If you’re a headbanger who’s regularly on the prowl for loud underground metal around the city of Toronto, then you know and look forward to the yearly Wacken Metal Battles. This is the ‘biggest metal contest on the planet’, and with champions Crimson Shadows, Vesperia, and 2016 runner ups Profaner, our Toronto area homeboys usually do well.
According to Wacken Battle Canada:
The year 2018 will be Canada’s 5th annual participation in the Wacken Metal Battle and will include 13 major cities in total: Toronto, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, and BC Interior. Only the strongest of contenders will be chosen to participate, to yield one true champion, and represent their nation with highest honor at the Wacken Open Air Festival.
Each band plays 1 preliminary show. If successful they will move on and play 1 semi-final show. If successful again, they will perform at either the Eastern Final in Montreal or the Western Final in Calgary. The winners there will then play the Canadian Final in Toronto.”
The serious bands compete, and with Toronto‘s thriving underground scene, us dark souls that make up the city’s metal community, have a series of great shows to look forward to.
It’s difficult being the opening band, the crowd is sober getting their first drinks, people are still saying hello, and you’re on. Groove core, with grind like syncopated rhythms and odd time signatures; everybody in the band is a talented musician.
The singer was getting frustrated with the distracted, partially-engaged crowd, and it could be part of their shtick, though everybody in the band seemed pissed off. The bass player, however, was having a blast in his corner, bopping and grooving like a gremlin demon, his long fingers dancing up and down his low hanging 5 string bass. There was great riffage and some interesting chords and progressions, though the guitar needed to be turned up. Some of the beats the drummer was pulling were impressive, notably the third song “Hands of Time”, a tune sporting an infectious riff. It looked like the drummer was playing with a click track, which is standard for pros, except he was wasn’t on all of the time. This brand of metal requires machine like precision, and it hurts me to say, but if you’re playing with the click, be on, or better perform without it. It drains the energy, and kills the momentum.
Thrash hardcore in the vain of Municipal Waste, though with Randy Blythe style vocals. Short sweet songs, some of those guys looked like hoods on stage. The singer Miko was dressed in a plaid shirt for most of the set, and the tattooed bandanna donning drummer looked like a menace. The guitarist is obviously really talented, and so are the other band members.
The band encountered technical difficulties on stage, with the slick playing bass player’s feed being cut out (loose cable probably). Even though it was quickly resolved, it made them look less professional when they problem solved it as a band. In my opinion, they should have went on with the set, trust the bassist to solve the issue and appropriately jump back in. The singer has a great a voice, and I’m not sure how he can do what he does, because I didn’t see an effects-board, and even if he did use one, he sure can scream.
Although, he could work on his banter between songs, as he seemed to turn from the dad type introducing the songs, to an angry gangster singing them; maybe that’s the point.
So far, this band has the most structured songs, delivering a lace up your boots, groove oriented brand of Thrash. The bass player was the first of the night to be using a pic, and his sound added to their auditory size, and, along with the hard hitting drummer, made them a bass heavy band. They have some good hooks, and by the end of their set, they’re cooking. The singer seems to have a lot of passion, and so far in the night, this band had the best stage sound.
Few bars into the first song, and it’s evident that this drummer was a class higher than the rest. In the pocket syncopation with no mistakes, and the drums sounded triggered (at least the kicks). The crisp drum sound contributed to what I think is a band well aware of how they want to sound live. Those guys looked like they were having a blast on stage, and when the drummer is on the clock, like a clock, they could. The tattooed skin-man looked like a bad-ass killing it behind the kit. The clean backup vocals complimented the harsh vocal delivery of the front-man.
Some of their songs gave my head a whirl, especially because you could hear the individual instruments so well, as each complimented the next, and presented a well executed technical set. At this point in the night, the crowd was right into it, and the band loved it. They closed the set with an epic piece that kept building and crashing, as their songwriting employs a good amount of contrast in dynamics as well as in tempo. So far, they have the most professional stage sound, as well as the tightest drummer.
Those guys looked like rock stars, with the bassist rocking out like a drunken pirate, and the vocalist/guitarist (singing through a wireless ear piece) sported a Wendel Clark mustache and a leather vest, looking like he could belong on stage with Manowar!
The music is an equal mix of traditional metal and Thrash. The sound they delivered was big, and the band was obviously well rehearsed. They connected with the crowd, as security had to stop people body surfing (never seen body surfing at the Bovine before). By their third song, the band was on fire, and their stage energy was on point, exuding the crowd’s electricity right back at them. Good song writing, the abundant hooks worked, as the shots and stops were dead on (I couldn’t even hear a high-hat count, right in the pockets).
The song “This is Life” was a highlight, and showcased once again how well practiced they were. The music kept building up energy, and I think they delivered a flawless set.
And just like that, it was over, as the cathartic crowd ordered drinks awaiting the judges’ decision.
Even though not everybody was at their best, every band delivered a face crushing performance.
They announce the winner in unison after a 3 count: Centuries of Decay.
My personal favourite for the night were the on fire Black Absinthe, though the Wacken Battles are cold and unbiased, as the band with the best drummer, and over all most well put together stage sound, did win.
Let the battles continue.
Vodnik – by Sascha Duentsch.
Teach her Treason – by Brandy Sessford.
Burdizzo and Centuries of Decay – by Jerome Joyce.
Black Absinthe – by Dylan Weller.
TORONTO SHOWS 2018
Fri, February 9, 2018 – Bovine, Toronto – WINNER Centuries of Decay
Fri, February 16, 2018 – Coalition, Toronto
Fri, February 23, 2018 – Rivoli, Toronto
SOUTHERN ONTARIO FINAL
Sat, March 24, 2018 – Hard Luck, Toronto
EASTERN CANADA FINAL
Sat, May 12, 2018 – Piranha Bar, Montreal
Sat, June 9, 2018 – OPERA HOUSE, TORONTO