Wacken Metal Battle Canada returned in full force in 2023, leading to an unforgettable night of ass-kicking underground music at Lee’s Palace this Saturday.
INTRODUCTION: THE RETURN OF WACKEN METAL BATTLE CANADA
What a night of first-class underground heavy music in Toronto, my friends! On pause since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Wacken Metal Battle Canada finally returned from the ashes like a phoenix screaming for vengeance in 2023, and after over 60 bands participating in the regional rounds for the past few months in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City (and you can always review the rules for participation HERE), it was time this Saturday at Lee’s Palace for the 2023 edition of the Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final with the bands EATEN BY SHARKS, NECHT and STRIGAMPIRE, battling for a spot in the most admired metal festival in the world, the one and only Wacken Open Air in Germany, this summer.
Also featuring guest openers KORROSIVE and guest headliners WHIPLASH, the night was indeed a celebration of underground metal, with guest judges Pedro Almeida (A&P Reacts), Antonio Almeida (A&P Reacts), Noel Peters (Inertia Entertainment), Tim Henderson (BraveWords), Thorsteinn Kolbeinsson (Wacken Metal Battle Iceland), Sarah Lutz (Looters), Kevin Michaud (Front Row Promotions), Luc Laine (CFLX 95.5 FM – Alerte Metallique), Rae Chatten (Rock’n Roam, Live Nation), Mark Tremblay (Metal on Metal Podcast) and JJ Tartaglia (Wacken Metal Battle Canada) having a lot of “trouble” to decide which one of the three amazing bands that played should head to Wacken and represent Canada in the holy land of metal music.
KORROSIVE (guest openers)
Before the crowd had the pleasure of witnessing the performances by the three finalists, Toronto-based Thrash Metal outfit KORROSIVE hit the stage to properly warm up everyone with their frantic, caustic and insane thrashing music. Having released the excellent album Toxic Apokalypse in 2022, the band formed of frontman Rad Zarei, guitarists Derek Solomos and Jack Neila, bassist Carlos Rodriguez and drummer Kaveh Afshar kicked some serious ass on stage, already inspiring everyone at the venue to ignite some sick mosh pits, until their grand finale with a pulverizing cover version for Venom’s all-time classic Black Metal. I highly recommend you go after their material on Spotify and on BandCamp if you’ve never heard of those guys, because they definitely know how to thrash in great fashion.
Rad Zarei – vocals
Derek Solomos – guitar
Jack Neila – guitar
Carlos Rodriguez – bass
Kaveh Afshar – drums
After a short break it was then time for the first contender of the night, Trois-Rivières, Quebec-based Melodic Black Metal horde STRIGAMPIRE, to show everything they got and, who knows, win the desired Canadian spot at Wacken Open Air this year. Having released their last album in 2018, titled One Fix, Nine Clouds & Six Feet Deep (which means we urgently need a new album by those guys), the band spearheaded by the unstoppable frontman Steve De Cotret delivered an incendiary performance, with pentagrams all over the stage and with Steve running around the venue, screaming in the faces of some of the attendees and so on, putting his heart and soul into his vocals. It was an insane show full of energy and darkness, and if you enjoy the more modern version of Black Metal from the Quebec scene, you should listen to all of their wicked creations on Spotify.
Steve De Cotret – vocals
Johnny Dead – guitars
William Tousignant – guitars
BadGuy P. – bass
Yannick Laplante – drums
Right after Strigampire finished their sulfurous show, St. Catharines, Ontario’s own Technical Death Metal/Deathcore entity EATEN BY SHARKS hit the stage for another infernal performance, playing several songs from their 2022 album Eradication including Shallow Water, Kill and Consume, Same Face, Different Mask and Apex Predator. Their frontman Matt Sherriff was absolutely enraged on vocals while his bandmates sounded as heavy as hell throughout their entire set, receiving a very positive feedback from the crowd. They’re definitely another band I’ll be listening to on a regular basis so awesome their tech death is, and if you also love to slam into the circle pit while listening to high quality metal music you should let such demented shark bite your ears on Spotify and on BandCamp.
Matt Sherriff – vocals
Chris Chaperon – lead guitars
Dan Oko – rhythm guitars
Tyler Abrams – bass
Justin Whitehead – drums
The last of the finalists to perform on Saturday was undoubtedly the most mysterious and atmospheric band of the night, bringing blasphemy and sulfur to Lee’s Palace with their “grim, martial and epic black metal conducted in the name of Our Father, B’ahn, the Ceaseless Warrior,” according to the band itself. I’m talking about Calgary, Alberta-based Ritualistic Black Metal entity NECHT, who put on a solid and entertaining performance for everyone at the venue. Armed with his spear and shield, vocalist Maharg led his horde of uncanny musicians (all wearing some sort of BDSM/Hellraiser-inspired masks) while roaring in the name of evil nonstop, even “baptizing” some of the concert goers with some sort of devilish black paint. Necht are about to release their debut full-length opus anytime soon, but if you can’t wait for that and want to have a good taste of how Stygian their music is, there’s one track already available on BandCamp. GLORY TO THE SUN!
Maharg – vocals
Zhargor – guitars, bass, backing vocals*
Vlasfimos – drums
*There was actually a fourth member of the band on stage, but I have no idea who he is, nor if he was the guitarist or the bassist.
WHIPLASH (guest headliners)
Before the winner of the 2023 Canadian Wacken Metal Battle was announced, we had the pleasure of witnessing one of the legends of underground Thrash and Speed Metal as the guest headliners of such fun night. I’m talking about Passaic, New Jersey-based Thrash/Speed Metal beast WHIPLASH, spearheaded by the iconic Tony Portaro on vocals and guitars. What an insane performance by the trio, playing tons of amazing underground classics from their almost 40 years of career the likes of Spit on Your Grave, Walk the Plank, Insult to Injury and the demolishing Power Thrashing Death. The mosh pits kept moving fast while Tony barked nonstop on stage (only stopping to have a sip of his beer), with their punk-ish and hardcore attitude showing all the kids present at the venue what old school Thrash Metal is all about. I doubt you know nothing about those guys, but just in case you’re from a different planet you can find all of their frantic creations on Spotify.
Tony Portaro – vocals, guitars
Dank DeLong – bass
Ron Lipnicki – drums
AND THE WINNER IS…
Well, first of all I want to thank my friend Jon Asher of Asher Media Relations for letting us participate in such important event to the Canadian underground scene, Keith Ibbitson of Lower Eastside Photography for the amazing band shots (except for Whiplash as he had to leave due to a personal matter, so I had to upload my shitty phone photos of the band to the review), and all media partners (Bravewords, Metal-Rules, Absolute Underground, BrokenNeckRadio, V13, Metal Devastation Radio, and internationally syndicated DJ Rich Embury) and promoters (Boonsdale Records, Dungeonworks Productions, The Invisible Orange, Big Nate Productions and ConcertWorks) for believing in Canadian metal.
Back to the music, the winner of such incredible night were the guys from STRIGAMPIRE, who will represent Canada at Wacken Open Air this year! One band to rule them all, right? Congratulations, you guys kicked some serious ass on Saturday! And if you want to know more about the entire event, all previous rounds and so on, you can go to the official Facebook page of Metal Battle Canada for everything regarding the initiative. Good luck to Strigampire at Wacken, although they honestly don’t need luck because they’re amazing and very professional musicians more than ready to rock the holy land of metal in Germany and show everyone in Europe the fury of Canadian Black Metal, and hopefully we’ll have more amazing metal battles in Canada next year with top-of-the-line bands such as Eaten by Sharks, Strigampire and Necht.