately the second time I’ve missed Remain (as I also arrived too late to the Goatwhore/3IOB show to catch their set). Third time’s a charm?
By the time I arrived at , I had just enough time to grab a beer before began to play. This is the second time I have seen them in as many months; they opened for Dark Tranquility in late May. This band is high energy and entertaining, but not necessarily my thing. There is something about them that comes across as carefully manicured, deliberately chosen and easily digestible. Their sound is aggressive, certainly, but in a perfectly manageable way. They have a track on the new God of Warsoundtrack (“The End”), and WWE wrestler Evan Bourne uses “Born To Win” as his theme song. I don’t mean to be all grim and brvtal here, and to begrudge any band material success; these guys clearly know what they’re doing from a marketing perspective. Their music is, however, safe. Solid and meaty, certainly, but also easy in a way that just doesn’t prickle my skin. Still, their set was tight and new drummer Chad Anthony suits their aesthetic well.

In the interest of full bias disclosure, I was excited as all hell to see . This summer has been hellish for me. I don’t do well in the heat, and the absolutely relentless humidity has conspired to make me miserable.  has been a comfort in this sweltering season; I’ve often listened to Killing Season this summer while laying on the kitchen floor, feeling my back stick to the linoleum like piece of processed cheese to it’s plastic wrapping. In perfect sync with the weather, ’s performance was a scorcher. The Bay-area thrashers blazed across the stage for their entire set; vocalist Mark Osegueda sounds like he’s got a fireball in his voicebox. Their performance of the song “River of Rapture” from their upcoming albumRelentless Retribution, which fit seamlessly into their hot & heavy set. I’m definitely looking forward to the new release even more after this performance.  can return to Toronto and attempt to give me heat stroke again any time they please.

are touring to support their latest album, The Panic Broadcast, released in North America on July 13th, and naturally played several tracks from the record, including “Night Comes Clean,” “Deliverance is Mine,” and “Two Lives Worth Reckoning.” I am definitely digging on their new material; it’s groovy but still has guts, and in a live setting is thoroughly ear-quenching. I already felt aurally sated by the time that took the stage; this did not keep me from appreciating their set, however. Sometimes, when I am so enamoured with one of the bands in the supporting position, I feel I can’t give the headliner the appropriate amount of attention. On this occasion, however, while I certainly felt overindulged, I enjoyed the sonic gluttony. Whereas  left me feeling like the insides of my ears had been coated in burning pitch, brought a delicious coolness to the show. Their bluesy, melodic death metal proved to be an excellent foil to ’s performance. These bands work exceedingly well together in this regard; the tour is well curated.  have matured well as a band, retaining all their punch and aggressiveness while becoming smoother and more balanced in their overall sound. While they’re not the sort of band that will leave me feeling demolished or rent in twain, I definitely walked out of  thoroughly satisfied.

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Woods of Ypres/ Battlesoul/ The Great Collapse @ The Blue Moon, July 16 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on September 17, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review of the Woods of Ypres/Battlesoul/The Great Collapse show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at the Blue Moon pub on July 16, 2010. You can read the original here, and check out some excellent photos by Adam Wills.

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The more deeply I fall down the rabbit-hole of metal, the more difficult it becomes to separate my critical/creative and personal lives. What I mean by that is: more and more, the bands I write about are not just artists I appreciate from a distance, but people I have come to know, like and respect. More and more, I find myself writing about my friends. This would put me in a difficult position, perhaps—but I am doubly lucky. Not only are my friends lovely people, they’re also brave, brilliant musicians. Therefore, I feel absolutely no guilt whatsoever praising and supporting their work across every corner of the Internet.

This past Friday was an exciting night for metal in Toronto. This is a city that is unabashedly spoiled for choice when it comes to cool things going on, and on this particular night, the members of the metal scene demonstrated that they appreciated that fact. A few doors down from the Blue Moon, High on Fire, Priestess, and Skeletonwitch put on what I am certain was a great show at The Opera House (covered by intrepid Team Hellbound contributor Laina Dawes). Despite this competition, the Blue Moon was comfortably full of happy, chatty metalheads, including some devoted folks who split their time between both shows (the 9:30 start time at The Blue Moon meant that I spotted more than one brand-new Skeletonwitch shirt in the audience).

The first band to perform on this most auspicious of metal nights was—well, I am honestly not sure what to call them. Originally billed as The Great Collapse, this band is actually composed of the remnants of two local bands: The Great Collapse and The Womb. Their setlist drew upon material from the oeuvre of both bands; the result was schizophrenic. Whatever this band will become now, it is still most definitely in the process of reconfiguring itself, and this came across in their performance. It was a conceptually interesting moment to bear witness to, watching a band that is no longer one thing, and in the process of becoming something else. Right now, they are post-caterpillar, pre-moth, all pupa; they occupy a difficult liminal space that made their performance scattered. Their set was not without an anchor, however: drummer Cameron Warrack is a fearsome physical presence behind his kit and is capable of making some sense of the manic energy of the band. Soft-spoken and good-humoured offstage (he played with an upside-down cross shaved into his chest hair), Warrack transforms when he plays, becoming incredibly intense and entirely focussed on punishing his kit. There was a particularly powerful moment when he threw a shattered drum stick into the crowd—not to be theatrical, it seemed, but to get the broken thing away from him so he could pick up a fresh implement and continue on unhindered. This band, whatever it will become, certainly has an engine within it.

Next up were Battlesoul. Their high-energy celtic/folk/thrash metal is a ridiculous amount of fun. Performing kilted and bare-chested, it is clear form the outset that every member of this band shows up to have a good time. They also don’t take themselves very seriously; their manner on stage embodies an endearingly clumsy oafishness. For example, after announcing that their next song would be “Lay Thy Burden Down,” bassist/vocalist Jon Doyle complained “Man—this song is long.” Their performance was raucous, jovial and up-beat, and provided a perfect palate cleanser between the discord of The Collapsing Womb and the doom-laden complexity of Woods of Ypres.

Speaking of Woods—this band and I have a history. Way back in November of 2008, their show with Wolven Ancestry at the DC Music Theatre was the experience that started me down this strange and twisted metal path (an experience I have written about here). Since that initial encounter, I have seen them live multiple times with different line-ups, and obsessively listened to/enjoyed/reviewed their latest album, Woods 4: the Green Album (which I’ve written about, at length here ). Simply by looking at the virtual ink I’ve spilled on this band’s creative output, it is clear that they are a favourite of mine. Whenever I have the chance to see them perform, I expect the world; I have yet to be disappointed.

This particular show marked Woods of Ypres’ penultimate performance in a month-long, North American tour that began in Sault Ste. Marie and reached as far South as Texas before looping back into Canada. They’d endured more iffy accommodations and broken glass than many people see in a lifetime; to say they must have been tired is an understatement of epic proportions. However long and difficult the journey, Woods of Ypres give themselves no breaks and indulge in no excuses. Every single member of the band poured all the heart and energy they had into their performance at the Blue Moon, led by the apparently indefatigable David Gold. They are incredibly generous performers in this regard, never giving less than their physical and emotional all on stage. Seeing them live remains, for me, a unique audience experience in this regard: no matter how much I put in, I can never seem to quite keep up with how much I receive from this band.

Woods of Ypres have undergone another shift in live line-up, and this particular alchemical combination of talents is pure gold. Evan Madden‘s drumming is both precise and emotive, providing an excellent structural support for the sonic architecture of Woods’ sound. I particularly enjoy the way he emphasizes the wave-like cymbal crashes during “Suicide Cargoload,” a choice that lets deep growl of the guitars drag along the bottom of the song. Bassist Shane Madden also provides backing vocals; his growls and screams are as impressive as his fierce-yet-controlled bass lines. The newest addition to this incarnation of the Woods lineup is Joel Violette, the mastermind behind the Thrawsunblat demo (a “rawfolk/meloblack” project I have thoroughly enjoyed). He is a terrific addition to the band; a hell of a guitar player, he understands intimately how to serve the overall sound of the band. The sound his guitar adds is both tremulous and precise; in particular, his interpretation of “Your Ontario Town is a Burial Ground” deeply impressed me. David Gold remains the mind and spine behind the band, and commands an incredibly intense presence on stage. This particular performance, his banter was somewhat minimal; he opted instead to project a piercing, merciless manner that made the moments of disarming tenderness within the music that much more devastating—especially during “Distractions of Living Alone.” This version of Woods of Ypres feels solid, complete and balanced. They were, as always, a sheer joy to hear.

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.

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.