Concert Review – Judas Priest – 50 Heavy Metal Years (First Ontario Centre, Hamilton, ON, 04/13/2022)

The Priest finally returned to Ontario, Canada to celebrate 50 years of their undisputed Heavy Metal.

OPENING ACTS: Queensrÿche

Finally, after exactly 880 excruciating days (as my last metal concert was Cannibal Corpse in Toronto on November 15, 2019), I was able to attend a metal concert, and the adrenaline rushing through my veins last night was worth every penny spent in the ticket. The place chosen for my “return” was the nice First Ontario Centre, and the first band I had the pleasure to see on stage after so long was the iconic American Heavy Metal band QUEENSRŸCHE, who led by the talented frontman Todd La Torre put on a great show to properly warm up the crowd for the almighty JUDAS PRIEST.

Blending songs from their most successful album to date, Operation: Mindcrime, those being the title-track Operation: Mindcrime, The Needle Lies and Eyes of a Stranger, with other hits such as their first-ever single Queen of the Reich and the excellent Walk in the Shadows, Todd and his henchmen received a standing ovation from the audience when their performance was over, showing why they’re one of the most respected bands from the 80’s. My only complaint has nothing to do with their setlist, even with “Silent Lucidity” being left out of it, but with the fact that the doors of the First Ontario Centre opened at 7:30pm and it wasn’t even 7:45pm when the band hit the stage, which means a lot of people missed their concert due to such limited time to get to their spots. They should have been given at least 30 minutes to start their show, but it is what it is.

Setlist
Queen of the Reich
Warning
En Force
NM 156
Empire
Walk in the Shadows
The Whisper
Operation: Mindcrime
The Needle Lies
Take Hold of the Flame
Screaming in Digital
Eyes of a Stranger

Band members
Todd La Torre – vocals
Michael Wilton – guitars
Mike Stone – guitars
Eddie Jackson – bass
Casey Grillo – drums

JUDAS PRIEST

After a not-so-long break, it was time for my metal heart to pump frantically once again after over two years thanks to one of the most important and electrifying institutions in the history of rock and metal music, my beloved JUDAS PRIEST. Celebrating 50 years alive and kicking on their tour simply called “Judas Priest – 50 Heavy Metal Years”, which unfortunately had to be postponed a few times due to several reasons, the band comprised of the one and only Metal God Rob Halford on vocals, Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap on the guitars, Ian Hill on bass, and Scott Travis on drums took the crowd on a magical journey through 50 years of the purest and most crystalline Heavy Metal you can think of, from their 1974 classic Rocka Rolla to one of their most recent hits Lightning Strike. It was a fusion of nostalgia, perfection, adrenaline, happiness and so many other great feelings it’s hard to describe everything in just a few words, proving why Judas Priest have always been one of the pillars of traditional Heavy Metal alongside Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath.

The setlist chosen by Mr. Robert John Arthur Halford and his bandmates, as aforementioned, was a thing of beauty, inspiring all fans at the first Ontario Centre to keep screaming, banging their heads and raising their horns high in the air while the band delivered some precious gems of heavy music the likes of Freewheel Burning, Turbo Lover, Blood Red Skies, Electric Eye, Hell Bent for Leather and Breaking the Law. However, as a huge fan of the album Painkiller, which is by the way one of my top metal albums of all time, it was a true pleasure witnessing Judas Priest playing not one, not two, not three, but FOUR songs from that masterpiece, the majestic One Shot at Glory, the metallic hymn Hell Patrol, the stunning A Touch of Evil, and of course the all-time classic, fan-favorite, hard-hitting aria Painkiller, with Scott doing a fun intro where he not only talked about how much the band loves Canada, but also throwing some last minute jokes about how the band would have to play until Sunday if they played every song requested by the audience (and he even forgot it was a Wednesday, not a Thursday). Halford was on fire in all of those songs delivering his trademark high-pitched screams and interacting with the fans in great fashion, supported of course by the amazing guitar by Richie, and by the way it was great seeing Richie is fully recovered from last year’s scary incident.

Of course, everyone who attended the concert in Hamilton yesterday wanted to see Glenn Tipton joining the band for the encore just like what he’s done several times since he opened up about his fight against Parkinson’s disease, especially due to the fact it was the very last concert of their 2022 North American tour, but I’m sure Glenn had his reasons for not playing with the band last night. Moreover, after the last notes of the closing song Living After Midnight were played by the band, the background screen showed in capital letters the message “THE PRIEST WILL BE BACK”, so I guess there will be more opportunities in the future for Glenn to kick some serious ass on stage with a band that not just represents Heavy Metal to perfection, but a band that is Heavy Metal, period. And may Judas Priest keep coming back to Canada for more of their unparalleled performances for another 50 years.

Setlist
Battle Hymn
One Shot at Glory
Lightning Strike
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Freewheel Burning
Turbo Lover
Hell Patrol
The Sentinel
A Touch of Evil
Rocka Rolla
Victim of Changes
Desert Plains
Blood Red Skies
The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)
Diamonds & Rust
Painkiller

Encore:
The Hellion
Electric Eye
Hell Bent for Leather
Breaking the Law

Encore 2:
Living After Midnight

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Andy Sneap – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Seraina Telli

Don’t leave me out in the cold…

She’s by far one of the best rock and metal singers of the current scene hands down. Owner of a beautiful, stunning and extremely potent voice, she’s also a songwriter, pianist, guitarist, vocal coach and designer, known for her awesome contributions to bands such as Dead Venus, Burning Witches and Surrilium, among other very interesting bands and projects, always ready to rock our hearts with her mesmerizing vocal lines. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our metal chick of the month of August, the ravishing Seraina Telli, the unstoppable musician from Aargau, one of the more northerly cantons of Switzerland, who can flawlessly translate all her passion for music and art into emotional and inspiring compositions that will certainly captivate your hearts from the very first second. Having said that, are you ready to rock together with Seraina here on The Headbanging Moose?

A self-employed musician and vocal coach, Seraina has always wanted to make music and sing, and although she’s a team player who loves to play in bands she sees independent people as their role models, saying that she didn’t want to be a singer who just needs a band to play with her, but that she wanted to learn what it’s like to make music herself, playing different instruments and therefore being independent. Her looks and attire are also an important part of her musical persona, with all of her piercings, tattoos and her dyed hair providing a unique look that more than fits in the world of rock and metal music, but you’re wrong if you think Seraina is only a beautiful woman, as she has years of formal and professional study that provided her an invaluable background, allowing her to become the exceptional performer she is. Just to give you an idea of her undeniable talent,  she took classical singing lessons between 2007 and 2008, studied at the Jazz & Rock School in Freiburg, Germany from 2010 to 2011, achieved a Bachelor of Arts at hKDM and International Music College also in Freiburg, with focus on Jazz, Rock and Pop, between 2012 and 2013, and attended the Musik- Akademie Basel in 2015.

In regards to her career with Swiss Heavy/Power Metal band Burning Witches, Seraina was the band’s frontwoman between 2015 and 2019, having recorded with the band their debut self-titled album in 2017 and their sophomore effort Hexenhammer in 2018, as well as a four-track live album released in 2018 titled Burning Alive, recorded on September 30, 2017 at the Z7 Club in Pratteln, Switzerland. There are a few official videos on YouTube from when Seraina was the band’s vocalist, such as Hexenhammer, Black Widow and Executed, and also some unofficial live footage including a concert in Mannheim, Germany in 2018, and a pocket show at Salzhaus Brugg in 2018. I’m not going to extend this tribute to Seraina with the origins of the Burning Witches, but as already mentioned when their guitarist and founding member Romana Kalkuhl was our metal chick of the month in July 2019, during a party at a festival she met Seraina, starting a very healthy and productive partnership between them, with Seraina’s ideas and experience from her studies at the Music Academy and her bands being exactly what Romana wanted for Burning Witches. Furthermore, although Seraina always mention Heavy Metal as one of her passions, at the moment she is determined to go full throttle with her own band Dead Venus, saying Progressive Rock has always been her thing; however, we can expect to see Seraina venturing through heavier and faster lands in a not-so-distant future without a shadow of a doubt.

As we already started talking about Seraina’s brainchild, female-fronted Progressive Rock unity Dead Venus, where she’s not only the band’s vocalist but she also plays acoustic guitars, keyboards and piano, let’s discuss a little about the origins of the band, their goals and what their music represents to Seraina. Formed in early 2015 by Seraina herself around a year after being singing for a German Neo-Progressive Rock band named Surrilium, Dead Venus is a triumvirate currently comprised of Seraina on vocals, obviously, together with bassist André Gärtner and drummer Mike Malloth, delivering music that’s at the same time charming, passionate and incendiary, applying her multidimensional vocals to bring the desired message with each and every song, that being through her piercing vocals or just by whispering the lyrics. As a matter of fact, Seraina mentioned that it’s difficult to tell when Dead Venus actually started, as she began writing songs at some point and then began studying music and developed it further with music theory, learning the instruments and techniques better, which helped in the development of the songs, before she started looking for people to play them with. Seraina placed an advertisement recruiting musicians for Dead Venus, getting a reply from Mike, who also referred André for the band, whom by the way she already knew through her father (who had always spoken very well of him).

Apart from a couple of singles, the trio recently released at the end of 2019 their debut album, a 12-track Progressive Rock extravaganza titled Bird of Paradise (available for a full listen on Spotify), pointing to a bright future for Seraina and her bandmates. In addition, Seraina said that their goals with Dead Venus do not include appealing to a broader or more demanding audience, saying their music already has enough pop character in it despite not being disco dance music, of course. She complemented by saying that what Dead Venus and any other band needs is an audience that listens and that feels inspired by the music being played, as long as the music is authentic like what she does with Dead Venus, putting no boundaries to what the trio can do. You can listen to their music and purchase their debut album by visiting the MUSIC page on their official website, or by subscribing to their YouTube channel, where you’ll find some amazing compositions (and videos) for the songs The Sirens Call, Bird of Paradise and Redemptionless in both regular and acoustic versions.

You can also enjoy Seraina’s unique voice in other interesting bands and projects, showcasing all her versatility and skills it doesn’t matter if it’s a rock band playing covers or a full-bodied progressive and symphonic act. For instance, she did female vocals for Swiss Melodic Heavy/Power Metal band Rizon from 2010 until 2014, having recorded with them the album Masquerade in 2012, which you can listen in its entirety HERE; and she’s been the vocalist for German Progressive Rock/Metal band Surrilium since 2011, having recorded with them the album Sir William in 2015. Seraina is also the vocalist for a distinct cover bands called Hit Grinder, taking hits that everyone knows and performing them in a unique way with heavy guitars, rocking drums and hard driving bass, giving those songs a more aggressive edge. The band is formed by Seraina on vocals, Stefan Schroff on the guitars, and a rotation between Yannick Schmidt and Emmi Lichtenhahn on bass and Franceso Gasparini and Alain Ackermann on drums, and you can get in touch with them and listen to more of their music on Facebook, on Instagram and on YouTube, with their renditions of Sia’s Chandelier and Michael Jackson’s Bad showing you all of the band’s awesomeness.

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Perhaps one of the most delicious works by Seraina is her personal YouTube channel, where she puts her heart and soul into delivering beautiful versions of several rock, pop and metal classics, usually only accompanied by her own piano. Simply visit her YouTube channel and you’ll be able to enjoy our talented singer kicking ass with her versions for Red hot Chilli Pepper’s classic Under the Bridge as a studio project band from the hKDM Music High School in Freiburg, Edgar Alan Poe’s The Haunted Palace, Rush’s masterpiece Closer to the Heart together with a children’s choir, Nancy Wilson’s The Nearness of You, The Misfits’ Dig Up Her Bones live at a pub in Zurich, Jason Mraz’s I Won’t Give Up, Sting’s The Hounds of Winter, Lady Gaga’s Million Reasons, John Lennon’s Imagine, and a very special version for Christina Aguilera’s Keep on Singin’ My Song, as according to Seraina herself Christina Aguilera was one of her teenage heroes and one of the reasons she started singing when she was around 13 years old. And let’s keep talking about her idols and influences, with bands like Opeth, Pain of Salvation and the almighty Judas Priest being among her favorite bands of all time. Seraina even mentioned in one of her interviews that playing with one of those three bands would be a dream come true for her, complementing by saying it would be beyond fantastic to be able to talk, interact and especially sing with the one and only Metal God Rob Halford.

When questioned about the fact she was in an all-girls band during her time with Burning Witches, our striking banshee said in the beginning the idea of only playing with other women in a band was quite funny for all of them, and that they never expected it to be such a big topic, having to face sexist comments and other situations related to the male/female gender differences. Needless to say, that didn’t have any impact on the way Seraina performs on stage, saying the most difficult part is actually dealing with her own emotions and feelings to make sure her voice perfectly sends the desired message. In addition, she said she usually has it under control, using the appropriate techniques to have the best results while playing live. Seraina is also responsible for designing her own outfits, saying it’s actually more like a hobby for her despite the fact she wanted to become a fashion designer before singing, mainly because it’s very time consuming. And regarding metal festivals, she said during her time with Burning Witches they always wanted to play something big such as Wacken Open Air, Sweden Rock Festival and Hellfest, but we must all agree that now with Dead Venus her focus is a lot more on smaller, more intimate venues and crowds.

When asked about her singing style, her limits as a vocalist and her writing and composing process, Seraina said she always puts her heart and soul into singing, it doesn’t matter if it’s a heavy-as-hell metal song or a serene rock ballad, complementing by saying that it’s all a matter of practice to know and understand your limits and what’s causing that barrier, such as breathing techniques and discipline. For example, she said she doesn’t do much Opera singing as she’s not professionally trained in it, but maybe with some time and by applying the right techniques she can reach a good performance singing it. Her process for writing and composing her songs is also very detailed and honest, with Seraina usually writing something on the piano and then complementing it with the guitar, not working with sequences and, therefore, sounding a lot more organic. She also said the order in which she writes the lyrics and the music is never the same, always depending on the song being composed and the situation she’s in, with most of the ideas for the music by Dead Venus coming from her past experiences, especially due to her anger, energy and creativity as a teenager, saying it wasn’t easy in the beginning for her as she doesn’t come from a family of musicians like several other artists.

If you also enjoy watching Seraina perform and not only listen to her powerful voice, you’ll notice she always carries a special chain or necklace, a symbol of luck that’s linked to her family. She said she had a very strong bond with her sister when they were kids, which by the way lasts until today, with the necklace being a gift she got for her 12th birthday from her stepfather that symbolizes two parts that are connected together and forever. As a matter of fact, the Dead Venus logo is a variation of that symbol, a Celtic cross knot with an “S” at the end. Talking about stunning looks in rock and metal, Seraina was asked what she would say if one day a band like Arch Enemy invited her to sing for them, and albeit she said she simply loves the charisma, the voice and the looks by the she-wolf Alissia White-Gluz, she said she couldn’t see herself fronting such distinct band.

Lastly, as an artist that has been making  music for a long time despite her young age, Seraina said she will always pursue a career in music no matter what, saying she got to know a lot of good people with both Dead Venus and Burning Witches that provide her all the support she needs to keep moving forward. She sees a lot of potential with Dead Venus, the type of music she has always wanted to do, but you can also hire her to feature on your next album doing backing vocals or singing one or more songs, for example, as she has already done a few studio and advertising jobs in her career. She can even sing in German (or Swiss German) if you prefer, and you can actually check Seraina speaking (not singing, though) in her mother tongue in a short interview where she talks about what it means for her to be from Aargau, how much she loves her hometown, and her life in the city. I guess after knowing about her personal life, her career and her passion for heavy music, there’s nothing better than banging our heads to Seraina’s piercing vocals or simply sitting down, relaxing and enjoying her more delicate creations, resting assured we’ll hear a lot more from such talented artist in the coming years.

Seraina Telli’s Official Facebook page
Seraina Telli’s Official Instagram
Seraina Telli’s Official YouTube channel
Dead Venus’ Official Facebook page
Dead Venus’ Official Instagram
Dead Venus’ Official YouTube channel

Metal Chick of the Month – Brittney Slayes

There’s no hiding from her, she sees everything!

In order to properly celebrate nothing more, nothing less than FIVE years of The Headbanging Moose, there’s nothing better than paying a humble tribute to a true Warrior of the North as our metal chick of this month of October, a woman that perfectly represents all the passion, strength and perseverance from the people that make our beloved Canada one of the best places to live in the world. Born in 1985 in Vancouver, one of the most beautiful cities not only in the province of British Columbia but in the entire country, here comes the dauntless vocalist Brittney Slayes, whose real name is Brittney Hayes, frontwoman and founding member of Canadian Heavy Metal band Unleash The Archers, always ready to show you what metal music from the Great White North is all about.

The talented Brittney, who discovered her voice when she was five years old and began singing in her local community choir at the age of eight, traveled with several choirs during her school years, taking part in many musical theater productions and working with some of the best vocal coaches in Western Canada. In university, she attended the UVic School Of Music, but choosing instead to attain her undergraduate degree in History. Furthermore, during her time at the University of Victoria, she traveled the world as a member of the Juno Award-winning ensemble the Uvic Chamber Singers. As a UVic alumna and the lead singer of Victoria-born Unleash the Archers, Brittney gave a keynote talk on July 10, 2018 for UVic’s upcoming conference Boundaries and Ties: The Place of Metal Music in Communities, with her talk, entitled “View from the ‘Apex’: A Metal Musician’s Views on Metal and Community”, drawing on her firsthand experience with local, national, and international metal communities. And do you want to know what our metal warrior thinks about us, metalheads? “People are so open-minded. They’re not going to cast judgement and never give you a chance. From what I’ve seen, metalheads are very kind and caring and open-hearted. I just think that the metal community is uplifting, really,” said our wise vocalist.

Apart from her time singing with different choirs, our Canadian warrior had never been involved in any other bands or music projects before founding Unleash The Archers back in 2007 with her boyfriend and drummer Scott Buchanan, and according to Brittney herself starting the band was the best thing she could have ever done (and we all agree with that, of course), allowing her to use her background in classical music and her four octave range to provide a more dynamic approach to the band’s incendiary fusion of traditional Heavy Metal with Power and Melodic Metal. In late 2008, the band recorded a self-titled four-song demo, which featured two songs (Black Goat of the Woods and Destroyer) they would end up re-recording for their first studio album. In one of her interviews, Brittney explained a little more about the origins of the band, saying it all began when Scott, former guitarist Brayden Dyczkowski (who left the band in 2014) and herself were in university, when Scott and Brayden were playing in a Death Metal band together, and as the drummer’s girlfriend Brittney simply loved to go to their shows and rock out. When the band broke up, she called Brayden and asked him if he wanted to start a band with herself as the vocalist and Scott on drums, and from that day on Unleash The Archers became a reality, leading the band to grow and become a reference in Canadian metal music, winning the Best Metal Band and Best Vocalist awards during the 2015 Vancouver Whammy Awards, as well as being voted number 6 in Exclaim Magazine’s Readers Choice Awards for Best Metal Albums of 2009.

Apart from the aforementioned self-titled debut demo, Unleash The Archers have already released four full-length albums and one EP, those being their 2009 debut album Behold the Devastation (when she was still known as as B. Hayes), the 2011 album Demons of the AstroWaste, the 2012 EP Defy the Skies, the 2015 album Time Stands Still, and last year’s highly acclaimed opus Apex. Currently comprised of our Canadian Valkyrie of metal Brittney on vocals, Grant Truesdell and Andrew Kingsley on the guitars and harsh growls, and Scott Buchanan on drums, as well as Nick Miller taking care of the bass duties during their live performances, Unleash The Archers have a great selection of official videos, lyric videos and unofficial live footage for us to enjoy for hours on YouTube. For instance, you can join Unleash The Archers in their quest for metal with the songs Tonight We Ride, Ten Thousand Against One, Apex, General Of The Dark Army, Time Stands Still, Cleanse The Bloodlines, Awakening, The Matriarch and Dawn Of Ages. And if live concerts and performances are your cup of tea, you can enjoy Brittney and the guys kicking ass with the songs Dreamcrusher and Time Stands Still live in Montreal in 2015; General Of The Dark Army live at the Pont Rouge in Monthey, Switzerland  in 2016; an acoustic version of The Outlander recorded live at CHSR in New Brunswick with Matt Nightingale during the 2011 “Tour Through The AstroWaste”; and their full set during their 2015 appearance at ProgPower USA in 2015. When asked about her favorite Unleash The Archers songs, those she believes a newcomer to their metal world should definitely take a listen at, Brittney said she has always loved Battle In The Shadow (Of The Mountain), from their second album Demons of the AstroWaste, saying she has a strong emotional connection to that song, also including on the list Four In Hand, from their debut album Behold the Devastation, as it’s about sin becoming personified as a cloaked figure riding around in a chariot pulled by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Interesting, isn’t it?

Brittney has also been featured in several other bands and projects as a guest musician, each one of them being very peculiar and showcasing all the talent and range of our metal warrior. For instance, she provided additional vocals to the song Leather Lord, featured on the 2013 EP Live at Mushroom: Vol. I, by Canadian Power/Heavy Metal band 3 Inches of Blood; guest vocals on the song Queen of the Galaxy, from the 2014 EP Queen of the Galaxy (and also featured on the 2018 album The Extraterrestrial Compendium), by American Power/Thrash Metal band Dire Peril (and you can also check a cool live version of it in 2016 at the Blue Lamp HERE); vocals on the song Lunar Sunrise, from the 2014 album The Age of Ether, by American Power/Progressive Metal band Disforia; vocals for the full 2018 album Terror of the Cybernetic Space Monster, by American Power Metal band Helion Prime, like in the song Spectrum; vocals for the excellent song Burn It Down (With Fire), from the 2018 album Shadows from the Past, by American Heavy Metal band Lords of the Trident; and last but not least, she was also a guest on the song Siren’s Song, from the 2016 album Lawful Evil, by The Dread Crew of Oddwood (an acoustic pirate band from San Diego, California).

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Regarding her career and life on the road, Brittney said that living life through music is every musician’s dream, living and breathing music every second of every day while on tour, and she wants to keep playing with Unleash The Archers everywhere, every corner of the globe, every continent and every type of venue, from Japan to Scotland, from Brazil to Antarctica (if they can find metalheads there, of course). When asked about the main difference between festivals and regular shows, she said that in the end they’re not that different, only that there are a lot more bands hanging out backstage waiting for their turn and the atmosphere seems quite a bit more laid back. Having already played with Unleash The Archers all over the world, from North America to China and Japan, Brittney has been collecting a lot of good memories and moments from each and every concert, such as their performance at Hell & Heaven Fest in Mexico City in 2014, where they played a side stage but were able to see the concerts by some of their favorite bands like Angra and KISS. Furthermore, all that passion for heavy music and her family had a very positive impact on her performance on stage. For instance, her brother used to play in a punk band and her father worked as a musician for a long time in the 60’s and 70’s. She used to play with his music equipment when she was a little kid, and there are many pictures of Brittney rocking out with an old SM57 in her hand standing on a table or any other stage-like apparatus. Also, as aforementioned, she was always involved in musical theater, drama, choir or any other sort of performing art, making her feel very comfortable when facing the crowd, it doesn’t matter if at a small venue or at a big renowned festival.

As it happens with any up-and-coming artist in metal music, Brittney has been asked several times through the years about who her biggest idols and influences are in music and in life in general, and her answers couldn’t be more classic, more inspiring and, of course, more metal. She said in one of her interviews that as a vocalist she has always been highly influenced by the one and only Bruce Dickinson, the metal god Rob Halford, Geoff Tate, Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray), Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork), Daniel Heiman (Lost Horizon), and Jonas Heidgert (Dragonland), among many others, with bands such as Iron Maiden, As I Lay Dying, All That Remains, Helloween and Septicflesh playing an important role in the development of her taste for music and her singing style. Furthermore, Brittney mentioned that the unparalleled Countdown To Extinction, released by Megadeth in 1992, was the first metal record she’s ever heard in her life, and that was basically the moment that would define her musical preferences for the rest of her life, but she also complemented her thought by saying Best Of The Beast, Iron Maiden’s first “best of” album, released in 1996, was the album that inspired her to use her vocal talents as a singer in a metal band. In addition, when questioned which bands she would choose if she could create her own festival, Brittney simply listed Iron Maiden, Lost Horizon, Iced Earth, Sabaton and Dragonland, all beyond formidable acts, also saying that she would love to tour with Iced Earth, one of her favorite bands of all time, as their music speaks to her on a whole other level.

And last but not least, When Brittney was asked how it feels to be in a Power Metal band from a country like Canada where the Power Metal scene is not as developed as in other places like Scandinavia and Japan, she admitted it’s a bit tough for bands that play metal the likes of Unleash The Archers due to the music culture in Canada being a lot more inclined to Death Metal and other more extreme styles, with Canadian metalheads growing up with bands like Kataklysm and Voivod,  even saying a Power Metal band can feel very “lonely” in the country. However, she also mentioned that even in that not-so-inspiring scenario there are still lots of traditional Power Metal acts all over the country, proving that as long as Power Metal bands keep playing music from their hearts and stay united and strong, the genre has all it takes to grow in popularity among Canadian fans. And there’s no one better than the warrior princess Brittney to lead that metal army and “unleash the archers” upon all of us.

Brittney Slayes’ Official Facebook page
Brittney Slayes’ Official Instagram
Brittney Slayes’ Official Twitter
Unleash The Archers’ Official Facebook page
Unleash The Archers’ Official Instagram
Unleash The Archers’ Official Twitter

“There’s always going to be those faces in the crowd that you have known since the beginning, and that you know will always be there for you; they were fans, and they’ve become friends. I think that there’s very much this foundation of fans that keep you standing. That will never change. The only thing that happens is that it just grows.” – Brittney Slayes

Concert Review – Judas Priest (Tribute Communities Centre, Oshawa, ON, 03/28/2018)

A night of celebration of the purest form of British Heavy Metal in the Ontarian city of Oshawa, spearheaded by the unparalleled Judas Priest.

OPENING ACTS: Black Star Riders and Saxon

Getting from Oakville to Oshawa for a concert is always a nightmare due to the humongous distance (almost 100km) and the fact I have to drive there exactly during the peak of rush hour. However, for my total delight, it was fairly quick to get to the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa yesterday where the mighty Judas Priest was going to play their unparalleled classics, supported by the ass-kicking Black Star Riders and Saxon as the opening acts. After a Tuesday of rain and fog, the day yesterday was beyond perfect, being totally clean and dry, and with the temperatures reaching almost the positive double digit mark. I guess the weather knew it shouldn’t mess with the Metal Gods, right?

One thing I highly recommend if you ever attend a concert or a sports event at the Tribute Communities Centre is to grab a bite before (or maybe even during) the event at the Prospects Bar & Grill, the pub that’s right inside the venue. Good food, cold and crisp beer, and all for a very decent price, helping you to properly get ready for the event. Actually, because I arrived there right when BLACK STAR RIDERS, a band formed by members and ex-members of renowned acts like Thin Lizzy and Alice Cooper, started their concert, I couldn’t really watch them perform, but I was listening to their music from the pub with attention and they sounded solid and entertaining with their old school Rock N’ Roll, with their cover song for Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak and their own song Bound for Glory being the highlights of their performance.

Setlist
All Hell Breaks Loose
Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy cover)
Before the War
Heavy Fire
Who Rides the Tiger
Kingdom of the Lost
When the Night Comes In
Bound for Glory

Band members
Ricky Warwick – vocals, guitar
Scott Gorham – guitars
Damon Johnson – guitars
Robert Crane – bass
Chad Szeliga – drums

After a short break (and now already sitting in my proper place in the floor section), it was time for Biff Byford and his Heavy Metal institution SAXON to begin their sonic attack on stage, delivering pure metal from the NWOBHM, with songs like Power and the Glory, Motorcycle Man, Denim and Leather and Heavy Metal Thunder inciting all fans at the venue to start banging their heads nonstop to their classic Heavy Metal. The band was on fire from start to finish promoting their brand new album Thunderbolt, not giving any time for the crowd to breathe or take a bathroom break, with Mr. Byford being a true beast on vocals. My favorite tune played from their new album was by far They Played Rock and Roll, introduced by the band as their personal and honest tribute to the greatest Rock N’ Roll band of all time, the glorious Motörhead. And let’s face it, any tribute to the one and only Lemmy Kilmister is never enough, right? He always deserves more and more, and when that comes from such an amazing band like Saxon, the homage paid is even more powerful.

Setlist
Olympus Rising
Thunderbolt
Power and the Glory
The Secret of Flight
Motorcycle Man
Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)
Dallas 1 PM
They Played Rock and Roll
Denim and Leather
Princess of the Night
Wheels of Steel
Never Surrender
Heavy Metal Thunder

Band members
Biff Byford – vocals
Paul Quinn – guitars
Doug Scarratt – guitars
Nibbs Carter – bass
Nigel Glockler – drums

JUDAS PRIEST

The intensity of the metal played by Saxon was exactly what everyone needed to get really warmed up for the main attraction of the night, the iconic metal behemoths JUDAS PRIEST. It was already past 9pm when Black Sabbath’s War Pigs started playing on the speakers, followed by the intro Guardians, before the band spearheaded by the Metal God Rob Halford hit the stage to the sound of their newborn classic Firepower, the opening track of their majestic new opus Firepower, putting a smile on everyone’s faces and showing everyone at the venue that the Metal Gods still got it no matter what happens to them. Of course I missed seeing the guitar hero Glenn Tipton (who’s not touring with the band due to the complications of his recently diagnosed case of Parkinson’s disease) slashing our senses with his riffs and solos on stage, but Andy Sneap did a pretty good job replacing him. And what to say about Richie Faulkner? The guy is undoubtedly a core piece of Judas Priest now, showcasing all his skills as a great guitarist that he is and also having an excellent performance on stage.

Nothing I can say about the setlist will represent its true beauty, as the Priest played a mix of some of the best songs of the new album, such as Lightning Strike and Evil Never Dies, with amazing classics from almost all of their albums, including really old school material such as Running Wild, The Ripper, Some Heads Are Gonna Roll and especially Saints in Hell, from Stained Class, and album that turned 40 years old this past February 10. After watching them playing that stunning song live, I once again must say their music is definitely like wine, getting better and better as time goes by. Furthermore, the video they played on their background screen during Saints in Hell was superb, with all the dark and red imagery of Christ, demons and wild beats being mesmerizing, and I wonder if one day they’ll upload it somewhere like YouTube as an alternative video for this beyond classic metal hymn.

My only complaint about their setlist was replacing one of the most touching metal ballads of all time, the absolutely beautiful Angel (which they were playing until their concert at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. on March 18), with the good-but-not-fantastic The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown). This song feels like when Iron Maiden play “Wrathchild” on their live concerts, as we all certainly enjoy it but we also know deep down inside there are far better options to be part of their setlist. Anyway, the last part of their setlist, including the encore, was a true feast of pure Heavy Metal, working like a tribute to the Rock N’ Roll lifestyle, with metallic hymns like Breaking the Law, Hell Bent for Leather and Living After Midnight being some sort of “motto” or “guide” to anyone who lives and breathes rock music 24/7. I was honestly hoping that Glenn would hit the stage out of nowhere to play the last batch of songs with the band last night, just like what he did at The Prudential in Newark, New Jersey on March 20, but unfortunately that did not happen in Oshawa. Well, I can’t complain at all, as seeing Judas Priest live once again was truly amazing and memorable, making even my 90km drive back a lot easier and smoother than I thought, and I can’t wait to see them again in a not-so-distant future, hopefully with Glenn back in action.

Setlist
War Pigs (Black Sabbath song)
Guardians
Firepower
Running Wild
Grinder
Sinner
The Ripper
Lightning Strike
Bloodstone
Saints in Hell
Turbo Lover
The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Evil Never Dies
Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather
Painkiller

Encore:
The Hellion
Electric Eye
Metal Gods
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Living After Midnight
We Are the Champions (Queen song)

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Andy Sneap – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Album Review – Judas Priest / Firepower (2018)

The Metal Gods are firing on all cylinders with their majestic new album of pure and highly inspired Heavy Metal.

When British Heavy Metal legends Judas Priest announced they were just about to release their 18th studio record, the magnificent Firepower, I already knew it was going to be an epic album. Not only it’s the first studio album since their 1988 release Ram It Down to be produced by Tom Allom and the first ever with the always precise and competent Andy Sneap as co-producer, but the entire band (Rob Halford on vocals, Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner on the guitars, Ian Hill on bass and Scott Travis on drums) is absolutely on fire throughout the album’s almost one hour of the purest form of “British steel” that will beautifully and powerfully pierce your ears and control your mind, compelling you to bang your head nonstop and raise your horns to the iconic Metal Gods. By the way, the amazing album art, created by Chilean artist Claudio Bergamin, breathes scorching fire like an enraged dragon, fully in line with the unparalleled history of one of the most formidable bands in heavy music.

Although their 2014 opus Redeemer of Souls was already fantastic, showcasing a veteran band at the top of their form, the metallic extravaganza found in Firepower is so majestic and inspiring that not even the terrible news of Glenn Tipton being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which unfortunately for all lovers of true metal music won’t allow him to tour as much as before with the band (being replaced by Andy Sneap during the upcoming Firepower 2018 World Tour), could ruin the magic crafted by the band in Firepower, and Glenn in his most humble “the show must go on” mode had a few nice words to say about his situation, encouraging the band to continue with the tour. “I want everyone to know that it’s vital that the Judas Priest tour go ahead and that I am not leaving the band – it’s simply that my role has changed. I don’t rule out the chance to go on stage as and when I feel able to blast out some Priest! So at some point in the not too distant future I’m really looking forward to seeing all of our wonderful metal maniacs once again”, said one of the greatest guitarists in the history of Heavy Metal.

Getting back to the album, five seconds are all that the mighty Judas Priest need to explode our senses with their incomparable metal music in the title-track Firepower, where Glenn and Richie begin their flammable riff-fest before the Metal God Rob Halford comes crushing with his unique metallic vocals. Put differently, the band offers us a high-octane, electrifying and straightforward 80’s-style version of themselves for our absolute delectation. And without wasting a single second the Metal Gods fire another superb hymn titled Lightning Strike, a mid-tempo, rumbling composition led by the always precise Scott Travis, with the rip-roaring way Halford declaims the lyrics being beyond thrilling (“I’ll bring you the head of the demon / I’m peeling the skin from his face / The life that you lead is inhuman / Its cause and effects a disgrace / You’re sowing the seeds of a nightmare from hell / Your prayers and your demons are tolling the bell / Walking through fire, fate’s in my hands / Waiting for lightning to strike / Man on a wire, bearing the brand / Waiting for lightning to strike / Lightning to strike”). Then darker riffs by Glenn and Richie permeate the air while Halford tells a somber story in Evil Never Dies, a sonic masterpiece perfect for hitting the road that will urge you to bang your head and scream together with Halford every single time you listen to its flawless lines.

Slowing down the pace a bit, but still sounding vibrant and epic, Never the Heroes brings forward lyrics about the fortunes of war and all the darkness that fills the heart of a soldier (“We were fearless but so afraid / Though in our hearts we still felt pain / We’re on fire but on a leash / We only ever wanted peace”), with the solos by both Glenn and Richie being a thing of beauty. Needless to say, this battle hymn will sound stunningly powerful when played live. Following such touching song we have Necromancer, a solid display of Heavy Metal infused with Stygian elements and nuances (mainly due to the nature of the song), closer to the band’s  sonority from the albums Angel of Retribution and Redeemer of Souls; and Children of the Sun, another song to sing along with Halford & Co., presenting a headbanging rhythm led by Scott with his steady beats and the simple but effective bass lines by Ian Hill. As usual,  the band’s guitar duo does an amazing job with their crisp solos, enhancing the song’s punch considerably.

Their metal feast goes on with a gentle piano bridge named Guardians, warming our ears and minds up for the powerful Rising from Ruins, displaying an elegant sonority where Halford has a titanic performance, stealing the spotlight with his deep and passionate vocals, not to mention how Scott keeps the music flowing smoothly with his classic beats. And what to say about the next tune, aggressively titled Flame Thrower? When I first saw the name of the song I was more than sure it was going to be ass-kicking, and guess what? It is indeed a true rockin’ extravaganza ignited by the slashing guitars by Glenn and Richie, in a blend of their own music from albums like British Steel and Ram It Down mixed with Halford’s solo career. Also uniting old school and modern Judas Priest, the quintet delivers the gripping Spectre, where Richie adds a touch of modernity to the band’s trademark sound with his guitar while Halford once again impersonates a “dark poet of metal”. Then a melancholic intro quickly morphs into a flammable and adventurous metal hymn entitled Traitors Gate, showcasing all elements we learned to love from NWOBHM, and, as a consequence, being tailored for admirers of the more epic side of the band. Furthermore, the guitars by Glenn and Richie are in total sync with Scott’s beats and especially with Halford’s potent roars and high-pitched screams, making it a true exhibit of classic metal.

The last batch of songs in Firepower is quite interesting, as if the band decided not to release them as bonus tracks of a deluxe edition of the album despite their uniqueness, but instead they added them to the regular version of it as a gift to all metal maniacs who have been supporting the band since their inception. No Surrender is straightforward Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances highly inspired by the band’s own 80’s musicality, or in other words, if this was part of British Steel, Defenders of the Faith or Screaming for Vengeance it would have been a metal classic today. Hence, can you feel their guitars penetrating deep inside your heart? Then the superb Lone Wolf feels like they wanted to pay a stylish tribute do Black Sabbath, Pantera and Down all at once in a fusion of top-notch Heavy Metal with the dementia and aggression of Stoner and Doom Metal. Even the usually quiet Ian Hill delivers some thunder through his bass, with Richie and Glenn stealing the spotlight with the heaviest riffs of the entire album while Halford is simply astounding on vocals. And last but not least, how about a touching and majestic ballad titled Sea of Red, closing this grandiose album in great fashion, with Halford’s voice sounding even more impactful together with the fiery guitars by Richie and Glenn? And don’t forget to pay very good attention to the lyrics as they’re simple but very potent.

In summary, Judas Priest are all fired up in Firepower, delivering everything we love and expect in their classic and always incendiary Heavy Metal, therefore proving once again they’re not called the Metal Gods in vain. There are several retailers where you can purchase this masterpiece of old school and contemporary metal perfectly united, such as iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart, providing you the most exciting soundtrack for anything you need to do in life. After such brilliant job done in Firepower, let’s hope now that Glenn can somehow overcome Parkinson’s disease, and that we can see him sooner than anyone can expect on stage with the rest of the band, firing some of their biggest classic together with the new combustible songs from the new album, because that’s where a talented and hardworking guitar god like him should always be.

Best moments of the album: Firepower, Lightning Strike, Evil Never Dies, No Surrender and Lone Wolf.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Epic Records

Track listing
1. Firepower 3:27
2. Lightning Strike 3:29
3. Evil Never Dies 4:23
4. Never the Heroes 4:23
5. Necromancer 3:33
6. Children of the Sun 4:00
7. Guardians 1:06
8. Rising from Ruins 5:23
9. Flame Thrower 4:34
10. Spectre 4:24
11. Traitors Gate 5:34
12. No Surrender 2:54
13. Lone Wolf 5:09
14. Sea of Red 5:51

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Metal Chick of the Month – Kobra Paige

kobra01

I am, I am all that’s inside you… I am, I am evil burning through!

Have you ever been bitten by a cobra? If not, this is probably the best opportunity you will ever have in your life to finally feel the powerful venom of a spellbinding snake flowing through your veins in the form of old school Heavy Metal, and I’m sure you’ll just love the experience. I’m talking about the stunning Canadian metaller Brittany Paige, better known for her onstage moniker Kobra Paige, the fiery frontwoman of Canadian Heavy Metal band Kobra And The Lotus. Are you ready for a metallic snake bite?

Born and raised in Calgary, Canada, Kobra is a classically trained singer and pianist, having completed Grade 8 in vocals and Grade 6 in piano with The Royal Conservatory of Music, before forming Kobra And The Lotus in 2008 together with guitarist Chris Swenson and drummer Griffin Kissack. She said she was doing classical training from when she was very young until she lost interest in it, getting into Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll during her high school years especially because there was something in heavy music with a strong connection to what she loved the most in classical music, allowing her to explore her true voice. “I felt it was an extremely natural progression because metal allows for that chest voice to be used”, she explained. In addition, she mentioned she was going to university without a real intention of doing music seriously, although she truly wanted to start her own metal band anyway. After starting singing and writing music she felt so passionate and alive she decided to go ahead with her music career, which also meant the end of university for her.

Despite not pursuing a career in classical music, the classical training was essential for our blonde bombshell to learn the art of singing and how to properly take good care of her voice. “I’m so scared of that because I can’t just buy a new guitar. I only have this one instrument and you don’t want to blow it, so absolutely the breath exercises and the tools that I learned from it have very much helped, made me more knowledgeable”, she said in one of her interviews. Well, she said she was blown away at a Judas Priest concert after the band played their thunderous classic Painkiller, and she also fell in love for the powerful multi-layered voice by Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, so it makes total sense for her to be so worried about her voice as we all know how demanding singing like Rob Halford and Robert Plant can be to any mortal person, right?

Still under the name Brittany Paige, she released with Kobra And The Lotus their debut album Out of the Pit, in 2009, before adopting the name Kobra Paige and releasing two more albums with the band, the self-titled Kobra and the Lotus in 2012 and their most recent full-length album High Priestess in 2014, as well as an EP with cover versions for renowned Canadian rock bands entitled Words of the Prophets in 2015, and a 7″ vinyl EP named Zombie also in 2015, released as a Halloween treat and containing the songs Zombie and Remember Me. She also took part in the Heavy Metal/Hard Rock project Tony Gabriele’s Orbynot, recording vocals for their 2012 album Try to Stop Me, and is constantly lending her voice to the metal army known as Metal All Stars, sharing the stage with iconic musicians such as Tim “Ripper” Owens, Ross the Boss, Vinny Appice and Paul Di’Anno, and more recently to the cult Melodic Power Metal act Kamelot during their latest world tour. And you better get ready, because Kobra And The Lotus announced back in November 2015 they are gearing up for their fourth full-length album, a double disc entitled Prevail, to be released in a not-so-distant future (you can pre-order it HERE).

There are several videos on YouTube where you can enjoy her electrifying vocals and looks, and more important than that, feel the remarkable shift in her voice through the years. As a “few” suggestions, I believe you can take a listen at the old school thrashy tunes Snake Pit, Ride Like Sugar and Cynical Wasteland, the thunderous Welcome To My Funeral and I Am, I Am, the sexy heavy ballad Black Velvet, the Power Metal epicness of 50 Shades Of Evil and Forever One, the band’s thrilling cover versions for Motörhead’s all-time classic Ace of Spades and Rush’s groovy anthem The Spirit Of Radio, and their awesome performance at the famous festival Bloodstock Open Air in 2012. When asked about that change, Kobra said it happened mainly from their first to their second album, when she started following a direction where she felt more comfortable with her voice, sounding more organic, honest and authentic, and also evolving with the other band members in terms of skills and songwriting.

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Based on her vocal style and the music played by Kobra and The Lotus, you might think her biggest influences come only from traditional Heavy Metal, like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, who obviously had a huge impact on her life and who she would simply love to tour with. However, our gorgeous Kobra is a fan of all types of music, from old school metal the likes of Ronnie James Dio (R.I.P.) and Iced Earth, to Folk/Viking Metal such as Eluveitie and Amon Amarth, to obviously classical music, in special German composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven. As pretty much all successful musicians, she doesn’t stick to only one music genre, which helps her evolve as a singer and songwriter by expanding her horizons and bringing to her mind huge amounts of creativity and passion.

As expected for such a charismatic persona like Kobra, she was invited to take part on an interesting documentary called Soaring Highs and Brutal Lows: The Voices of Women in Metal after her performance at the famous Metal Female Voices Fest in 2013, touring then with other female vocalists in different festivals and telling their own stories in the world of heavy music. Talking about the life on the road, Kobra said once that “any person obviously has to be really into heavy metal, living and breathing for it, in order to be on the road constantly”, and in regards to being a beautiful woman among so many male metalheads, she said that one of the funniest things that ever happened to her on tour was when Kobra and The Lotus were touring around Canada the first time and she got a lot of questions like “are you the merch girl?”, surprising them all the minute she got onstage.

Her hobbies and interests are also very common for most of us, especially if you enjoy more physical stuff such as kickboxing and hiking on a mountain. Moreover, as she’s so focused on her music career and loves all things music so much, she has also nurtured an interest in musical theater, something she used to do at a younger age, looking into some Broadway scoring to improve her skills and capacity for innovation. One curious detail about her is that, even after spending so much time on the road with the band, she’s an avid traveler, always searching for exotic destinations to visit and new cultures to learn about.

Lastly, in case you haven’t noticed yet, our metal viper has the tattoo of a dream catcher on her arm, something very meaningful to her since she was a little girl. Her mom used to take her to sun dances, increasing Native American influences on her while she was growing up. Besides, she used to have constant nightmares until she was 13, when her parents put a dream catcher over her bed as a protective symbol, which ended up working really well for her. I’m pretty sure her nightmares are long gone by now, not due to the dream catcher but mainly because of her badass attitude and inner strength. In other words, I can’t think of any entity brave enough to disturb the peace of our headbanging cobra, and if anyone or anything dares to do so, they will mercilessly have their asses kicked pretty bad.

Kobra Paige’s Official Facebook page
Kobra Paige’s Official Twitter
Kobra Paige’s Official Instagram

Kobra And The Lotus’ Official Facebook page
Kobra And The Lotus’ Official Twitter

“I am who I am and this is my voice; if it’s not bad-ass enough for some people, that’s just too bad.” – Kobra Paige

Concert Review – Judas Priest (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, 11/12/2015)

Thousands of Heavy Metal maniacs screamed for vengeance together with the Metal Gods on a memorable night in Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Mastodon

Judas-Priest-Redeemer-of-Souls-Tour-2015Fortunately, after the excruciating hassle of having to drive for hours to get to Casino Rama to see Judas Priest last year, an enlightened soul realized there was an urge emanating from all metalheads in Toronto to have the Metal Gods in town for a proper concert, and therefore we were all granted with a memorable Heavy Metal celebration at the Air Canada Centre last night. I know some people loved the fact they could stay in Orillia for some gambling and beer, taking a day or two off for that, but they must understand this is all about praising the almighty Judas Priest, not about wasting your money in tedious slot machines. I just wish the floor section didn’t have those stupid seats. Why not just having a floor section, period?

IMG_0770The opening band this time were American metallers MASTODON, with all their craziness, psychedelia, heaviness and unquestionable talent. However, the biggest problem for me (and I’m sure it was the same with lots of other Priest fans at the concert) was their lack of charisma. I mean, they have all the ingredients to be one of the best metal acts in activity, but unless you’re high on something it’s pretty hard to enjoy their full setlist. Songs like High Road and Megalodon stand out among the others, but the overall result is not as exciting as watching a less skilled band on stage playing simpler but a lot catchier songs. All band members masterfully handle their instruments, and if you’re a guitar player you probably go insane with their intricate riffs and compositions, but I think it’s a lot better to listen to their music at home or in your car than at a venue like the Air Canada Centre. I’m not saying it was a bad concert, quite the contrary, Mastodon were pretty good. It just wasn’t what I had in mind as the perfect warm-up for the Metal Gods.

Setlist
Tread Lightly
Blasteroid
The Motherload
Chimes at Midnight
High Road
Aqua Dementia
Mother Puncher
Halloween
Bladecatcher
Black Tongue
Ember City
Megalodon
Blood and Thunder

Band members
Brent Hinds – guitar, vocals
Bill Kelliher – guitar
Troy Sanders – bass, vocals
Brann Dailor – drums, vocals

JUDAS PRIEST

IMG_0773Finally back to the CITY of Toronto after four long years, Heavy Metal titans JUDAS PRIEST seem to be getting better and better as years go by. Perhaps it’s the fresh energy brought to the band by the awesome guitarist Richie Faulkner, or the fact that Redeemer Of Souls put the band back on track in their career, but the truth is that they’ve been delivering flawless concerts for years in a row now, putting smiles on everyone’s faces and reminding us all why they’re called “Metal Gods”.

When the backdrop curtain carrying the Priest classic logo dropped, right after the venue sound system played an excerpt of “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath and the intro to one of their own new songs, the excellent “Battle Cry”, an avalanche of Heavy Metal classic mixed with some of their new tunes began, driving all diehard fans crazy with their intensity and passion in this successful Redeemer of Souls Tour 2015. And from the very beginning we could see how impressive the performance by the one and only Rob Halford is nowadays. The Metal God is already 64 years old, but he can still deliver it like if he was just 20 something. It’s sometimes unbelievable how powerful his voice still is at this stage of his career, don’t you agree?

IMG_0780I personally found part of the fans at the venue a little too slow for the electricity imposed by the band, but anyway most Heavy Metal maniacs had an unforgettable time singing and screaming together with Halford & Co. during the entire setlist. From the first part of the concert, I must say it was beautiful witnessing Halford singing the classic Desert Plains while Richie and the iconic Glenn Tipton were ripping our hearts off with their razing riffs, as simple and effective as that. And what to say about Halford’s monumental performances in the unparalleled Victim of Changes and the newer Halls of Valhalla, already a classic song for many? Holy shit, that gave me metallic goosebumps so awesome it was.

Then after playing a few more incredible tunes, such as The Rage and Turbo Lover, it looked like the Metal Gods wanted to mark our hearts, bodies and souls with their burning metal as the sequence of Heavy Metal anthems was beyond superb. They didn’t just play my favorite Priest song of all time, the fiery Screaming for Vengeance, they executed it to perfection. Add to that the back video where you could follow its lyrics (and see a meme of Halford SCREEEEAAAAAAMING! on the video by the end of the song), and you have the most astonishing moment of the night. Not only that, as soon as this masterpiece was over, Halford intoned his famous “Woo-woo-woo-yeah!” before the whole band kicked some serious ass with Breaking the Law and Hell Bent for Leather, the latter featuring Halford’s shining Harley-Davidson for the delight of everyone at the venue.

IMG_0793But before Judas Preist let Toronto be that quiet and cozy city again, they fired two final rounds of all-time classics, including Electric Eye, Painkiller and Living After Midnight. Let me tell you something about Painkiller, as it was a really bold move by the band to put it at the end of the setlist knowing how demanding it is, especially for Halford. When the unstoppable drummer Scott Travis provoked Toronto to go wild with his unique drumming intro, I wasn’t sure if Halford would be capable of delivering his high-pitched screams during the whole song. Well, guess what? That was by far the best performance by the Metal God singing Painkiller I’ve ever seen in my life, a billion times better than their 2005 DVD Rising in the East, and that was over 10 years ago.

At around 11pm the concert was over, people started heading back to their homes by car, subway or, like I did, by Go Train. Everyone was displaying a mix of happiness and complete exhaustion on the way back, but one thing is beyond certain after you witness such a beautiful ode to Heavy Metal. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for Judas Priest to return to Toronto again, we’ll all be there one more time to enjoy our metallic deities celebrating heavy music and, of course, SCREEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAMING FOR VENGEANCE!

Setlist
War Pigs (Black Sabbath song)
Battle Cry
Dragonaut
Metal Gods
Desert Plains
Victim of Changes
Halls of Valhalla
The Rage
Turbo Lover
Redeemer of Souls
Beyond the Realms of Death
Screaming for Vengeance
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather

Encore:
The Hellion/Electric Eye
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’

Encore 2:
Painkiller
Living After Midnight
Beginning of the End

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Concert Review – Judas Priest (Casino Rama, Rama, ON, 10/07/2014)

The Metal Gods descended from the sky to assault all of us with their magnificent Heavy Metal in a land far, far away.

INTRODUCTION: The Lost Civilization of Casino Rama

Judas-Priest-Redeemer-of-Souls-Tour-2014If you want to stay away from any type of civilization in this world, I suggest you go to a place called Casino Rama, located around two and a half ENDLESS hours from Toronto. In theory it should be a lot faster than that, but if you take into account the 5pm traffic to leave the city on a Tuesday (right in the middle of the week, by the way) and an annoying dose of heavy rain, the hassle of getting there is horribly extended and becomes a real torture. Who the hell decided Casino Rama on a tuesday night were the best venue and date for Judas Priest to perform in Ontario? I swear to God, Odin, Buddha and any other deity that I’ll NEVER return to that place again if not for Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. No other band can make me go there again, not even Slayer or Megadeth.

Not only that, I truly hate Heavy Metal concerts with pre-assigned seats. Why not leaving the floor section without those fuckin’ chairs? Just create a general floor area, and whoever wants to sit down while Judas Priest are playing Hell Bent For Leather (if that’s humanly possible), simply take one of the seats at the back. As simple as that, but it seems the very “knowledgeable” organizers were expecting Judas Priest to be as smooth as Kenny G or any other shit like that. Anyway, let’s try to always look on the bright side of life: at least the venue was nice and clean, parking was free, and the sound quality was beyond perfect. And of course, if you’re addicted to gambling, that’s also a good place to be.

OPENING ACT: Steel Panther

IMG_2955When the opening act are Hard Rock/Glam Metal jesters STEEL PANTHER, you know it’s going to be a memorable night. Although they’re truly funny even with 99.9% of their sexist jokes being really stupid, I believe their superb skills as musicians are what make them so awesome to watch, especially vocalist Michael Starr. In my opinion, he’s a much better singer than all hard rockers from the 80’s. Well, maybe only singer Ralph Saenz (ex-L.A. Guns) can be compared to him. Got it?

Their setlist might have been a little shorter than usual, but still full of classics such as Asian Hooker, Gold-Digging Whore, and Death To All But Metal, plus some songs from their new album All You Can Eat like the good Gloryhole, all perfectly complemented by their jokes about the age of the attendees (especially those screaming ladies in their 40’s and 50’s), their debate about Michael Starr being a fat version of Bret Michaels or a skinny version of Vince Neil, among many other “pearls of wisdom”. There couldn’t have been a better warm-up than that for the Metal Gods.

Before I talk about the Priest, I just wanted to say that it might be really cool and a huge honour for Russ Parrish to be on the road with the Metal God Rob Halford once again, even if they’re in different bands now. If you don’t get it, click HERE and you’ll understand why I mentioned that.

Band members
Michael Starr – lead vocals
Satchel – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars
Lexxi Foxxx – bass guitar
Stix Zadinia – drums, percussion, piano

JUDAS PRIEST

IMG_2973It was around 9:30pm when Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton & Co. hit the Casino Rama stage for another flawless performance. Right after Black Sabbath’s War Pigs and the intro for Priest’s own new song Battle Cry, thunders roared, the curtain was dropped and there they were with the excellent new song Dragonaut assaulting our bodies and souls with the purest Heavy Metal in the whole universe. What can I say about those guys that hasn’t been said yet? Rob Halford is not human: he is and will always be the METAL GOD, with his unique voice being absolutely perfect for both heavy stuff and smoother ballads; Scott and Glenn were as precise and heavy as usual; Richie injected some new oxygen to the band and proves with each concert why he was an amazing choice to replace K. K. Downing; and for the first time in my life, due to the sound quality of the venue, I could listen to Ian Hill’s bass lines.

Perhaps the most curious detail of their performance at Casino Rama (and during this whole tour so far) is the total absence of any songs from the masterpiece Painkiller, including its title-track, as well as other classics like “Electric Eye” and “Rapid Fire”, from the setlist. Instead, they opted for other types of classics, a little bit more underground but just as great as any of those songs, such as Devil’s Child, Jawbreaker, Love Bites, and Defenders of the Faith (which could have been complemented with “Heavy Duty” right before it like in the studio album, but that was awesome anyway), kind of celebrating 30 years of their classic album Defenders of the Faith.

And as we’re talking about the mighty Judas Priest, there’s a lot more to enjoy than “just” their unparalleled Heavy Metal: each and every song had a different background, with highlights to the fun and exciting images of the cult movie Nosferatu (1922) during Love Bites; Halford’s famous “robot walk” during Metal Gods; their badass Harley-Davidson in Hell Bent For Leather; and Halford letting the crowd sing Breaking the Law on their own, just like he did with his solo band during his Rock In Rio III concert in 1999.

IMG_2967One thing I truly loved during this concert was the fact that all new songs from Redeemer Of Souls sounded awesome live and were perfectly blended with their old classics, especially the magnificent Halls Of Valhalla. What an outstanding performance by the whole band during this powerful song, especially, of course, Mr. Rob Halford. Just as I mentioned in my review of the new album in regards to this song, “… which I’m sure will become a fan-favourite especially due to its lyrics and chorus and will also sound superb when played live”, and I was totally right!

The encore, with anthems like You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ and Living After Midnight, was a sonic orgasm to all Heavy Metal lovers that attended the show, but in my opinion the most memorable moment of their entire performance happened a little before that, when they played the all-time classic Beyond The Realms Of Death. Honestly, Rob Halford almost made me cry so beautiful and emotive his performance was. It was one of those moments you know why you love heavy music so much, and fully understand why he is entitled the Metal God.

I must admit the long and boring journey back from Casino Rama to Toronto on the same night (I got home at around 2am) was a lot easier thanks to the adrenaline running through my veins after such a stunning concert by the Priest. Although the band members are visibly aging (Rob, Glenn and Ian are all in their mid-60’s already), does that mean it’s the “beginning of the end” for the band? I don’t think so. As far as I could see, they’re better than ever, very excited to craft new powerful music, and playing their old classics with so much passion they look like they’re just starting their careers. And, of course, I cannot wait to see the Metal Gods kicking some serious ass live again with their unique jaw-dropping Heavy Metal. JUDAS FUCKIN’ PRIEST!

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

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Album Review – Judas Priest / Redeemer of Souls (2014)

The Metal Gods are finally back with another marvellous sonic storm forged in the fires of pure Heavy Metal.

Rating1

Redeemer-of-souls-album-cover-art-1280Take a look at the imposing album art of the awesome Redeemer of Souls, the highly anticipated brand new album by the unbeatable English Metal Gods Judas Priest, and there’s only one word that will come to your mind: METAL. That’s it, pure Heavy Metal. No experimentations, no synths, no electronic shenanigans, nor any other non-traditional Heavy Metal stuff. Even the production of the album sounds fresher and rawer than usual, despite many people complaining about it. After six long years since the good but controversial Nostradamus, the Priest is finally back to their basics, and this time it looks like it’s for good.

First of all, Redeemer of Souls, their seventeenth studio album in over 40 years of history (an impressive milestone, by the way), perspires Heavy Metal. As aforementioned, the band “abandoned” all the experimental stuff of the past two decades and opted for a 100% direct sonority, selecting what’s best in some of their classic albums such as Painkiller, Ram It Down and Sin After Sin, blending it with some interesting elements from Halford’s solo career, and adding an extra dose of energy to all songs, which is astonishing given the fact all band members, except for Richie Faulkner, are over 50 or 60 years old. And secondly, although I miss K.K. Downing and his phenomenal razing guitar duos with Glenn Tipton, Richie is indeed a pretty decent replacement for him and this is proven with his excellent contribution to this album.

But it’s when the music actually starts that you remember why they’re called the Metal Gods: it’s impossible not to fall in love for the opening track, the fantastic Dragonaut, with its “stormy” intro, heavy riffs, straight-forward lyrics and catchy chorus (“Fire in the sky paralyzed with fear / You know you´re gonna die / Dragonaut is near”), and everything else! If this song had been recorded back in the 80’s  or 90’s, it would have become one of Priest’s all-time classics without a shadow of a doubt. Then comes the title-track, Redeemer of Souls, a mix of “Dissident Aggressor” and “Hell Patrol” that is everything old Priest fans wanted to hear again. The lyrics couldn’t sound more Priest than this (“Count down coming your way / He’s the last to obey / Watch him seizing the day / Redeemer – redeemer of souls”),  and I can’t wait to do some air guitar with this song when Judas Priest come to town.

Judas PriestWithout a single second of boredom, the band keeps the energy level really high with the epic Halls of Valhalla (or maybe I should say “VALHALLAAAAAA!”), which I’m sure will become a fan-favourite especially due to its lyrics and chorus and will also sound superb when played live, followed by Sword of Damocles, another mighty track with a great initial riff blended with heavy and melodic drumming (with Mr. Scott Travis sounding as awesome as usual). Moreover, even after 40 years I’m still impressed with how metallic and captivating Halford’s voice always sounds, and it’s a pure delight to follow him declaiming the lyrics for this song so intensely. The next track, March of the Damned, has a very Hard Rock sonority with highlights to another great work done by Richie and Glenn, while Down in Flames can be considered the most “Halford” song of the entire album (it could have easily been part of his latest solo album Made of Metal).

Then we have another of the top songs of the album, Hell & Back, with a beautiful smooth intro followed by Ian Hill’s strong bass lines, more excellent heavy riffs perfect for that slow headbanging while having a cold beer, and an awesome fast ending; and Cold Blooded, which despite it’s nice rhythm, lacks more feeling an ends up being just an average song. And what can I say about a song called Metalizer? It’s as heavy as it can be, from the riffs to the drumming, from Halford’s voice to the strong chorus, with lots of similarities to “Demonizer” and “Hellrider” from Angel of Retribution.

I simply love the fact that Redeemer of souls doesn’t have only 9 or 10 songs and basically no intros or bridges, because there’s still a lot more to come. Crossfire seems to be some kind of tribute to Dio and Black Sabbath, with its intro and many other parts sounding like “I” from the excellent album Dehumanizer; while Secrets of the Dead is a slow and dark tune, one of the most melodic of the entire album, with its nice guitar solos and interesting narration in the middle enhancing its overall quality.

And lastly, the final two songs of the regular version of the album showcase a truly inspired band and leave us fans avid for more Priest: the mighty Battle Cry, with its epic guitar intro followed by pure Heavy Metal riffs and vocals, has one of those rising chorus tailored to be sung at full force by all fans at their live performances (and Halford might not reach the same notes from the past, but he’s still the Metal God); and the passionate ballad Beginning of the End, with its melancholic intro, has a really nice touch of some very old Priest classics like “Last Rose of Summer” and “Before the Dawn” highlights to Halford’s voice once again, closing the album in a very pleasant way. And don’t miss the deluxe edition, which comes with five extra brand new tracks by the Metal Gods to make things even better.

Judas Priest With Special Guests Black Label Society & Thin Lizzy In ConcertIn summary, the beautiful name of the album, just like the band did many times in the past as in Sad Wings of Destiny (the most beautiful name ever), Angel of Retribution and Defenders of the Faith, together with Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton and Scott Travis kicking some serious ass and the fiery and metallic album art, make Redeemer of Souls a must-have album for any fan of good music – second to none I should say if compared to most releases from any band in the past 10 or 15 years. I hate comparing what a band is currently doing with what they did in the past as I understand time goes by and people inevitably change, but in this case it’s amazing how the Metal Gods were able to “go back in time” without sounding cheesy, repetitive or outdated. Judas Priest might be celebrating 40 years of their debut album Rocka Rolla, released in 1974, but it looks like it’s the fans who are being presented with another great album forged in the fires of true Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the album: Dragonaut, Halls of Valhalla, Sword of Damocles, Hell & Back and Battle Cry.

Worst moments of the album: Cold Blooded might not be bad, but it ends up being the only song not as powerful as the rest of the album.

Released in 2014 Epic Records/Columbia Records

Track listing
1. Dragonaut 4:26
2. Redeemer of Souls 3:58
3. Halls of Valhalla 6:04
4. Sword of Damocles 4:54
5. March of the Damned 3:55
6. Down in Flames 3:56
7. Hell & Back 4:46
8. Cold Blooded 5:25
9. Metalizer 4:37
10. Crossfire 3:51
11. Secrets of the Dead 5:41
12. Battle Cry 5:18
13. Beginning of the End 5:07

Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
14. Snakebite 3:14
15. Tears Of Blood 4:19
16. Creatures 4:25
17. Bring It On 3:18
18. Never Forget 6:25

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums