Album Review – Ibaraki / Rashumon (2022)

Trivium’s own Matt Heafy turns his inner demon into first-class Black Metal in his new solo project, the end-result of a journey to find his own voice.

Originally formed in 2012 under the name Mrityu by Trivium’s own vocalist and guitarist Matt Heafy with the goal of generating Norwegian-style Black Metal (while also presenting elements from Extreme Progressive Metal and Metalcore in its sound), United States-based Black Metal project Ibaraki (which is by the way the name for a terrifying Japanese demon taken from feudal legend) has finally unleashed upon humanity its debut effort, entitled Rashomon, which according to Matt himself is the end-result of a journey to find his voice. Mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Recording Studios, and produced and engineered by Emperor’s one and only Ihsahn, Rashomon is more than just an expression of Matt and Ihsahn’s deep creative resonance, with his bandmates from Trivium, those being guitarist Corey Beaulieu, bassist Paolo Gregoletto and drummer Alex Bent, contributing to the album as session musicians. “The violence in America towards Asians, the murders of Asians because of people’s small-mindedness – we can see what’s happening. It’s like I never quite felt like I was Asian enough because I’m half and I never felt white enough because I’m half, but I feel like it’s important for me to talk about this now. Everything has a rich, amazing, beautiful culture behind it – every single civilization, every culture, every walk of life. So I hope that it can make Asian metalheads or Asian fans of music feel a little bit more represented. It’s great to be able to say, ‘this is where I’m from,’ and, ‘this is who I am.’,” commented Matt about the album.

Hakanaki Hitsuzen (which translates as something like “inevitably ephemeral”) is a whimsical intro that will transport you to the world of Ibaraki before Matt and his crew come ripping in Kagutsuchi, where Matt is on fire with both his enraged screams and unstoppable riffs accompanied by the always pulverizing drums by Alex. Furthermore, everything from the breaks and variations to its ethereal passages, clean vocals and the ass-kicking bass solo by Paolo is stunning, resulting in a lesson in Experimental Black Metal. Then continuing his path of experimentations and progressiveness, we’re treated to another explosion of majestic Black Metal entitled Ibaraki-Dōji, with Matt and Corey slashing their stringed axes while Alex sounds infernal on drums, all enhanced by the song’s background orchestrations. In Jigoku Dayu, an acoustic start evolves into a gentle sonority to the calm, clean vocals by Matt, sounding enfolding until the very end, whereas in Tamashii no Houkai (or “collapse of the soul”), featuring Ihsahn on lead guitars, the band blasts a vicious fusion of classic Black Metal with progressiveness, rage and groove, also showcasing another great vocal performance by Matt.

The skies get darker and darker as the music progresses in Akumu (which means “nightmare”), where you can sense all the anguish and despair in Matt’s roars supported by Alex’s massive beats and the beastly gnarls by guest vocalist Nergal of Behemoth; followed by Komorebi (or “sunbeams”), a very melodic tune presenting different layers plus lead guitars by Corey, despite lacking the same energy of its predecessors. Then alternating between smooth passages and the hellish heaviness of Black Metal we have one of the most detailed of all songs, Rōnin, featuring backing vocals by Norwegian vocalist Heidi Solberg Tveitan of Starofash, who’s by the way married to Ihsahn and has a son, Angell Solberg Tveitan, and a daughter, Ariadne Solberg Tveitan, with him, both also doing backing vocals on the song, plus additional screams by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and lead guitars by Ihsahn. Susanoo no Mikoto is as experimental and groovy as it can be, with Paolo and Alex generating a rumbling atmosphere perfect for Matt’s screams while the song’s second half is a wicked sonic experiment conducted by Matt and featuring additional vocals by Ihsahn. And lastly, it’s time for a little less than three minutes of pure eccentricity entitled Kaizoku (or “pirate”), with Matt declaiming the song’s lyrics like a true bard.

The breathtaking, multi-layered Rashomon can be better  appreciated in its full glory on YouTube and on Spotify, but of course you can add it to your private collection of Extreme Metal albums by grabbing your favorite version of it from Ibaraki’s official homepage or by clicking HERE, and don’t forget to also follow the project on Facebook and on Instagram for news and, who knows, some tour dates in the upcoming months, and to subscribe to its YouTube channel for more wicked videos. It might have taken almost 10 years for Matt and his inner demon Ibaraki to finally see the light of day, but the wait was definitely worth it as the music found in Rashomon is outstanding to say the least, and hopefully Matt will continue his path of self-discovery with Ibaraki in the coming years, bringing to us fans more of his experimental fusion of extreme music with progressive elements and Japanese legends.

Best moments of the album: Kagutsuchi, Ibaraki-Dōji, Akumu and Rōnin.

Worst moments of the album: Komorebi.

Released in 2022 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Hakanaki Hitsuzen (儚き必然) 1:28
2. Kagutsuchi (迦具土) 7:34
3. Ibaraki-Dōji (茨木童子) 7:51
4. Jigoku Dayu (地獄太夫) 7:40
5. Tamashii no Houkai (魂の崩壊) 5:58
6. Akumu (悪夢) 5:53
7. Komorebi (木漏れ日) 6:06
8. Rōnin (浪人) 9:13
9. Susanoo no Mikoto (須佐之男命) 7:12
10. Kaizoku (海賊) 2:53

Band members
Matt Heafy – vocals, guitars

Guest musicians
Corey Beaulieu – guitars, lead guitars on “Komorebi”
Paolo Gregoletto – bass, bass solo on “Kagutsuchi”
Alex Bent – drums
Ihsahn – lead guitars on “Tamashii no Houkai” and “Rōnin”, additional vocals on “Susanoo no Mikoto”
Nergal – additional vocals on “Akumu”
Heidi Solberg Tveitan – backing vocals on “Rōnin”, samples on “Susanoo no Mikoto”
Gerard Way – additional vocals on “Rōnin”
Angell Solberg Tveitan – backing vocals on “Rōnin”
Ariadne Solberg Tveitan – backing vocals on “Rōnin”

Concert Review – Arch Enemy & Behemoth (Rebel, Toronto, ON, 04/25/2022)

A night of rain, insanity, blasphemy and, above all that, first-class Heavy Metal for the delight of thousands of metalheads in Toronto.

OPENING ACTS: Unto Others and Napalm Death

Despite the heavy rain that decided to hit Toronto only a couple of hours before the fantastic tour named The North American Siege 2022 took the city by storm, the venue chosen for such metal attack, the spacious Rebel, was almost packed already when the first band of the night hit the stage exactly at 6:30pm, American Heavy Metal/Gothic Rock act UNTO OTHERS, and let me tell you I feel a little ashamed for not knowing those guys before last night. Promoting their 2021 opus Strength, vocalist and guitarist Gabriel Franco and his henchmen put on a sensational show, with songs such as Give Me to the Night, Summer Lightning and When Will God’s Work Be Done inspiring all fans to dance, slam into the pit, or simply raise their horns in the name of Rock N’ Roll. It was a short and sweet performance by such talented band, and I hope to see them again in Toronto (or anywhere else in the world) in a not-so-distant future.

Setlist
Subdivisions (Rush song)
Heroin
Give Me to the Night
No Children Laughing Now
Can You Hear the Rain
Nightfall
Summer Lightning
When Will God’s Work Be Done

Band members
Gabriel Franco – vocals, guitars, keyboards
Sebastian Silva – guitars
Brandon Hill – bass
Colin Vranizan – drums

Right after a bathroom/beer break (not necessarily in this order), it was time for the iconic Barney Greenway and his Grindcore/Death Metal institution NAPALM DEATH to show Toronto what noise is all about for the delight of admirers of the heaviest and most demented side of music who attended the concert. Having released earlier this year the album Resentment Is Always Seismic – A Final Throw of Throes, the band was on absolute fire from start to finish, with Shane Embury and John Cooke hammering their respective bass and guitar mercilessly throughout their entire set. Amidst a hurricane of infernal tunes the likes of Fuck the Factoid, Contagion, Scum and the one-second masterpiece You Suffer, Barney had time to distill his opinion about controversial topics such as illegal immigration, being always of course on the side of the less fortunate. Closing their boisterous setlist, the band smashed our faces with their rendition of Dead Kennedys’ all-time classic Nazi Punks Fuck Off, sending a message of love and peace, and warning us it won’t take long for those four British noisemakers to return to our beloved city.

Setlist
Unchallenged Hate
Fuck the Factoid
Backlash Just Because
Hung
Contagion
Continuing War on Stupidity
Everyday Pox
Invigorating Clutch
Suffer the Children
Breed to Breathe
Scum
Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism
You Suffer
Smash a Single Digit
Deceiver
Dead
Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Dead Kennedys cover)

Band members
Mark “Barney” Greenway – vocals
John Cooke – guitars
Shane Embury – bass, backing vocals, noises, effects
Danny Herrera – drums

ARCH ENEMY

Precisely at 8:35pm Sweden’s own Melodic Death Metal army ARCH ENEMY (although we can say the band is now 60% Swedish, 20% American and 20% Canadian) hit the stage and delivered exactly what the crowd wanted, which was a fusion of some of their best classics with the new songs Deceiver, Deceiver, House of Mirrors and Handshake With Hell, from their upcoming album Deceivers (to be released in July), spearheaded by the unstoppable Alissa White-Gluz and, of course, by one of the best guitarists of the Scandinavian metal scene, Mr. Michael Amott. It was clear in their faces how much they missed playing in front of an audience during the pandemic, in special Alissa who always gets very emotional when playing for her Canadian “family”, which translated into sheer adrenaline for our vulgar delectation. As a longtime fan of the band I was obviously more inspired to bang my head to songs such as Ravenous, Dead Bury Their Dead and Nemesis, but I must say their entire performance was awesome. How long will we have to wait to see Alissa and the boys again in Toronto? Massive circle pits like the ones we witnessed yesterday are not created out of silence, you know. We need Arch Enemy!

Setlist
Set Flame to the Night
Deceiver, Deceiver
The World Is Yours
Ravenous
War Eternal
My Apocalypse
House of Mirrors
The Eagle Flies Alone
As the Pages Burn
Handshake With Hell
Dead Bury Their Dead
Nemesis
Fields of Desolation (Outro)
Enter the Machine

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars, backing vocals
Jeff Loomis – lead guitars, backing vocals
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

BEHEMOTH

And at 10:05pm the gates of hell opened once again and the almighty Blackened Death Metal horde BEHEMOTH emerged from the underworld with another flawless and very theatrical performance, darkening the skies of Toronto and putting a huge, devilish smile on the faces of everyone at Rebel (at least on the faces of the ones not wearing masks). Kicking off their demonic concert with one of my favorite Behemoth songs of all time, the incendiary Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, the multi-talented Nergal, Seth, Orion and Inferno did not disappoint their fans, sounding utterly heavy, dark and blasphemous until the very last second. Their brand new song, entitled Ov My Herculean Exile, from their upcoming (and still untitled) new album, sounded amazing live, but of course there’s nothing like raising our horns in the name of evil to masterpieces such as Ov Fire and the Void, Christians to the Lions, Chant for Eschaton 2000, and the hymn to Satan himself, O Father O Satan O Sun!, proving why Behemoth are one of the best and most obscure bands of the current metal scene. And when the night was over and those Polish blasphemers left the stage, it was time for us Torontonians to keep some of that darkness inside our hearts, face the cold and rainy weather outside again, and return to our lairs waiting for the next time Behemoth come back to crush the infidels in Toronto with their undisputed music.

Setlist
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Wolves ov Siberia
Ov Fire and the Void
Evoe
Christians to the Lions
Bartzabel
Conquer All
Ov My Herculean Exile
Decade of Therion
Slaves Shall Serve
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

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Album Review – Hell-Born / Natas Liah (2021)

After 12 years, one of Poland’s most devilish Black and Death Metal hordes returns with a brand new opus that darkly represents everything they have always been and more.

When some bands return from long years of silence, they unfortunately bring disappointment and a tarnishing of their reputation with them, while others bring a glorious shattering of the silence, a fulfilling of hopes and surpassing of expectations in mighty and imperious fashion, which is exactly the case with Sopot, Poland’s own Black/Death Metal veterans Hell-Born. Disciples of their devil’s work can rejoice, as these Polish masters of Black, Death and Thrash Metal have never sounded more accomplished and powerful than in their newborn opus Natas Liah, a towering edifice of darkness and extreme music brought into being by vocalist and bassist Baal Ravenlock (Behemoth’s co-founder), guitarist Les (also a former musician of Behemoth) and drummer Diabolizer over 12 years after the release of their previous effort Darkness. Recorded at Creme de la Creme Studio and mixed and mastered by Haldor Grunberg (known for his collaboration with Behemoth and Blaze Of Perdition) at Satanic Audio, Natas Liah is everything that Hell-Born have always been and more, being therefore highly recommended for fans of the devilish music blasted by Venom, Vader, Behemoth and Sodom, among many others.

A brief spoken intro explodes into a bestial feast of Black and Death Metal in When You Are God, where its solid instrumental pieces are spiced up by Baal’s deep guttural vocals. Put differently, it couldn’t have sounded rawer nor more devilish than what it already is, kicking off the album ruthlessly. Then even more infernal than the opening tune, Axis of Decay brings to our ears classic Black Metal infused with Death Metal elements, with Diabolizer sounding truly menacing with his blast beats accompanied by Les’ evil riffage, resulting in a song perfect for darkening our thoughts and souls for all eternity, followed by Ye Olde Woods Devil, presenting a mid-tempo, headbanging sonority masterfully crafted by the trio where the drums by Diabolizer and the bass punches by Baal will undoubtedly make your head tremble, sounding and feeling very rhythmic and at the same time primeval from start to finish. And featuring a guitar solo by guest Jacek Langowski (from Holy Smoke), Uroboros is another vicious devastation by Hell-Born showcasing Diabolizer’s spot-on drums and the always venomous riffs by Les, living up to the legacy of Polish extreme music.

After such bestial attack, guest Jacek “Jeff” Kubiak (from Damnation) provides a strident guitar solo in The Butcher, offering us all more of their incendiary fusion of Black, Death and Thrash Metal, with Baal sounding even more infuriated than before with his gruesome gnarls. Baal’s rumbling bass and Diabolizer’s pounding drums keep hammering our heads in Son of Earth, with Les bringing a humongous dosage of darkness to the music with his fiery guitar, and there’s no sign of slowing down for those Polish metallers as they keep darkening the skies with their furious music in In God’s Death, where the classic riffs by Les are boosted by the melodic but at the same time violent drumming by Diabolizer. Putting the pedal to the metal, the band explodes our senses with the Stygian and straightforward Soulrape, showcasing their usual dementia and obscurity led by the always demonic growling by Baal, before all hell breaks loose in the infernal closing tune Blakk Metal, featuring guest vocals by Behemoth’s one and only mastermind Adam “Nergal” Darski. Not only the background keys bring an additional touch of evil to the overall result, but Nergal’s trademark roars make it even more thrilling, turning it into what’s by far my favorite of all songs, or in other words, a lesson in modern-day Blackened Death Metal.

As already mentioned, Natas Liah might be Hell-Born’s most demolishing and obscure album in their solid career since the band’s inception in the distant year of 1996, proving some bands definitely know how to make an impactful and meaningful comeback form the pits of the underworld. Hence, don’t forget to follow those veterans from hell on Facebook, and to support them in their quest for extreme music by purchasing their sulfurous new album from their own BandCamp page or from the Odium Records’ webstore as a 6-panel digipack CD with a 16-page booklet or as a deluxe wooden box edition limited to 40 copies containing a vinyl version of the album, the 6-panel digipack CD with a 16-page booklet, a t-shirt, a patch, a button and a sticker. Having said all that, what are you waiting for to grab your copy of such insane album? Go for it, raise your horns and… HAIL SATAN!

Best moments of the album: Axis of Decay, The Butcher and Blakk Metal.

Worst moments of the album: Son of Earth.

Released in 2021 Odium Records

Track listing
1. When You Are God 4:59
2. Axis of Decay 4:50
3. Ye Olde Woods Devil 5:31
4. Uroboros 6:01
5. The Butcher 5:39
6. Son of Earth 4:52
7. In God’s Death 5:31
8. Soulrape 3:05
9. Blakk Metal 4:46

Band members
Baal Ravenlock – vocals, bass
Les – guitars
Diabolizer – drums

Guest musicians
Nergal – vocals on “Blakk Metal”
Jacek Langowski – lead guitars on “Uroboros”
Jeff – lead guitars on “The Butcher”

Concert Review – Behemoth (The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON, 11/06/2018)

Toronto definitely loves Behemoth at their darkest.

OPENING ACTS: Wolves In The Throne Room and At The Gates

If there’s one thing we cannot complain at all in Toronto is the fact that the winter never really hits us hard before the end of December, which means whenever there’s a concert like this Tuesday’s fantastic triumvirate of extreme music with Wolves In The Throne Room, At The Gates and the masters of blasphemy Behemoth at The Danforth Music Hall during their “Ecclesia Diabolica America 2018 e.v.” tour, you can rest assured it will never be too cold nor snowing, allowing any fan to attend the show and have a great time. Well, I guess even if it was -20oC and snowing like hell the concert would have been absolutely SOLD OUT like it actually happened, with about 1,500 metalheads at the venue, and the reason for that is quite simple. All three bands kicked some serious ass with their austere, obscure and hammering music, especially Behemoth, who put up another memorable performance in the city.

I have to admit I didn’t know much about American Atmospheric Black Metal act WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, formed in 2003 in the city of Olympia, Washington, in the United States, before their show opening for At The Gates and Behemoth this Tuesday, and I’m truly happy with them being chosen to do so. Still promoting their 2017 album Thrice Woven (available from their own BandCamp page), the  band comprised of Nathan Weaver on vocals and guitar, Kody Keyworth on the guitar and backing vocals, Peregrine Somerville also on the guitar, the stunning Brittany McConnell on keyboards and Aaron Weaver on drums (and no, they don’t have a bassist) delivered a solid, entertaining and mesmerizing show, playing only three songs but for around 30 minutes, just the way we love it in Atmospheric Black Metal. If you’re still going to see Behemoth during this North American tour, make sure you get to the venue on time for Wolves In The Throne Room, because watching them on stage is indeed a unique experience.

Setlist
Angrboda
The Old Ones Are With Us
Born From the Serpent’s Eye

Band members
Nathan Weaver – vocals, guitar
Kody Keyworth – guitar, backing vocals
Peregrine Somerville – guitar
Brittany McConnell – keyboards
Aaron Weaver – drums

After a quick break it was time for Gothenburg’s own Melodic Death Metal institution AT THE GATES to prove us all why they’re still one of the most relevant bands from the 90’s unparalleled Swedish scene, slaying everything and everyone throughout their entire concert. All fans at the venue enjoyed a lot the flammable performance by frontman Tomas Lindberg and his henchmen, including the songs from their brand new album To Drink from the Night Itself, such as the title-track and A Stare Bound in Stone. Not only their full concert was a feast of first-class old school and modern-day Melodic Death Metal, but it was nice to watch Mr. Adrian Erlandsson smashing his drums once again after so many years, as the last time I saw him playing live was when he was still drumming for Cradle Of Filth. A great drummer, an amazing and charismatic lead singer, and a very entertaining setlist. What else can you ask for in Melodic Death Metal made in the beautiful Sweden, right?

Setlist
Der Widerstand
To Drink From the Night Itself
Slaughter of the Soul
At War With Reality
A Stare Bound in Stone
Cold
El Altar del Dios Desconocido
Death and the Labyrinth
Heroes and Tombs
Suicide Nation
The Book of Sand (The Abomination)
Blinded by Fear
The Night Eternal

Band members
Tomas Lindberg – vocals
Martin Larsson – guitars
Jonas Stålhammar – guitars
Jonas Björler – bass
Adrian Erlandsson – drums 

BEHEMOTH

Right after At The Gates ended their show, the speakers started playing the devilish children’s choir from the awesome intro Solve, from BEHEMOTH’s blasphemous and totally amazing new opus I Loved You At Your Darkest, putting us all in a trance and warming up our senses for the storm of Blackened Death Metal we were all eager to witness once again in Toronto. And when our favorite Polish horde started their fulminating performance with Wolves ov Siberia, spearheaded as usual by the iconic Nergal, it was hell on earth at The Danforth Music Hall for the total delectation of the 1,500 fans who took the venue by storm.

Blending new songs from their latest albums I Loved You At Your Darkest, which by the way worked extremely well live like the hypnotizing chant Bartzabel and the beyond blasphemous Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica, and The Satanist, with the ominous hymns Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer (my favorite of the setlist) and Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel being a true invocation of evil, with old school material like the pulverizing Ov Fire and the Void, Slaves Shall Serve and Chant for Eschaton 2000, Nergal and his horde comprised of the extremely sharp and talented Seth on the guitar and backing vocals, the bulldozer Orion on bass and backing vocals, and the stone crusher Inferno on drums were on absolute fire from start to finish, worshiping Satan while delivering the best and most intricate fusion of classic and contemporary Death and Black Metal you can think of, with their masks, costumes and props being the icing on the cake. My only “complaint” is that they didn’t end the show with the fantastic O Father O Satan O Sun!, including those menacing horns and masks, but the closing combo Lucifer, We Are the Next 1000 Years  and the outro Coagvla were awesome anyway.

Not only Nergal was extremely happy and excited with the warm reception he received here in Toronto (not to mention the endless, incendiary circle pits beautifully crafted by their, let’s say, “most physical” fans), but seeing such packed venue made him pretty much promise us all that Behemoth will strike us Torontonians once again with their infernal music in a not-so-distant future, and we obviously can’t wait for another bestial performance by one of the most important extreme bands of the current metal scene. Lastly, on a side note, it looks like Behemoth love Toronto even more than we can imagine, as the Polish quartet from hell also played a 7-song setlist at a house party of one of Nergal’s friends the night before as you can see HERE, with the same intensity and energy of their usual concerts at much bigger places. I don’t mind not being invited for those parties as long as Behemoth keep coming back to the city with their insanely heavy and hellish concerts, but if by any chance anyone has a spare “ticket” for that type of event, why not? Just kidding, as I’m not that social, only a metalhead who loves when a band like Behemoth keeps spreading their black wings and unleashing hell upon the earth, showing their love for the city of Toronto as much as we love them back at their darkest.

Setlist
Solve
Wolves ov Siberia
Daimonos
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Bartzabel
Ov Fire and the Void
God = Dog
Conquer All
Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica
Decade of Therion
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Slaves Shall Serve
Chant for Eschaton 2000
Lucifer
We Are the Next 1000 Years
Coagvla

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

Album Review – Behemoth / I Loved You At Your Darkest (2018)

Poland’s most blasphemous metal institution returns after four years with a much more melodic and dynamic approach than before, but still loyal to their devilish foundations.

“It doesn’t get more blasphemous than this.” Those are the words by the mastermind behind Polish Blackened Death Metal institution Behemoth, the iconic Adam “Nergal” Darski, regarding the title of their 11th studio album, I Loved You At Your Darkest, a beautiful, bold and captivating follow-up to their 2014 masterpiece The Satanist. And the band comprised of the aforementioned Nergal on lead vocals and guitar, Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber on the guitar, Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski on bass and Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński on drums is not exaggerating when they say their new album reeks of sheer blasphemy. “It’s a verse from the Bible,” Nergal reveals. “It’s actually a quote from Jesus Christ himself. For Behemoth to use it as the basis of our record, it’s sacrilege to the extreme.”

Musically speaking, I Loved You At Your Darkest, which features a stunning artwork by Italian artist Nicola Samori, is not too far from what they did in The Satanist, but that doesn’t mean it’s an extension of their previous album, sounding less ferocious, more polished, and with a much more melodic and dynamic approach. “I really wanted to redefine ourselves with this record,” Nergal explains. “I Loved You At Your Darkest is a more dynamic record. It’s extreme and radical on one hand, but it’s also more rock-oriented than any other Behemoth record.” Furthermore, the lyrics for each and every song of the album also reinforce that kind of religious provocation Behemoth have mastered through the years. “It’s very religion-driven, maybe more than anything we’ve done before,” Nergal offers. “But it’s not just cheap goading. I believe this is some deeper metal language. It’s art.” Hence, listening to I Loved You At Your Darkest is not a simple journey, as it will demand your full attention, seizing all your senses at once and inviting you to repeat that path over and over again, but never sounding or feeling the same.

A creepy and totally awesome children’s choir kicks off the album on a high (and devilish) note in the intro Solve, reciting some cryptic words (“Elohim, I shall not forgive! / Adonai, I shall not forgive! / Living God, I shall not forgive! / Jesus Christ, I forgive thee not!”) while the music grows slowly and darkly until Wolves ov Siberia comes crushing our heads, following a similar musical pattern from their previous album with Nergal and Seth piercing our souls with their guitars, while Inferno brings tons of intricacy to the music with his precise beats. And things only get better in God = Dog, a full-bodied lecture in modern-day Blackened Death Metal that will work fantastically when played live, with Nergal blasting haunting growls and roars while Orion slams his bass strings beautifully, not to mention those demonic, Damian-like kids who return in full force to intone the same words from the album’s intro, supporting Nergal’s vocals to perfection. And in the excellent Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica we’re treated to a very melodic and thrilling fusion of Black and Death Metal with nuances of Symphonic Black Metal, with its background organ bringing even more darkness to the the song’s already obscure, austere and blasphemous lyrics (“Eritis sicut dii / Thus sermonized the serpent ov Eden / Thus struck the breath ov the Earth / And thus flooded the blood ov the soil / Slither into the gaping void!”).

Then after such demolishing first batch of songs in I Loved You At Your Darkest, Behemoth deliver Bartzabel, perhaps the most Stygian, melodic and melancholic of all tracks, proving they don’t have to play at the speed of light to sound imposing and devilish, showcasing a beyond catchy and hypnotizing chorus while Orion and Inferno bring sheer heaviness to the sonority with their damned instruments. In the also thunderous If Crucifixion Was Not Enough… the band speeds things up a bit, with the guitars by Nergal and Seth sounding ferocious but very harmonious at the same time while Inferno brings the usual intricacy in his beats to a whole new level; and leaning towards classic Black Metal we have Angelvs XIII, a song where Nergal’s growls sound and feel truly enraged and demonic, with the band’s guitar duo slashing their strings mercilessly and leaving the listener completely disoriented. Moreover, there’s no time to breathe as Behemoth keep darkening our minds and souls in Sabbath Mater, another bestial display of Blackened Death Metal made in Poland bringing to our avid ears an excellent job done on the guitars while Inferno’s fast and complex beats will hammer your head in a vibrant way.

Then a serene, almost acoustic intro evolves into a full-bodied aria of darkness and blasphemy titled Havohej Pantocrator (and please note “Havohej” is simply “Jehovah” backwards), sounding even even more melancholic than “Bartzabel” thanks to a brilliant performances by all band members, all enfolded by first-class poetics lyrics (“Our father, who art in hell / Unhallowed be Thy name / Thy legions come / Thy enemies begone / On Earth as it is in the Netherworld / Embrace our souls untraveled / Let us sail to the farthest sea / Ignite our craving hearts / Illuminate our ageless will”). In Rom 5:8 the band gets back to a more traditional vibe, blasting their core Blackened Death Metal with highlights to the perfect sync between Orion and Inferno with their rumbling bass and demented beats, respectively, whereas We Are the Next 1000 Years, the second to last song in I Loved You At Your Darkest, once again sounds closer to what they did in The Satanist, which obviously means awesomeness in the form of extreme music. Nergal delivers another bestial vocal performance, while the sound of the guitars gets more electrified and menacing than ever, flowing majestically until the outro Coagvla puts an end to a fantastic (and utterly blasphemous, as already mentioned) album of Extreme Metal by Behemoth, sounding like the grand finale to a theatrical play from the depths of hell.

In summary, I Loved You At Your Darkest (available for a full listen on YouTube and on sale HERE) is still Behemoth, but maybe not the same Behemoth you got used to. Do not expect to listen to The Satanist, nor to any of their old records, but at the same time there’s no need to panic as the Behemoth we learned to love is still there. I personally think I Loved You At Your Darkest might cause some controversy among admirers of the band, as their diehard, old school followers and their post-The Satanist fans might never reach an agreement if the album is actually good or not, but I don’t fear for the future of the band. Quite the contrary, although I still consider The Satanist their best release to date, I must admit I enjoyed a lot the direction Nergal took with the band in I Loved You At Your Darkest, providing the listener something new, something very melodic and groovy, but still loyal to the blasphemy and heaviness of their foundations.

Best moments of the album: God = Dog, Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica, Bartzabel and Havohej Pantocrator.

Worst moments of the album: Rom 5:8.

Released in 2018 Mystic Production

Track listing
1. Solve 2:04
2. Wolves ov Siberia 2:54
3. God = Dog 3:58
4. Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica 4:49
5. Bartzabel 5:01
6. If Crucifixion Was Not Enough… 3:16
7. Angelvs XIII 3:41
8. Sabbath Mater 4:56
9. Havohej Pantocrator 6:04
10. Rom 5:8 4:22
11. We Are the Next 1000 Years 3:23
12. Coagvla (Instrumental) 2:04

Japanese Edition bonus track
13. O Pentagram Ignis 4:48

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

Guest musicians
Dziablas – backing vocals
Michał Łapaj – Hammond organs
Krzysztof “Siegmar” Oloś – samples

Concert Review – Behemoth (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/26/2016)

The Satanist triumphed over Toronto, taking no prisoners in a memorable night of darkness and blasphemy.

OPENING ACT: Myrkur

Blasfemia Amerika Tour 2016Only a couple of weeks after watching Iron Maiden kicking fuckin’ ass in Montreal and Toronto, I knew my next concert had to be beyond amazing to keep the electricity flowing, otherwise I would start yawning during the show and not even a cold beer would wake me up. Fortunately, what I was able to witness yesterday at the Phoenix Concert Theatre here in Toronto together with thousands of other crazy metalheads was a fantastic night of obscure and blasphemous music, as part of the infamous Blasfemia Amerika Tour 2016. From start to finish, the night was absolutely flawless. And we were treated to the darkest and most amazing music we could possibly imagine as a warm-up for Behemoth, offered to us all by the gorgeous and charming Danish multi-instrumentalist and model Amalie Bruun, the mastermind behind the one-woman Black Metal project MYRKUR (or “darkness” in Icelandic).

IMG_1254For obvious reasons, our Valkyrie of Black Metal couldn’t deliver the whole concert by herself, having as a very solid support band guitarist Teloch (Mayhem), bassist Liam (Dillinger Escape Plan) and drummer Øyvind Myrvoll (Nidingr), helping her blast Myrkur’s entrancing music last night. She was responsible for both clean (almost operatic) and harsh vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar, dancing and more, though. Is there anything she cannot do? Anyway, with stunning compositions like Den Lille Piges Død (“the little girl’s death” in Danish), Mordet (“assassination”) and her flawless version for Bathory’s Song to Hall Up High, Amalie hypnotized the entire crowd, drawing sighs from every single person during the smoothest passages of her songs and inspiring some decent mosh pits during the heaviest moments. If anyone asked me to summarize Myrkur in only a couple of words, I would definitely select “beauty” and “beast”, and you’ll notice she does that personality split herself on purpose, having two microphones during her performance: her right one being used only for clean vocals, while the left one is used for her demonic screaming. Would this be her depiction of the angel on the right shoulder and the devil on the left? Also, almost at the same time she got flowers from a fan and thanked the audience for such an amazing reception, when a guy asked her to play some nonsense song, she replied with a gentle “suck my dick”. Do you want to know more about this angel of darkness? Go check her BandCamp page, where you can listen to everything she’s already released in her promising career.

Setlist
Den Lille Piges Død
Hævnen
Onde Børn (False Start)
Jeg Er Guden, I Er Tjenerne
Mordet
Dybt I Skoven
Skøgen Skulle Dø
Skaði
Song to Hall Up High (Bathory cover)
Norn (outro)

Band members
Myrkur – vocals, piano, guitar
Teloch – guitar
Liam – bass
Øyvind Myrvoll – drums

BEHEMOTH

IMG_1265Finally, one year after their last concert in Toronto, the best metal band in the history of Poland returned with their magnificent Blackened Death Metal to storm the city once again and leave us all completely disoriented when their black mass was over. If a regular BEHEMOTH gig is already outstanding, I have no words to describe what witnessing them playing The Satanist in its entirety followed by some of their biggest classics feels like. Not only each and every song from The Satanist was played to perfection, but the stage was also amazingly set and the theatrical performance by all band members was sensational. I hope no one from those stupid churches ever goes to a Behemoth concert in Toronto, otherwise they might be banished from Canada like it happened with the band in other places.

If Myrkur was the evil queen of the night, the one and only Adam “Nergal” Darski could be considered our hellish king (or should I say priest?), commanding his loyal bandmates and the entire crowd with his refined technique as a guitarist and his trademark growls. I was eager to see the classic Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel live for the first time, and after Nergal appeared holding two torches up high and the music started, I got even more than what I expected. In addition, after each song of The Satanist the band had something different to offer, either being a disturbing video on the background, some extra smoke, dark lighting, or a wicked narration connecting it to the following opus. I’m not even going to say how incredible my other two favorite chants of the album, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer and the mesmerizing O Father O Satan O Sun!, sounded. You have to be there to feel their fury and darkness.

IMG_1284When The Satanist part of the gig was concluded, Nergal and his horde still had some classics to blast our ears and fuel the insane circle pits that were consuming the entire venue, starting with the bestial Pure Evil and Hate. If anyone lost their lives during the execution of this anthem, I wouldn’t be surprised. Moreover, both guitarist Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber and bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski seemed to be having a great time during the encores, mainly due to the awesome reaction they got from the fans who couldn’t stop slamming into the pit, and especially during songs like Conquer All and the last one of their setlist, Chant for Eschaton 2000, two high-octane compositions that sound even more powerful live than their already demonic studio versions. Except for the considerable line at the end of the concert for the coat check, everything else was beyond perfect, lefting us all wondering when Behemoth will return to Toronto to take over our beloved city one more time.

Setlist
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Furor Divinus
Messe Noire
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Amen
The Satanist
Ben Sahar
In the Absence ov Light
O Father O Satan O Sun!

Encore:
Pure Evil and Hate
Antichristian Phenomenon
Conquer All

Encore 2:
At the Left Hand ov God
Slaves Shall Serve
Chant for Eschaton 2000

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

Concert Review – Cannibal Corpse & Behemoth (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015)

If you want to live in the bitter cold of Toronto, you have to kill or become.

OPENING ACTS: Tribulation and Aeon

cannibal corpse_behemoth_winter tour 2015If you live in Toronto or anywhere nearby you know how bitterly cold the past couple of months have been. For instance, I personally don’t remember when we had temperatures above the freezing mark (or even above -5°C) for the last time, and it looks like February 2015 is about to become the coldest month in the history of Toronto. Well, nothing better than a hotter-than-hell extreme music night to warm up the hearts of lots of headbangers in the city, right? The venue chosen for this awesome gathering was the always welcoming Phoenix Concert Theatre, where friends wearing the T-shirts of their favorite extreme bands and even a group of girls with their well-crafted corpsepaint were able to enjoy some beers together, headbang like motherfuckers and especially slam into the circle pits.

The bands chosen to liven this mini-festival up were the excellent Swedish Death Metal bands TRIBULATION and AEON, both raising the flag of Scandinavian metal really high with their ferocious performances. If you truly love extreme music but have never heard of either Tribulation or Aeon, I kindly ask you to please go check these two bands: you’ll be surprised with how good they are. The first band was Tribulation, playing a very technical and progressive Death Metal permeated with elements from Black and Doom Metal and singing about darkness, horror, vampires, death and all other of those “beautiful” themes. In case you want to know more about this great Swedish band, my suggestions are the songs Beyond the Horror, Rånda and When the Sky Is Black With Devils, masterfully executed by this four-piece act in front of an avid Torontonian crowd.

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Aeon @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

After a short break it was time for Aeon to deliver their infernal music, blasting everyone’s ears and necks with each and every song played. Lead singer Tommy Dahlström is a beast on vocals (and you can easily notice he’s a huge fan of Cannibal Corpse by his stage performance), perfectly vociferating the violent lyrics of all songs of their brutal setlist, with highlights to the opening song Satanic Victory and also to the amazing Kill Them All and Blessed by the Priest. In addition, how can I describe the performance of drummer Emil Wiksten? That guy is like an unbelievable human stone crusher behind his drums so fast and precise he is, which added a lot of power and fury to the band’s performance. As I said, go after the music by Tribulation and Aeon as quick as the blast beats by Emil!

BEHEMOTH

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Behemoth @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

It was around 8:45pm when the iconic Nergal and his horde of darkness hit the stage with an incredible concert, both in terms of their ominous music and their unique theatrical performance, and it’s amazing how they were capable of delivering so much content in such a limited space. Still promoting their most recent album, the impeccable The Satanist, which even after one year of its release it continues to astonish me, Polish Black/Death Metal masters BEHEMOTH proved why they’re one of the most influential and portentous groups in the world of extreme music.

Although they didn’t play the best song of The Satanist in my opinion, “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”, the songs selected from the album were just as superb live, with highlights to Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer and Ben Sahar. Older classics also helped keep the audience mesmerized by their obscurity, such as Chant for Eschaton 2000 and Slaves Shall Serve. However, I believe almost everybody will agree with me when I say they simply kicked all possible asses with the already classic O Father O Satan O Sun!, a song that live sounds even more grandiose than its studio version, augmented by the band’s special satanic attire worn during its execution. This might sound stupid for a lot of people, but Behemoth performing this song at the Oscars would have been beyond spectacular. Unfortunately, the world and all mere mortals that live in it don’t seem ready for Behemoth yet.

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Behemoth @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

Also, it’s undeniable that Nergal is a true Extreme Metal leader and he’s passionate about what he does, and consequently he had almost all eyes staring at him during the whole concert, but the other band members are also wonderful and skillful musicians who help Nergal achieve the level of excellence he has in his mind for the band. Who didn’t enjoy the performance by bassist Orion, who looked like an even more devilish version of Gene Simmons’ stage persona The Demon? And what about the dark riffs by Seth or the rhythmic drumming by Inferno? What an awesome band, and if you missed them this time, may Lucifer have mercy on your soul. Or not.

Setlist
1. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
2. Conquer All
3. Ben Sahar
4. Decade of Therion
5. Messe Noire
6. Ov Fire and the Void
7. At the Left Hand ov God
8. Slaves Shall Serve
9. Chant for Eschaton 2000
10. O Father O Satan O Sun!

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

CANNIBAL CORPSE

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Cannibal Corpse @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

In order to properly close the night and pulverize anyone or anything that was still alive after Behemoth, Death Metal titans CANNIBAL CORPSE arose from the crypts of hell to transform the entire venue into their own “skeletal domain”, obviously promoting their most recent album, the visceral A Skeletal Domain. If there’s one thing that I love about Cannibal Corpse is the fact that they’re a band that always moves forward, despite having a solid past which they could live on forever like many classic bands do. All their latest albums are brutally superb, and technically speaking they’re getting better and better year after year.

Their setlist was an awesome mix of old classics and newer songs, including almost one track from each one of their albums, from Eaten Back to Life (1990) to last year’s A Skeletal Domain. Mosh pits and pure headbanging erupted with classics such as A Skull Full of Maggots, Demented Aggression, Make Them Suffer and The Wretched Spawn, while the selected songs from their new album for this tour, in special the great Sadistic Embodiment and the steamroller Kill or Become, intensified even more the hurricane that was happening on the “dance” floor.

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Cannibal Corpse @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 02/24/2015

Moreover, anything I say about the band members will just be pure repetition of common sense: they are all really talented musicians that love Death Metal above all things (well, Corpsegrinder said he loves pussy above all things), and that translates into pure electricity when they’re performing on the stage. You can barely see Alex Webster’s face, but he’s there delivering the most intricate bass lines you can find in extreme music, while Pat O’Brien and Rob Barrett keep firing their evil riffs and Paul Mazurkiewicz his nonstop beats. And as I always say, Mr. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher is the face of Cannibal Corpse and the one to give life (or death) to the band’s gory lyrics while headbanging like a fuckin’ chopper in a way only he is capable of. Besides, seeing him scratching himself with one of Paul’s drumsticks due to an incontrollable itch in the middle of his back, and you know he’s not a small guy, was priceless.

When Cannibal Corpse played their last two songs, the unparalleled classics Hammer Smashed Face and Devoured by Vermin (my top Cannibal Corpse song of all time), they turned the whole venue into a fuckin’ monstrous mosh pit with absolutely no place to hide, showcasing how awesome those songs are. But do you think anyone in the audience complained about it? There were so many smiles and so much sweat everywhere when the show was over I’m pretty sure the fans of the Corpse cannot wait for them to storm Toronto once again and heat up our chilly winter with their perfect Death Metal. Fire up the chainsaw!

Setlist
1. Scourge of Iron
2. Demented Aggression
3. Evisceration Plague
4. Stripped, Raped and Strangled
5. Kill or Become
6. Sadistic Embodiment
7. Icepick Lobotomy
8. The Wretched Spawn
9. Pounded into Dust
10. I Cum Blood
11. Make Them Suffer
12. A Skull Full of Maggots
13. Hammer Smashed Face
14. Devoured by Vermin

Band members
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – vocals
Pat O’Brien – guitar
Rob Barrett – guitar
Alex Webster – bass
Paul Mazurkiewicz – drums

Album Review – Behemoth / The Satanist (2014)

Vile, obscure and impressive: these are just a few words that can be used to describe  the new album by Poland’s most influential Heavy Metal band of all time.

Rating3

Behemoth_TheSatanistIf anyone asked me “what’s the darkest and most obscure Heavy Metal band in activity today?”, I would probably point to the infamous Polish Blackened Death Metal band Behemoth. And with the release of their new album, The Satanist, they totally corroborate my opinion: from their Black Metal back in 1991 when they started in Gdańsk, Poland, until their current Blackened Death Metal, it’s easy to see their evolution to a more devilish music approach, which makes me think we should call it an “evil-lution”.

The Satanist is Behemoth’s tenth studio album, and the first after the band’s mastermind Adam “Nergal” Darski was diagnosed with leukemia in August 2010. It’s amazing to see how well he has been recovering from this fearful disease and how he was able to canalize all the pain and suffering into Behemoth’s music, proving to ignorant people he’s not being “punished by God” or any other stupidity like that just because he plays extreme music, but that he’s only a normal human being, a talented musician that had to fight for his life. Besides, if you were one of those people that got “happy” to see him being “punished” with leukemia just because of the type of art he creates, well, you’re A LOT worse than the creature you think Nergal is.

Anyway, let’s get back to the music, which is what really matters here. If you have a weak stomach or suffer from any heart disease, do not even begin listening to this album: The Satanist starts with the extremely heavy song Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, with its brutal lyrics (“I saw the virgin’s cunt spawning forth the snake / I witnessed tribes ov Judah reduced to ruin / I watched disciples twelve dissolved by flame / Looked down on son ov god snuffed in vain”) and creepy pace. In case you love horror movies like I do, you must take a look at their music video for this song: it reminds me of some great movies such as The Omen, Hellraiser and especially The Ring. You can check the censored version at the end of this review, or the uncensored one HERE, but let me just inform you that the only difference I noticed between both are the girl’s blurred nipples in the censored version, nothing else.

behemothThe next track, Furor Divinus, is more Black Metal, especially the drums by Inferno, while Messe Noire gets back to their later Death Metal with some amazing guitar solos at the end. The second single extracted from the album, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, is another tenebrous fast track perfect for live performances, with great riffs and an excellent job done by Nergal on vocals. Amen is as heavy as hell, an evil sonic massacre that fans will love, while the title-track The Satanist doesn’t reach the same level as the previous tracks, despite having an interesting atmosphere.

The album continues with Ben Sahar, an average track with good drums and riffs, and In the Absence Ov Light, another heavy track where Inferno pounds his drums mercilessly. The last track of the album, O Father O Satan O Sun!, is the perfect soundtrack for a horror movie, with its strong lyrics, frightful atmosphere, and the “speech” in the final two minutes of this song are more than amazing.

I guess I don’t need to say anything about the controversial lyrics, or about the superb album art by Russian artist Denis Forkas Kostromitin. Those are “extras” to a great work done by Nergal and his band, which becomes even more impressive due to the thin line we all know that exists between being awesome or totally ridiculous in the world of Black Metal. Let’s hope Behemoth continues on the awesome side, and that their evil empire of music keeps blowing our minds for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, O Father O Satan O Sun!, Amen and Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer.

Worst moments of the album: The Satanist and Ben Sahar.

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast Records

Track listing
1. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel 4:25
2. Furor Divinus 3:06
3. Messe Noire 4:04
4. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer 5:35
5. Amen 3:49
6. The Satanist 5:33
7. Ben Sahar 5:34
8. In the Absence Ov Light 4:58
9. O Father O Satan O Sun! 7:13

Australian/Japanese edition bonus tracks
10. Ludzie Wschodu (Siekiera cover) 4:11
11. Chant for Ezkaton 2000 E.V. (Japanese version only) 5:10
12. Qadosh (Japanese version only) 5:00

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

Additional musicians
Krzysztof “Siegmar” Oloś (Vesania) – samples
Michał Łapaj (Riverside) – Hammond organ