Archive for Death Metal

Preview: Heavy MTL 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2013 by Lightning Slim

And so the pilgrimage is set to begin again. Heavy MTL 2013 will (hopefully) be a good time that will rinse out the bad taste of encroaching cheapness that has overtaken the show of late. Main sponsor has switched from Budweiser to Molson Canadian, which is a bit like telling a captive that flogging has been discontinued in favour of foot-sole beatings.

Also, remember these?


The beautiful holographic VIP passes and lanyards that have been a cool feature of the MTL experience are now gone. Paper tickets only. Wonder how MUNG those are going to get when we have to show them to security every time we want to get into the seating area? Also likely gone is any sort of physical schedule, which was slowly eroded from a full magazine/brochure until last year it was a single flyer, inaccurate and delivered late in the day.

For the first time, MTL has offered its own dedicated accommodation package; a set of rooms at the New Residence of McGill University (the building itself is a former 4-star hotel). This could either be the best decision we’ve ever made or the worst, as it is inexpensive and convenient, and populated entirely with heavy metal maniacs. You see the double edge of the sword here, no?


Now, for the schedule. Here’s Saturday:

Sat Schedule


Although I’m a little sad that A7X takes pride of place over Megadeth, I totally get it. Dudes are old and tired. Not as successful as Metallica or grass-roots respected as Testament. Plus, Dave Mustaine is like three seconds away from pulling his pants up to his armpits and turning into cranky old Republican Clint Eastwood. Thing is, Eastwood has always been a “good guy with a gun”, and never wrote “Hook In Mouth” or covered “Anarchy in the UK”.  My crew will be hanging with Wintersun anyways.

Why are we forced to decide between GWAR and Blackguard while Halestorm is in the free and clear? Grr. Ah well, I can’t resist seeing what the inconsistent Antarcticans* can come up with in a festival setting.

Similarly, it hurts me that I have to run from interesting proggers Baroness to see a few minutes of jaunty, parodic Steel Panther.

Sorry, Newsted. A reformed At The Gates takes it. And a possible train wreck reunion of Danzig and Doyle is way more fun than All Shall Perish.

How about Sunday?

Schedule Sun

No interruptions to the silly fun of Huntress! Or Finntroll! Or the-real-reason-everyone-is-here Amon Amarth! Me likey.

Then there’s some time for a Dagwood sandwich, some people watching and a bit of a nap before Machine Head.

Thrash newcomers Havok would be in trouble if both Mastodon and Children of Bodom hadn’t played Canada 150 times in the past decade. I swear I’ve seen Mastodon more than the Dayglo Abortions, and it’s well-known the Dayglos will play your living room for $200 and a pizza if you can track them down. Looking forward to it, Havok!

While I actually enjoyed the mellow vibe Godsmack brought to their last appearance at MTL, I don’t need it again. Certainly not at the expense of missing Cryptopsy.

Zombie is never bad live – let’s hope he keeps his record strong.


Will report back afterwards, of course! Check my Twitter feed for on-the-day shenanigans!


* I love GWAR, but they can’t self-edit. Every record (excepting the first two) has at least one excruciatingly bad track on it. I made a “worst of” playlist and discovered they could play an hour long full set of filler.

Album Review – Amon Amarth “Deceiver of the Gods” 2013

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on July 15, 2013 by Lightning Slim

AmonAmarth-DeceiverOfTheGods  When Metallica followed up Ride the Lightning with Master of Puppets, an album that is virtually identical in terms of structure and songwriting, I don’t recall anyone at the time getting butthurt about receiving more of a good thing.

Why, then, is Deceiver of the Gods getting flak for its lack of forward momentum and the band’s entirely sane decision to not go about fixing the unbroken and popular sounds they’ve achieved of late? Personally, I look at it this way:

Twilight of the Thunder God = Number of the Beast; the definitive and instant classic.

Surtur Rising = Piece of Mind; the longer and more confident follow-up. Less oomph, but definite quality.

Deceiver of the Gods = (you guessed it) Powerslave; a top-of-the-game album. Safe choices, very clean production.

It’s a fun record with all the chops you would expect and influences written all over it. It has a Priest’s worth of double harmonies and a heck of a lot of old-school thrash. “Blood Eagle”, in particular just screams Kreator. I highly recommend the deluxe version, which includes an EP of original tunes written (absolutely perfectly) in the style of Priest, AC/DC, Mötorhead and Sabbath. Johan Hegg’s Ozzy impersonation alone is worth the price of admission.

If these past three records are where the Amon Amarth wants to plateau, I have absolutely no problem with camping out a while. Let’s just hope my Maiden analogy goes no further. 8 out of 10

Riff Sammiches: 5 Multi-Riff Masterpieces

Posted in Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by Lightning Slim

Welcome to the first segment in my new “Lists” category. Lists are a tried-and-true method for bloggers to put up some content when they’re a little lean on material. People also like ’em because they’re so flexible and generate discussion. After all, everyone has their own personal lists and they love to compare. I’m hoping y’all are no exception, so here we go:
We’re all here because we love a good guitar riff, and there are many ways to put them together and make songs. Some artists are stingy or minimalists, and keep their riffs sparse within the tune. Others are total riff factories and splash them about liberally. Here are five tunes made better by generous helpings of guitar goodness. And yes, of course there are more out there, probably by Tool and Machine Head, but I did want to keep things under the 9-minute mark:

5. Bolt Thrower – “Contact – Wait Out”. Featuring an unloved and unfairly judged one-off vocal performance from Dave Ingram, Honour – Valour – Pride starts off with a track featuring an entry riff, a mid-song change-up at around 3:20 and an exit riff that eventually blends with the entry. Superb.

4. Arch Enemy – “Enemy Within”. Another album starter, this time built on one of the best intros in the genre and the big debut of Angela Gossow. I always have to listen to this track twice because as beautiful as the solo section is, the rhythm guitar work underneath it is just as interesting.

3. Iron Maiden – “Powerslave” C’mon, where do you think Arch Enemy got the idea? Sure, we all know the big title riff, but the middle section has enough spare six-string in it write at least three more songs. Those were the days, no?

2. Overkill – “Gasoline Dream”. No strangers to riff largesse, Overkill often close out their records with something even more big and epic. Sometime it has to do with their Overkill-themed masterwork, sometimes not. “Gasoline Dream” is one of the stand-alones, filled with speed changes, multiple ideas and a Sabbath-influenced acoustic ending.

1. Black Sabbath – “Symptom of the Universe”. Did someone mention Sabbath? Mad drum fills! Super-stoned bouncy-bass outro! Cybernetic unicorns! Containing something for literally everyone, “Symptom” is like seven songs in one; none of which make sense and all of which are great.

Album Review: Battlecross “Pursuit of Honor” 2011

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  Geez, what a fun thrash record. Battlecross make a fantastic case for filling the void left behind in American thrash by the untimely departure of Himsa, and would slide neatly into a bill with Lazarus AD and Skeletonwitch. Severe guitar wizardry meets oddly poignant lunch-pail working class anger in these songs, with few wasted moments. A band to watch, for sure.

Highlights: The single “Push Pull Destroy” which may start its own dance craze, “Man of Stone” and “Better Off Dead’, the latter a classic hating-peoples-guts song that no thrash band should be without. 

Lowlights: Frequent and suspicious use of 909 kick-drum drops, which I suppose an old geezer like me is going to have to get used to.

Full marks also for putting what appears to be an ersatz “Sargent D” on the cover. 7.5 out of 10

Album Review – Morbid Angel “Illud Divinum Insanus” 2011

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on January 23, 2012 by Lightning Slim

  If you’ve formed an extreme metal band, it basically goes without saying that you take at least some pleasure in the discomfort of others. Morbid Angel have always pushed the boundaries of good taste and challenging material, and with Illud Divinum Insanus they’re pissing everyone off, even their own fanbase. Oh sure, the lightning fast riffs and technical wizardry of Trey Azagthoth still dominate the landscape, but what are the scowling, arms-in-crossed-longsleeves faithful to make of the Alec Empire-tinged industrial techno pound of “Too Extreme!”? 

The record is recognizably Morbid Angel in parts, which only serves to make it more divisive. For every more traditional death metal track in “Blades for Baal” or “Nevermore” there is an equal upraised stylistic middle finger such as “Radikult” or “Destructos vs. the Earth”, the former a lengthy swing/jazz influenced number (yup) and the latter seven solid minutes of cartoonish vaudevillainy reminiscent of this scene from the Rankin/Bass Return of the King

Morbid Angel are taking gleeful license with their aesthetic here, and the success or failure of the album is based on your opinion toward whether or not their responsibility is to the long-time fan or their own evolving vision. Answer that and you will unlock the mystery of whether Illud Divinum Insanus is a spit in the face of history or an inspired piece of lunacy; Morbid Angel’s St. Anger or their own version of Now, Diabolical. My score tells you where I stand. 8.5 out of 10

Classic Album Review – Bolt Thrower “Realm of Chaos” 1989

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on October 25, 2011 by Lightning Slim

  If you haven’t heard Bolt Thrower’s second album, you’ve missed an important moment in the history of extreme metal. It’s a mess, but oh, what a glorious one. The album opens with what might be the sound effect of a steamroller or tank approaching, and then, for 35 minutes, the band attempts to emulate this sound using their instruments. The End.

Realm of Chaos, subtitled “Slaves to Darkness”,  is well named, doing Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It’s a lot like Kill ‘em All in its youthful exuberance, sheer sloppiness and ability to turbocharge the extreme attributes of genre. Metallica grabbed the burgeoning thrash movement and turned up the speed, the hype and the fun factor. Bolt Thrower examined the roots of grindcore and turned nothing up; they turned it down. Way down. The guitar tuning on this album renders the strings audibly rickety and spaghetti-like, turning even the fastest of riffs into a wallowing morass of sound. Perhaps BT felt that if Tony Iommi could play without fingertips, then they could bring new meaning to “slap bass” and just bash the instruments with their fists. Andy Whale’s “blast beats” plot a cringe-worthy rollercoaster course reminiscent of a tipsy driver barely managing to stay between the lines. The anguished, frenzied guitar solos are played as if  Gavin and Baz have jumped onstage with Slayer to join in the last 20 seconds of “Reign in Blood” and expect to be tackled by security at any moment. 

Sporting sheer sludginess that would make the Melvins blush, Realm of Chaos inhabits a universe of elephantine bruiting, monstrous roars and sudden cannon fire. There is no single identifiable human sound on this record. It stalks the desolate, crater-filled Warhammer 40000 landscape protected from any hint of irony by the self-contained armour of feverish conviction. Mankind’s dark future shall have no peace, no sense of humour, and certainly no death n’ roll.

There are bones to pick underneath the tracks of this death machine, but it seems churlish to bring them to light. So what if the beginning of “Plague Bearer” is lifted directly from the bridge of “World Eater”? It’s like saying Jackson Pollock used blue paint on more than one canvas. I have spoken with people who hate this album but still remain impressed with how bonkers the whole thing is, and that anyone would agree to produce it. I’m no hater. 9 out of 10

Deals and Steals: All You Need is Cash

Posted in Deals & Steals with tags , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by Lightning Slim

  Deals and Steals goes a bit country this time out, with a whole lot of the Man in Black with just a bit of blackened metal. All prices $US, shipping was $6.99.

 Johnny Cash – American Recordings, Unchained, The Man Comes Around, A Hundred Highways, Ain’t No Grave. Otherwise known as the entire American Series, collectively purchased at Second Spin for $32.96. The only missing title, American III: Solitary Man, showed up at The Beat Goes On for me the same week for $9.99. Cash’s late-period tales of retribution, regret and redemption are a must-have for anyone even mildly curious about this fascinating musician.

Also headed my way this month:

  Skeletonwitch – Beyond the Permafrost and Breathing the Fire, $7.99 for the pair. Deathly fun with serious riff chops. Have you seen this amazing artwork before?

Blackguard – Firefight $7.99. French Canada’s fast n’ frilly response to Children of Bodom. They put on a heck of a set at Heavy MTL 2011.

Album Review – Amon Amarth “Surtur Rising” 2011

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on April 19, 2011 by Lightning Slim

  Surtur Rising kicks off with “War of the Gods”, a punishing gallop through territory Amon Amarth knows very well, and they deliver the goods with polish and ease. As an opener, it also serves as a “Previously On” looking back to previous record Twilight of the Thunder God, which was an exhilarating (and possibly unsustainable) headlong charge. The rest of the album explores different tempos and moods, the tone of these songs having a lot more in common with earlier works With Oden On Our Side or The Fate of Norns. The deeds and passions of gods and men mingle here, and if it is difficult to distinguish between the two that is likely by design.
What Amon Amarth are doing here, exploring the small moments across the battle field of Ragnarök, is the same thing Amorphis have done by returning to the Kalevala for source material: added a mature legitimacy to the enterprise. These are actual Scandinavians recounting the legends and history of their people with an eye to detail that makes Manowar seem like a bunch of bikers who like to LARP. The story is here viewed though the veil of myth, not the fuzzy lens of fantasy, a difference that seems small but allows us to immerse ourselves in a different time and place without projecting MTV-era values onto them.
Speaking of the mainstream, however, my deluxe copy contains bonus covers “Balls to the Wall” and “War Machine”, which AA make their own with aplomb to round out a solid recording. It’s not Thunder God’s runaway freight train full of TNT, but Surtur Rising is great metal by anyone’s standards, and another milestone for the heavy hitters of Team Viking. 8.5 out of 10

Album Review – Dark Tranquillity “We Are the Void” 2010

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2011 by Lightning Slim

  Dark Tranquillity’s 2007 release Fiction was very well received, and therefore a hard act to follow. Taking a leaf from the book of their Gothenburg brothers In Flames, DT have  given us more of the same good stuff.  We Are the Void bears much the same relationship to its predecessor as Reroute to Remain does to Clayman, taking the same songwriting ideas and recording techniques and running with them largely unchanged,  serving up slightly shorter and simpler songs delivered at a crisp, professional pace with a strong thematic and tonal unity amongst the tracks.
Opening with surgical slasher “Shadow in Our Blood”, followed by pounder “Dream Oblivion”, the Swedish sextet manage to maintain the line of tension throughout the record. Even when operating at differing tempos, the band hold firmly to the thread of our listening attention right up to the droning fade-out of sleepy, Fear-Factory style closer “Iridium”. Alas, current market forces dictate that all releases must have bonus tracks, so we only have a few seconds to appreciate the album’s true ending before we’re hit with a couple of decent B-sides, number and selection depending on your geographic location and/or method of purchase.
The inimitable Martin Popoff has pointed out that Master of Puppets is essentially a remake/sequel to Ride the Lighting, and that there’s nothing wrong with that. We Are the Void works the same way, striking no new iron but fixing none of the perfectly unbroken concepts we’ve been enjoying since Fiction. 8 out of 10  

Album Review – Dimmu Borgir “Abrahadabra” 2010

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , on November 28, 2010 by Lightning Slim

   Abrahadabra finds Dimmu Borgir in a relaxed and looser mood than previous outing In Sorte Diaboli, an album which was much more conceptually dependant and lyrically dense. While this will never be mistaken for the Monkees, Abrahadabra is as close as DB might get to a romp, with simpler arrangements and a replayable catchiness on display throughout. Single “Gateways” even has them putting an entire symphony and choir to work and getting their Nightwish on with favourable results. The three remaining members (Mustis and Vortex got the sack last year) are having fun and it shows.

Ah, fun, the ultimate F-word in black and death metal circles. Both Dimmu Borgir and Anglo-Saxon soul mates Cradle of Filth are routinely raked over the coals for their flirtations with more mainstream forms of metal, something which I’m sure doesn’t cross their minds as they choose between Dom and Krug at their club table. Your snob-o-meter might know the difference between Abrahadabra and something recorded in the true black metal fashion*, but your ears will enjoy it just the same, if not more. 7.5 out of 10

*shitty, possibly from prison

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