Concert Review – The Bay Strikes Back Tour (London Music Hall, London, ON, 10/01/2022)

And the Bay struck back in the city of London, Ontario for the delight of all Thrash Metal lovers slamming into the pit on a completely sold-out night.

INTRO: The Bay Strikes Back Tour 2022

Featuring Bay Area Thrash Metal icons DEATH ANGEL, EXODUS and TESTAMENT, the fantastic party labeled The Bay Strikes Back Tour 2022 actually started back in Europe in February 2020, but only lasted for two months due to all COVID-19 restrictions at that time. However, in 2022 the three bands got back in action with the first leg of a North American tour in April and May, another European leg in the summer, and now a second North American leg this fall, including the sold out, majestic thrashing night on October 1 at the London Music Hall in London, Ontario, here in Canada. The place was jam packed from the very first second the doors opened at 6pm, and that was the landscape until Testament closed the night already past 11pm, requiring a lot of stamina, headbanging and moshing from the fans lucky enough to get a ticket for such unique night of pure Thrash Metal.

DEATH ANGEL

Precisely at 6:50pm, and with the merch lines still being huge (which caused several fans to miss part of the concert), San Francisco, California’s own Thrash Metal squad DEATH ANGEL kicked off the night on a high note, blending old school tunes the likes of Mistress of Pain and Voracious Souls with newest hits such as The Moth and Humanicide, from their latest effort Humanicide, released in 2019. Mark Osegueda was on fire throughout the entire concert, showcasing an amazing vocal performance while his bandmates made sure there was plenty of heaviness and speed for the fans at the London Music Hall to get into the circle pits. It was really cool to see bassist Damien Sisson sporting a Toronto Raptors jersey, and of course seeing how much Canadians love Death Angel. Right after they finished playing the closing tune, the excellent Thrown to the Wolves, it became obvious that their setlist was way too short, but I’m sure the band will be back for a full-bodied, ass-kicking performance sooner than we can say “Thrash Metal”.

Setlist
The Ultra-Violence / Mistress of Pain
Voracious Souls
Seemingly Endless Time
The Dream Calls for Blood
Caster of Shame
The Moth
Humanicide
Thrown to the Wolves

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitar
Damien Sisson – bass
Will Carroll – drums

EXODUS

After a quick bathroom/beer/merch break, all fans at the venue got in their desired positions for the fulminating Thrash Metal attack by the one and only EXODUS, and it was indeed a killer lesson in violence. Steve “Zetro” Souza, Gary Holt, Lee Altus, Jack Gibson and Tom Hunting felt at home in London, crushing everything and everyone that crossed their path during their high-octane, heavy-as-hell performance, and consequently putting a huge smile on the faces of everyone at the venue. Promoting their sensational 2021 opus Persona Non Grata, the band delivered endless adrenaline in a setlist that beautifully mixed new songs like The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves) and The Years of Death and Dying with old school thrashing classics including A Lesson in Violence, Blacklist and Bonded by Blood. Zetro and Gary were insane on stage the whole time, while their fans were simply slamming into the pit like there’s no tomorrow. Close to the end of the show, before they played the electrifying The Toxic Waltz, Zetro thanked everyone at the venue for an amazing sold-out night and thanked security for the excellent job done in keeping everyone safe during the concerts, while a Canadian flag with the Exodus logo was shining bright behind the drums, and Gary made a tear of pure joy fall from everyone’s faces when he played a snippet from Slayer’s undisputed classic “Raining Blood”. We need Slayer back. Anyway, as usual they ended the concert with Strike of the Beast, or maybe I should say STRIKE OF THE FUCKIN’ BEAST, with a promise Exodus will soon return to Canadian lands for another lesson in violence.

Setlist
The Beatings Will Continue (Until Morale Improves)
A Lesson in Violence
Blood In, Blood Out
The Years of Death and Dying
Deathamphetamine
Blacklist
Piranha
Prescribing Horror
Bonded by Blood
The Toxic Waltz
Strike of the Beast

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

TESTAMENT

It took a little longer for Oakland, California-based Thrash Metal titans TESTAMENT to hit the stage at the London Music Hall, more specifically at 9:30pm, but I must say the wait was totally worth it as Chuck Billy and his crew masterfully blasted our hearts and souls with their very technical, infernal and thrilling Thrash Metal. It didn’t matter if they played newer songs like Rise Up, The Pale King and WWIII, or thrashing classics the likes of Practice What You Preach and First Strike Is Deadly, the crowd went mental into the circle pit, inspiring the whole band to play even faster and heavier than usual. The new songs from their 2020 album Titans Of Creation sounded fantastic live, but it was the old school stuff that set endless fire to the pit. I have to say that D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate), Electric Crown and The Formation of Damnation might be three of the finest Thrash Metal anthems of all time, and if you add to that the sensational way Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick slashed their axes, the rumbling bass by Steve Di Giorgio, and of course the unparalleled drums by Mr. Dave Lombardo, who received perhaps the most heartwarming ovation from the crowd from all bands, there you have the cream of thrash served on a plate of pure gold to their Canadian fans. Chuck Billy was having an amazing time, being extremely happy with the reaction of the crowd before Native Blood when he mentioned the importance of the day before the show, September 30, to all indigenous people due to the National Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada, and pretending he was “brewing” pure Thrash Metal in the giant “casserole” known as the floor section while fans were in a devastating mode during Into the Pit, among a few nice stories he told in between songs. Everyone left the London Music Hall extremely satisfied with the whole night, in special with the ass-kicking performance by Testament, and it won’t take long for them to return to Canada to blast our ears once again as long as we always practice what we preach.

Setlist
Rise Up
The New Order
The Pale King
Children of the Next Level
Practice What You Preach
WWIII
D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)
Native Blood
Night of the Witch
Electric Crown
The Formation of Damnation
First Strike Is Deadly
Into the Pit
Alone in the Dark

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Dave Lombardo – drums

Album Review – Testament / Titans Of Creation (2020)

The titans of Thrash Metal are back in action with another technical, melodic and absolutely pulverizing album of extreme music.

Since the release of the brilliant The Formation Of Damnation in 2008, every single time American Thrash Metal masters Testament release a new album, you can see a huge smile on the faces of all fans of our beloved Bay Area Thrash, including myself. It was like that with their following albums, those being Dark Roots Of Earth, released in 2012, Brotherhood Of The Snake, released in 2016, and now four years later the same can be said about the bold, multi-layered opus Titans Of Creation, the thirteenth studio album in their undisputed career. Produced by Jamaican musician and producer Juan Urteaga, who had recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered their previous two studio albums, mixed and mastered by Andy Sneap, and featuring a hellish artwork by their longtime friend Eliran Kantor, who coincidentally has taken care of all of their art since The Formation of Damnation, Titans Of Creation will crush you like an insect from start to finish, proving once and for all why frontman Chuck Billy, guitarists Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick, bassist Steve Di Giorgio and drummer Gene Hoglan are undoubtedly among the best, most demonic and most talented teams in the world of heavy music.

And the entire band comes ripping in the opening track Children of the Next Level, a classic avalanche of Thrash Metal with their trademark insane beats and flammable riffs, not to mention the fun and wicked lyrics vociferated by Chuck (“In trans-human state / It’s time to evacuate / Waiting for a ride to take them to the gate / Await the siren call / More phenobarbital / Pour it down the hatch, ingest it all / Children of the next level / They’re chillin’ with the Devil / Children of the next level / Here they come!”). After such demented start to the album, Gene takes the lead in the high-octane, thrilling tune WWIII, while Alex and Eric show everything they got with their sick riffs and solos. Put differently, this is old school Testament without sounding outdated at all, and needless to say Chuck is once again marvelous with his enraged roars. Then we have Dream Deceiver, more melodic and rhythmic than the previous songs, where Gene’s beats will smash your senses so intricate and precise they are, supported by the always thunderous bass lines by Steve and, therefore, keeping the album at a high level of adrenaline and rage.

The violent Night of the Witch reminds me of the early days of the band, but even more ferocious that that (if that’s something possible), bringing to our ears first-class Thrash Metal in honor of all witches of the world, with the vicious words barked by Chuck (and Eric) being the icing on the cake (“Conjuring in darkness, desecrate their will / The dead of night has taken flight, assassinate them all / Show them the face of terror / Show them the grace of Hell / Black magic of the witch / Shall never break the spell”). Slowing down things a bit but still venomous and heavy-as-hell, Testament offer us all the sinister City of Angels, alternating between more aggressive, thrashing moments and serene, dark passages, despite going on for a little too long; whereas in Ishtar’s Gate the sound of the guitars by both Eric and Alex is insanely heavy and captivating, while Steve keeps pounding his bass cords in great fashion, adding an extra metallic touch to the musicality together with Chuck’s characteristic deep roars. And showing no mercy for our necks the band blasts the excellent Symptoms, inspiring us to headbang like true metalheads. Furthermore, Gene sounds fantastic as usual, it doesn’t matter the song’s speed, and in this case we can enjoy sheer groove and heaviness flowing form his beats.

Titans Of Creation Limited Edition Boxset

Back to a more berserk and frantic sonority, Chuck and his henchmen fire the classic False Prophet, and if you love some brutal headbanging Gene offers you exactly what you need in this awesome chant, also bringing Alex and Eric’s razor-edged riffage beautifully complemented by Steve’s in-your-face bass punches, while incendiary riffs ignite the Thrash Metal party titled The Healers, presenting a mix of heavy beats and demonic growls intertwined with the complex and smashing drums by Gene and the always perfect solos by the band’s ruthless guitar duo. Then a groovy and dark bass intro by Steve quickly morphs into a demolishing hurricane of Thrash Metal by Testament entitled Code of Hammurabi, presenting the most entertaining, violent and melodic side of the band. Put differently, it’s simply impossible not to slam into the circle pit to the sound of this infernal anthem, and they still have a lot of fuel to burn in the breathtaking, pulverizing Curse of Osiris, where the Stygian backing vocals by Eric add a welcome touch of evil to the overall result. Moreover, Gene showcases once again all his dexterity and fury on drums, resulting in a lesson in devastation in the name of Bay Area Thrash full of demented solos and with endless electricity flowing from all instruments, before the cinematic and climatic outro Catacombs put an end to another bestial spawn of metal music by Testament.

You can purchase your desired version of Titans Of Creation from several different locations, such as the ass-kicking boxset (limited to 1,500 copies worldwide) from the Nuclear Blast webstore, including a 24-page booklet with exclusive band photos and liner notes, a 3D lenticular, a CD and an Earth Element Edition Vinyl, or save it on your favorite streaming service by clicking HERE. As already mentioned, Testament showed us all everything they got once again with Titans Of Creation, keeping the flames of old school Thrash Metal burning bright and, consequently, positioning them as one of the top bands of the genre hands down. In other words, if you thought Thrash Metal was dead and gone after Slayer’s retirement, here come Testament to prove you wrong and to decimate you as the merciless titans of Thrash Metal that they have always been.

Best moments of the album: WWIII, Night of the Witch, Code of Hammurabi and Curse of Osiris.

Worst moments of the album: City of Angels.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Children of the Next Level 6:13
2. WWIII 4:48
3. Dream Deceiver 4:58
4. Night of the Witch 6:32
5. City of Angels 6:43
6. Ishtar’s Gate 5:09
7. Symptoms 4:37
8. False Prophet 4:54
9. The Healers 4:23
10. Code of Hammurabi 4:52
11. Curse of Osiris 3:24
12. Catacombs 2:01

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

Concert Review – Slayer (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 05/29/2018)

And Slayer said goodbye to Toronto in the most pulverizing (and best) way you can imagine.

OPENING ACTS: Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God

I don’t know what to say about the absolute devastation that happened at the always perfect (and I dare you to name one place in this planet that’s better than that for a live concert) Budweiser Stage yesterday in Toronto. When it was announced that there was going to be a Slayer Farewell Tour, I guess they forgot to say it was going to be a farewell to their diehard fans, brave people who lost their lives while crushing their heads and spines into the nonstop, infernal mosh pits that took over the entire venue (and I believe I saw some smaller ones even in the seated areas) during the more than SIX HOURS of brutal Thrash and Death Metal blasted by some of the best bands in the history of heavy music. As a matter of fact, whoever had the initial idea of putting together on the same day/night the great Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and Slayer deserves a huge prize and our utmost respect forever. It was totally and amazingly insane from start to finish, on a beyond beautiful and sunny day in the city. My neck hurts and I’m as tired as hell, so I’ll try to be brief in writing a little about what was supposed to be the last fulminating performance by the almighty Slayer in Toronto (and I really, really hope it was not the last time we saw those guys here).

It was past 4pm when the gates finally opened and the fans could enter the venue for some beer, for getting a little shade away from the scorching sun, and for a few curious ones to enjoy the official pre-show party with Canadian Black Metal horde Panzerfaust at the River Bar at 4:30pm. As I was dying for a beer and pumped up already for TESTAMENT at 5pm, I unfortunately couldn’t attend that mini-gig, but I guess the band won’t be mad at us for doing that, right? Anyway, at 5 o’clock high there they were Chuck Billy, Eric Peterson, Alex Skolnick, Steve Di Giorgio and the demonic stone crusher Gene Hoglan for a short and demolishing lecture in Thrash Metal, still promoting their latest installment, the flawless Brotherhood Of The Snake, from 2016. It was insanity in the form of seven faster-than-a-bullet songs (who doesn’t love the thrashing classic Into the Pit?), with the bestial drums by Gene sounding like he was hired by TTC to help with the excavations for a new subway station, making our chests and even hats tremble with his beats. Yes, as awesome as that.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
Practice What You Preach
The Pale King
Into the Pit
The New Order
Disciples of the Watch

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

After a short bathroom break, it was time for Poland’s most iconic metal band of all time to darken the stage with their blasphemous and sulfuric music. Polish Blackened Death Metal institution BEHEMOTH lived up to the expectations even playing a shorter setlist than usual (and at daylight, something they might not be used to), mixing classics with kick-ass songs from their latest album, their 2014 opus The Satanist, plus a brand new song named Wolves ov Siberia. Mr. Adam “Nergal” Darski was on fire throughout the entire performance, proving why he’s one of the most respected metal artists of the past decade, leaving the fans eager for more of their obscure music in a not-so-distant future. One funny thing is that Behemoth were the only band to not throw to the fans any guitar picks or drumsticks, but instead they were spitting blood on the people at the front row. If that doesn’t tell you how dark their music is, I don’t know what would.

Setlist
Ov Fire and the Void
Demigod
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Wolves ov Siberia
Chant for Eschaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!

Band members
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion

Another bathroom break, another beer, and at 6:55pm sharp (don’t you feel amazed with how punctual all events are in Toronto?) it was time for the old school, slamming, riff-oriented Thrash Metal by the one and only ANTHRAX, who (guess what?) delivered a sequence of seven ass-kicking, frantic songs, including Evil Twin, from their 2016 album For All Kings, and beautiful classics such as I Am the Law, Madhouse and Indians. Scott Ian and Frank Bello were in their usual “I’m playing on stage but I’m also moshing up here together with you guys in the pit” mode, while Joey Belladonna was beyond happy with the warm reaction of the fans to each one of their songs. The low point of the show was that unfortunately Charlie Benante couldn’t play with the band as a result of an ongoing battle with carpal tunnel in his wrists, but the good thing is that he was replaced by the monstrous Gene Hoglan. Do I need to say more? In addition, Mr. Belladonna said that the concert yesterday was Anthrax’s biggest crowd ever in Toronto, and I’m sure everyone who was there banging their heads to their music was more than happy to have been part of such important day to the band.

Setlist
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time (Joe Jackson cover)
I Am the Law
Madhouse
Evil Twin
Antisocial (Trust cover)
Indians

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jon Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Gene Hoglan – drums*

*Replaced Charlie Benante due to illness.

After all the havoc generated by Testament, Behemoth and Anthrax, there was still more to come with Groove Metal titans LAMB OF GOD, still promoting their 2015 album VII: Sturm und Drang, and let me tell you the show was so heavy and insane I think some people went missing after the demented circle pits ignited by Mr. Randy Blythe and his henchmen. Playing a solid mix of songs from all of their albums, with all of them of course being as brutal as hell, Lamb Of God put a huge smile on the faces of their diehard fans, with Randy also praising all the bands of the “mini-festival”, requesting everyone to pay a humble tribute to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair with a few WOOOOO’s, and jumping up and down like a maniac on stage nonstop. Well, everything a Redneck loves in life, right? And please correct me if I’m wrong, but was Randy wearing some sort of ankle monitor still due to the manslaughter case he was involved and arrested for a few years ago? If that’s the case, well, that’s what I call a badass frontman, ladies and gentlemen.

Setlist
Omerta
Ruin
Walk With Me in Hell
Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
512
Engage the Fear Machine
Blacken the Cursed Sun
Laid to Rest
Redneck

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums

SLAYER

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” It’s with these classic words that I want to introduce you to the end of all days in the form of the Satanic Thrash Metal blasted by the heaviest, the most awesome and the most destructive band in the world, the all-powerful SLAYER. Actually, I should say FUCKIN’ SLAYER, or even SLAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR, as this is the right way to refer to the unrelenting Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and the second stone crusher of the night, the barbaric Paul Bostaph (another guy that probably got some money from TTC to speed up the subway excavations yesterday). Playing at least one song from each one of their crushing albums, from their 1983 masterpiece Show No Mercy to their 2015 opus Repentless (with the exception of their 1998 controversial album Diabolus in Musica), Slayer put on a flammable performance (and I’m not using the word flammable in vain, as there was A LOT of fire during the whole concert), turning the entire floor section into one supreme, hot-as-hell, motherfuckin’ savage circle pit.

And that mix of classic Slayer with their more contemporary albums workd extremely well, creating a hellish balance of sounds for the total delectation of all admirers of their undisputed Thrash Metal. It was fantastic watching them performing faster, newer tunes like Repentless, Disciple, Hate Worldwide and Jihad, while at the same time delivering their classic infernal melodies in Mandatory Suicide, Postmortem and Black Magic. For instance, in my humble opinion the sequence comprised of Payback (one of the most pulverizing songs of the night), Seasons in the Abyss, Dittohead and Dead Skin Mask simply proves how timeless their music is, and how important they’ll always be to the world of heavy music. Then from Hell Awaits until the grand finale with the all-time classic Angel of Death it was an absolute chaos, with the circle pit getting bigger and bigger, people screaming at the top of their lungs and crowd surfing nonstop like if there was no tomorrow, and sweat and beer flowing everywhere. And I’m not going to say how cataclysmic the metal hymn Raining Blood was. If you were not there, you don’t deserve to know.

One thing I’ll never understand is how Mr. Paul Bostaph managed to play drums at that insane speed and intensity with all those blistering hot fires burning almost all the time all around his drum set. I think that proves he’s not human, as none of the guys from Slayer are. As a matter of fact, Slayer are a four-headed, rabid beast that would make even the “hound of Hades” Cerberus put his tail between his legs and run away, and if this was in fact their farewell tour, well, they’ll be beyond missed by all of us, diehard Slayer fans who consider Dead Skin Mask one of the best “ballads” ever composed by any band. Let’s wait and see if we’ll be treated to at least one more Slayer apocalypse in Toronto in the coming years as a second, third or whatever leg of their farewell tour, I don’t care, as long as they return. Now it’s time to take some rest from all madness from yesterday, do the body count (and maybe there are even some bodies floating in Lake Ontario near the venue), take a deep breath and keep doing what we all know how to at home, at school, at work or anywhere else where some good and reverberating screaming in required. And you know what word you need to burst your lungs screaming, right?

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
Blood Red
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Jihad
When the Stillness Comes
Postmortem
Black Magic
Payback
Seasons in the Abyss
Dittohead
Dead Skin Mask
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Chemical Warfare
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

Concert Review –Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/27/2017)

When you have two of the best and most iconic Thrash Metal bands of all time playing together in the city, you know exactly where you have to be.

OPENING ACTS: Prong and Sepultura

As much as I enjoy the Phoenix Concert Theatre and obviously the bands that were going to play last night, I truly and deeply hate the weekdays rush hour traffic to get from my town, the suburban Oakville, to Toronto whenever there’s a good metal concert I want to attend. At least the weather was fantastic (even with a short storm that happened at around 7pm), with the temperature being above 20 degrees, which means no one had to carry their burdensome jackets like what always happens when a concert is in the middle of the winter.

Anyway, due to traffic (and because I had to eat something before heading to the venue), I completely missed the performance by American Crossover Thrash power trio PRONG. I have absolutely no idea if it was a good concert or not. Well, probably yes as the group spearheaded by Tommy Victor has all it takes to deliver great music to the audience, but unfortunately I can’t say a word about what they did last night, not even write down their setlist.

Band members
Tommy Victor – lead vocals, guitar
Jason Christopher – bass guitar, backing vocals
Art Cruz – drums

Fortunately, I got to the Phoenix Concert Theatre just in time to see the always amazing show by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal masters SEPULTURA, who are currently promoting their latest album, the very experimental and exciting Machine Messiah.  Derrick Green, Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr. and Eloy Casagrande put on an electrified performance on stage from start to finish, blending several songs of their new album like the excellent Phantom Self and Sworn Oath with all-time classics such as Desperate Cry, Inner Self (my favorite of the night) and Refuse/Resist, and of course the song most fans at the venue wanted to hear, their ritualistic hymn Roots Bloody Roots. The sound was very clear, cohesive and powerful, just like what the band offers us in their studio albums, proving Sepultura are a band that always provides their fans the same high level of quality found in their studio versions when they transport those compositions to the stage. As usual, the highlights of their performance were the insane riffs, solos and other awesome tricks done by Andreas with his guitar. That guy is one of the most gifted guitarists in the history of heavy music, which means if you’ve never seen him playing live, don’t miss that chance the next time “Sepultura do Brasil” visit your city.

Setlist
I Am the Enemy
Phantom Self
Choke
Desperate Cry
Sworn Oath
Inner Self
Alethea
Resistant Parasites
Refuse/Resist
Ratamahatta
Roots Bloody Roots

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

TESTAMENT

After a short bathroom and beer break, it was time for American Thrash Metal behemoths TESTAMENT to create a sonic Armageddon in Toronto with their unparalleled aggression and refined technique. I guess I always say the same thing about Testament, but all band members are extremely talented and way above average, in special the guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick and the human earthquake Gene Hoglan. Those two are not simple musicians, they’re demonic beasts when armed with their instruments, delivering the best of the best when it comes to heavy music.

Blasting some of their newest creations from the best metal album of 2016, the superb Brotherhood Of The Snake, especially the kick-ass tunes Brotherhood of the Snake, The Pale King and Stronghold, with old school songs and newer classics, they delivered a flawless performance for the delight of all metalheads at the venue. A few songs from their setlist deserve some special attention, like the brutal and sensational Rise Up for its enhanced mighty power when played live, the high-octane Centuries of Suffering for the insanely intricate magic Gene does behind his drums, and Electric Crown for the amount of groove and feeling flowing from the band’s instruments.

My only complaint about the concert was the excessive amount of solos, one for each band member. As much as I love each guy from the band, I personally prefer regular songs than solos. If they replaced those solos with newer songs like “The Number Game” or “Native Blood”, or with classic like “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” or “Burnt Offerings”, it would have been just perfect, but that’s just my opinion. The whole concert was fuckin’ awesome anyway; not even all those solos were able to cool down the audience, mainly because whenever there was a solo there was also a demolishing classic right after it, like when they played the circle pit-generator First Strike Is Deadly after Gene’s drum solo.

Before playing the encore, the iconic Chuck Billy, who by the way is singing better and better as time goes by, therefore being able to perfectly replicate his sensational deep growls live without making any extra effort, told the fans a story about when they were in Texas hanging out with the guys from one of the most respected, energized and violent bands of all time, the one and only Pantera, drinking Jack Daniel’s (and probably taking other stuff as well) with them. Can you imagine that? Testament and Pantera together? The 90’s were definitely the best period for Thrash Metal, no doubt about that. Chuck said that after a lot of drinking, something hit his head (maybe a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or maybe it was the alcohol itself) and he told the other guys he had the name for their new album. It was going to be called Practice What you Preach, one of their biggest hits, and one of the best of the night as well.

There was still time for one last sick mosh pit with Over the Wall, and after all was said and done you could see how happy all fans of Testament were with their amazing performance. As Chuck said, I hope all promoters in Canada turn their eyes to Testament more often aiming at having more concerts all over the country, not only two or three cities. Let’s hope that those promoters listen to the deep voice by Chuck and we have more of the brotherhood of Thrash Metal in our currently not-so-cold country, because after such brilliant performance last night I’m sure all Torontonian fans of Testament are eager for more of their music.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
The Pale King
Centuries of Suffering
Alex Skolnick’s Guitar Solo
Electric Crown
Into the Pit
Low
Throne of Thorns
Stronghold
Eric Peterson’s Guitar Solo
Eyes of Wrath
Gene Hoglan’s Drum Solo
First Strike Is Deadly
Steve DiGiorgio’s Bass Solo
Urotsukidôji
Souls of Black
Seven Seals
The New Order

Encore:
Practice What You Preach
Over the Wall

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

Album Review – Testament / Brotherhood Of The Snake (2016)

Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet or die.

Rating1

testament_brotherhood-of-the-snakeRight after taking your first listen at Brotherhood Of The Snake, the eleventh studio album by American Thrash Metal servicemen Testament, you’ll realize what you have in your hands is a newborn metal classic. From start to finish, Brotherhood Of The Snake offers fans of both old school and modern Thrash Metal everything we love and crave in this type of music, from deep guttural vocals and supersonic blast beats to intricate and hellish guitar riffs and solos. And after Brotherhood Of The Snake, we can also say Testament brought into being a new first-class trilogy in heavy music, as all albums released after the band’s huge time off from studio in the early 2000’s, those being The Formation Of Damnation (2008), Dark Roots Of Earth (2012) and now Brotherhood Of The Snake, are beyond magnificent.

Featuring a menacing and classy artwork by Israeli artist Eliran Kantor, who has been working with Testament in all their releases since 2008, Brotherhood Of The Snake transpires pure Thrash Metal in all its 45 minutes of duration. Of course there are also their classic mid-tempo and slow, heavy tunes, but more than half of the album is comprised of high-speed thrashy material that will certainly ignite some demented mosh pits during their live concerts. Regarding the main concept of the album, Chuck has stated in one of his interviews that the album draws lyrical inspiration from the ancient astronaut hypothesis, namely through the Ancient Aliens television program. Furthermore, he said the title comes from the name of an ancient secret society (set up thousands of years ago by an alien named Ea or Enki, by the way).

The initial cavernous roar by Chuck in the title-track Brotherhood of the Snake is the epitome of the whole album, being barbaric, intimidating and thrilling at the same time. Moreover, the perfect riffs by both Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick are mightily enhanced by the thunderous beats blasted by the juggernaut Gene Hoglan, making the lyrics sound even more meaningful in the end (“They’ve taken the tablets and hidden the scrolls / To deceive the ones they protect / The truth of creation, mutation of man / Entombed in the vatican walls”), with the song’s heavier-than-hell ending being just the icing on the cake. And it looks like their Thrash Metal onslaught has no time to end based on the amazing The Pale King, where it’s possible to savor the potent sound emanating from each instrument due to the crystal clear production of the album, in special the rumbling weapon carried by Steve Di Giorgio. In addition, Chuck treats us all with another of his flawless performances on vocals in this rhythmic and raw composition, something only a band like Testament can provide.

testament-2016Stronghold feels like a tribute to themselves and to the golden years of Bay Area Thrash, a fuckin’ kick-ass mosh pit-generator with bestial vocals and even more bestial backing vocals with the guitars by Eric and Alex penetrating our bones and lacerating our spinal cords mercilessly. In other words, this is a sonic orgasm for fans of fast and furious Thrash Metal from the 80’s, and I guess I don’t need to repeat myself and say it will sound absolutely perfect when played live. Following that thrashy storm, we have Seven Seals, showcasing beautiful guitar solos by Eric and Alex as well as intelligent and meaningful lyrics powerfully declaimed by Chuck, all embraced by heaviness to the second power, and it doesn’t matter if Gene is playing at full speed or if the song demands groovier and more rhythmic beats, he always delivers. And Born in a Rut, another groovy composition with fierce drums and a more serene (but also obscure) aura, concludes the first half of the album on a high note, perfect for enjoying a cold a beer while banging your head to another lesson in heavy music by Testament.

Another sensational hymn by Chuck and his unstoppable horde in undoubtedly Centuries of Suffering, where the dynamic duo Eric and Alex are once again on fire with their boisterous guitars, delivering riffs and solos that sound like if they were forged in the fires of the underworld. Not only that, what Gene does with his drum kit at around two minutes is truly impressive, increasing the song’s quality and ferocity to a whole new level. That guy is indeed a human wrecking machine. In Neptune’s Spear (a beautiful name for a first-class song), I can’t decide if the pounding drums by Gene or the blazing guitar riffs and solos by both Eric and Alex are the best elements of it, not to mention the aggressiveness brought forth by Steve and his unique bass sounds; whereas Black Jack is the ultimate soundtrack for an insane cards game “in the city of sin”, with its straightforward lyrics being boosted by its demolishing instrumental.

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Brotherhood Of The Snake Limited Edition Book Boxset

I’m neither pro nor against the theme explored in Canna-Business as I believe each one of us has the freedom to do whatever we want with our lives, and that’s why I want to focus on the music itself rather than on the discussion if that’s right or wrong. The whole song is evidently overpowering and electrifying, as expected in any composition by Testament, a high-octane chant with Chuck barking like a beast as well as providing some really deep vocals and vociferations. And lastly, The Number Game keeps the fire of Thrash Metal burning high and bright, with the performances by Chuck and Gene trespassing the frontiers of aggressiveness. No words can describe their awesomeness, especially the crazy beats and fills by Gene, therefore I suggest you simply go listen to it nonstop and don’t forget to break your fuckin’ neck headbanging to its brilliant hellish riffs.

There’s a series of videos on Nuclear Blast’s YouTube channel where Testament discuss each song of the album, their inspiration to write Brotherhood Of The Snake and the ancient alien theme, among other topics, like you can see for example HERE. I personally recommend you go watch those videos to get more involved with such an epic album, and of course if you’re planning on buying this instant classic just go for the Limited Edition Book Boxset, which includes the CD, the complete album on five brown 7 inch EP’s, an oversized 7 inch booklet, a 40×60 inch poster flag and a metal pin. Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by Testament, one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet or die. As simple as that.

Best moments of the album: Brotherhood of the Snake, Stronghold, Centuries of Suffering and The Number Game.

Worst moments of the album: Obviously none.

Released in 2016 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Brotherhood of the Snake 4:14
2. The Pale King 4:51
3. Stronghold 4:00
4. Seven Seals 5:38
5. Born in a Rut 4:57
6. Centuries of Suffering 3:34
7. Neptune’s Spear 5:27
8. Black Jack 4:21
9. Canna-Business 3:47
10. The Number Game 4:38

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

Concert Review – Exodus & Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015)

A magnificent lesson in Thrash Metal, directly from the dark roots of Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Shattered Sun

Testament-Exodus-2015It’s somehow ridiculous that there was ONLY ONE CONCERT scheduled from the Dark Roots of Thrash II Tour in Canada. Fortunately for me, but not as much for most of our headbanging brothers in B.C., Alberta and other distant locations, the city chosen was Toronto, Ontario, more specifically the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Well, at least for the first time in months we didn’t have any snow, rain, bitterly cold temperatures or any other of the wonders of the winter on a concert night in the city. Quite the contrary, the weather was beyond perfect for a lesson in Thrash Metal.

The attraction responsible for warming up all thrash metallers at the venue was American Metalcore band SHATTERED SUN, who by the way are managed by Chuck Billy’s own company Breaking Bands LLC. Although Metalcore is not among the most reasonable options for pumping up a crowd avid for brutal old school Bay Area Thrash Metal, they had a good performance and didn’t disappoint the crowd with their mix of heavy and melodic music, with the addition of keyboards being a fresh element to the night. I can’t tell much about their setlist, only that they’re promoting their soon-to-be-released new album entitled Hope Within Hatred, which should be available within a few days. If you’re a fan of the genre, here’s a good choice for your collection.

Band members
Marcos Leal – vocals
Daniel Trejo – guitar
Jessie Santos – guitar
Joseph Guajardo – bass
Henry Garza – keyboards, samples
Robert Garza – drums

EXODUS

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Exodus @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

Holy. Fuckin’. Shit. EXODUS do not only kick fuckin’ ass when they’re on stage, they ALWAYS teach us motherfuckers a lesson in fuckin’ violence. It’s incredible how such an old band (in a good way, of course) still sounds so fresh and captivating until today, and that’s in my opinion mainly due to the fact they keep releasing awesome albums like their latest installment, the absurdly excellent Blood In, Blood Out. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the madness started, with two of the best songs from the new album: the insane Black 13 and the mosh pit-anthem title-track Blood In, Blood Out, which worked so well live to the point if they had left the stage after only two songs it would have been awesome anyway.

Right after that frantic start, Exodus offered us a sequence of Thrash Metal classics to drive all fans crazy into the circle pits (adding some bruises to our personal collections), with highlights to masterpieces such as A Lesson in Violence, The Last Act of Defiance and my favorite Exodus songs of all time, the impeccable Blacklist (“You’d better start runnin’ / Cause you know that I’m comin’ / Cocked and loaded and I never miss / I’m onto your game / And I’m layin’ the blame / And I’m addin’ your name to my blacklist”), The Toxic Waltz and Strike of the Beast, the latter including a smaller version of the infamous wall of death for our total delight. However, I was truly happy to see they didn’t “forget” about the Rob Dukes-era and added two of the most exciting songs of that period, Iconoclasm and Children of a Worthless God. Maybe next time they can play even other songs from that era, such as “Hammer and Life” and “Deathamphetamine”?

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Kill the Kardashians, Gary!

In regards to the band members, there were tons of highs, but one significant low. Actually, the low was not the band’s fault, as bassist Jack Gibson wasn’t allowed to enter Canada due to issues with the law. We accept Justin Bieber living here doing all the shit he does, and I don’t care he’s Canadian, but we cannot let good old Jack into the country? That’s ridiculous. Anyway, the dude that replaced him (sorry, I forgot his name, but he also helps Exodus when Gary Holt is with that “other Thrash Metal band”, and Gary even played an excerpt of “Raining Blood” just to remind the crowd about that) did a pretty good job supporting Gary Holt, Steve “Zetro” Souza & Co. during the entire concert. Talking about Zetro and Gary, I guess they can be considered the “new” dynamic duo of old school Thrash Metal so in sync they’ve been since Zetro’s return last year. While Zetro leads the fans into the mosh pits with his raspy voice (is it true it was his first time in Toronto in 10 years?), Gary simply delivers the most motherfuckin’ extraordinary riffs and solos in the world of heavy music. I’m not going to extend my speech about how great Gary is, as I believe I’ve already said enough in previous album and concert reviews, but there’s one thing that must be mentioned that enhanced his performance even more last night: who didn’t love his KILL THE KARDASHIANS T-shirt?

As Zetro said immediately after Exodus played the classic Bonded by Blood, we are all bonded not only by blood, but by our passion for Heavy Metal, and he’s 100% right. We love metal music, we love Exodus, and we cannot wait for them to get back to Toronto to teach us another lesson in Thrash Metal. Remember we are all part of Exodus’ “blacklist”, which means it shouldn’t take long for that to happen, I hope.

Setlist
1. Black 13
2. Blood In, Blood Out
3. Iconoclasm
4. Children of a Worthless God
5. A Lesson in Violence
6. Salt the Wound
7. The Last Act of Defiance
8. Blacklist
9. Bonded by Blood
10. War Is My Shepherd
11. The Toxic Waltz
12. Strike of the Beast

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass*
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

*Missed the concert for not being allowed to enter Canada due to issues with the law.

TESTAMENT

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Testament @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

There was an essential short break between concerts for recovering our energies and enjoying a cold beer, and I’m being serious when I say “essential” because what TESTAMENT did during their flawless concert was inhuman. Playing only songs from their first three albums, The Legacy (1987), The New Order (1988) and Practice What You Preach (1989), Chuck Billy and his crew showed no mercy on our bodies and souls with an avalanche of old school Thrash Metal classics. How not to go wild with songs like Over the Wall, Do or Die or The New Order? Although their latest albums (The Formation of Damnation and Dark Roots of Earth) are Heavy Metal masterpieces, being able to witness a tour only composed by old classics is always interesting.

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Testament @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

From all songs in their setlist, I would say my favorites were Eerie Inhabitants, C.O.T.L.O.D., Practice What You Preach, and especially the devastating tunes Disciples of the Watch and Into the Pit. The song already has “pit” in its name, but it was when Chuck demanded we all slammed into the fuckin’ pit that things got pretty serious. In summary, it was an amazing setlist, which ignited some nonstop headbanging and lots of smiles among the fans who answered Chuck’s call and were having a great time into the circle pit.

Moreover, there’s one thing that amazes me in Testament, and that’s the musicians involved. All five are superb with their instruments, delivering top-notch Heavy Metal, which always makes me wonder why there are metalheads in the world that still don’t know who Testament are. Chuck’s voice is unique (as thunderous as it can be), Gene Hoglan redefines the meaning of the word “stone crusher”, and I have no words to describe Alex Skolnick. Honestly, I didn’t know if I slammed into the pit or if I stayed there just watching him play his guitar so jaw-dropping his technique is (not even when he suffered from technical difficulties he looked less incredible). Watching Gary Holt AND Alex Skolnick delivering the most awesome Thrash Metal riffs and solos you can imagine on the same night was a true blessing. Those guys definitely practice what they preach.

Setlist
1. Over the Wall
2. The Haunting
3. Burnt Offerings
4. Raging Waters
5. The Preacher
6. Do or Die
7. First Strike Is Deadly
8. A Day of Reckoning
9. Apocalyptic City
10. Eerie Inhabitants
11. The New Order
12. Trial by Fire
13. Into the Pit
14. Alone in the Dark
15. C.O.T.L.O.D.

Encore:
16. Practice What You Preach
17. Disciples of the Watch

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

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