Journalist and photographer: Alex Stojanovic
Photo edit: Navneet Johal
Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions)
Drew Masters (M.E.A.T.)
Daniel Tsourounis (Producer)
Dan Turcotte (Pet Shop Productions)
*battle round winner
The fourth annual Wacken Metal Battle Canada is underway and it has just started for the Toronto edition as we are already into round 2. A group of devoted headbangers packed the Rivoli on a cool and warm Friday night for a night of great music from five great local bands competing for the chance to represent our country at Wacken Open Air this year. The contest grows every year, but the only difference this year is that in the qualifying rounds, only one band moves on as opposed to two bands in the previous years. Round 2 featured a very diverse lineup of bands each bringing something different to the table.
Kicking off the festivities was At Dawn's Edge. I've had the chance to see this band before at the Metal Divas Fest back in 2014 and they put on a good performance then, but I have to say that they put on an even better performance this time around. Guitarists Alex Oprea and Matt Ozzy delivered some dark grooving riffs with their eight-string Ibanez guitars as Ashavari Anna Joshi grooved along to the riffs and delivered some great angelic vocals. Aside from the great performance, the only thing that was a tad awkward was the fact that they don't have a bass player. That's something I'm not used to seeing, but the really low-tuned guitars together seemed to have given a fair amount of bottom end.
The intensity level was then raised with Devilz By Definition taking the stage next, who displayed the best stage presence of the night. Guitarist Jamie Couvillion and bassist Mat Dobbin played in the crowd several times and Jamie even ran to the back of the room and then jumped into the mosh pit and moshed while performing. You don't see that a lot. The synchronized full-body headbangs and stomping on stage raised the energy in the room. Musically, they remind me of Lamb Of God with Shawn Mailloux's vocals being in the vein of Randy Blythe and the riffs had a Willie Adler/Mark Morton flavour to them. They were definitely a strong contender for advancing to the next round.
Finally was Vodnik who finished off the night with one more round of aggression with some deathcore/death metal. Vocalist Reinier Viktor Vandenbosch had a bit of a Steve-O look, but he is an absolute beast on stage as he delivered some brutal vocals which complimented the crushing riffs of Jeremy Jackson really well and he also delivered some melodic vocals. The energy of the band and the beastly tunes caused mosh pits to erupt and the crowd headbanged with fury to the pounding rhythms. Great way to end the night.
Slow Death Lights took the stage next. They brought a more straightforward rock n' roll vibe which I thoroughlly enjoyed and I think I can speak for everyone else. It's also not very often where you see a band where the drummer sings lead vocals, so that gives the band a bit of uniqueness. Drummer Andre Skinner and bassist Luke Stackhouse shared vocal duties, while Andre provided the lead vocals, and both of them gave some great vocal harmonies. They were also the first band to have a mosh pit going, but the pit faded after only about 20-30 seconds. Aside from the great music, I wish the band moved around on stage a bit more because the lack of movement made the performance a bit dull.
Fourth band was Pyramid Theorem, who had a slightly more classic progressive rock sound. Frontman Christian Di Mambro played a Rickenbacker bass and the sound was almost identical to Geddy Lee's bass sound from the 70s when he used to play the Rickenbacker bass on the classic Rush records of the 70s and early 80s. He also had great vocals. His brother Stephen Di Mambro switched between synthesizers and guitars. He played synths for the first few songs, then changed to the guitar for the last couple of songs.