By Renee Trotier
In my quest to live a life full of polarizing experiences, I chose to spend my Canada Day long weekend in two very different ways. First it was an evening of rock, taking in a patriotic outdoor Canada Day performance by our country’s own radio darlings The Tragically Hip. With no less than 40,000 others in attendance it was a massive show to be sure, if not exactly metal head friendly. By contrast, my following night was spent in the Blue MoonPub at an event appropriately titled “Thrash Bash”. Showcasing a plethora of Canadian thrash bands and attended by around fifty or so others, this was not only my redemption into the realm of metal; it was a scenario I felt immediately more comfortable in. I suppose that there’s something to be said for the ability of a small, dimly lit venue and loud, angry music to make a metal head feel at home.
Spewgore were the second band of the night but the first to make acquaintance with my ear holes. They play a style of thrash that combines a healthy mix of early 80’s speed metal with a dash of punk and grind, and I have to say that they play it with conviction. The fact that the members are old enough to be my father seemed to add to the charm, coming across as seasoned, hard working dudes who refuse to abandon their love of metal and the community it’s spawned. Silver haired vocalist Bill Brown in particular seems like the type of guy who’d share a pint of beer with you while spouting off every song Slayer ever recorded in alphabetical order, and it is this feeling of authoritative expertise that is translated live. Playing in bursts of speed and furiosity with just the right amount of attitude, Spewgore won over the small crowd and even obliged requests for “One more song!” with the seasonally appropriate “Canadian Pride”. Awesome.
Hailing from Vancouver, Titan’s Eve played the night’s most modern and original take on the thrash genre. Combining memorable choruses and mature song writing, they are a band who isn’t satisfied with simply rehashing what has been done before them. On record, songs like “Tides of Doom” and “Becoming the Demon” suffer from a lack of richness that is more due to production than anything else. Live however, with all instruments in proper balance, those same songs are elevated, almost transformed with a new sense of depth. Between their memorable hooks, song writing chops and high level of professional acuity, it’s about time Titan’s Eve graduated to a bigger stage.
Next up was Eternal Judgment and their slab of technical trash. Unfortunately, it is here that my ability to critique becomes tricky. While I know I was impressed by their obvious guitar chops and intricate bass interludes, I can’t for the life of me remember anything else of note. No antics, no banter, no memorable highs or lows; just consistently pleasant thrash played with obvious skill. Take from this what you will.
For a supposed thrash bash, Ash Lee Blade stuck out like a couple of thin kids at fat camp. They might have some fast paced riffs and up tempo drumming, but deep down in their core they are a traditional metal band with NWOBHM in their soul. Vocalist A.L. Blade’s high falsetto is what carries the band’s sound, and when combined with classic metal riffs and blistering solos the results are pretty satisfying. With band members bounding around the tiny stage and fans thrashing in the pit, the only real downfall to their set were the microphone problems they seemed to experience near the end.
While Ash Lee Blade brought a new flavour to the party, Quebec’s Reanimator were intent on being the party itself. Taking periodical swigs from a gas can and moving spastically around the stage, the band was nothing if not energetic. Drummer Francis Labelle in particular is the picture of unbridled enthusiasm, standing on his drum stool and calling on the crowd between songs. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. While the instrumental elements were all well played, it was vocalist Patrick Martin’s metalcore type screech which ultimately lost me. I found myself growing tired with the lack of variation and even Francis’s crazy stage antics became over extended after awhile, dragging out what felt like the longest set of the night.
Toronto’s own Fatality took the stage around 1:00am to much fanfare. Acting as our gracious hosts for the evening, they seemed to take a personal interest in showing everyone a good time. Pulling material from their debut album Beers from the Grave and the new “T.F.E.S.” demo (that’s “Thrash. Fuck. Eat. Sleep.” for those keeping track), we were treated to one furious blast of old school style thrash after another. Fans pushed and shoved their way to the front of the stage, and at one point vocalist Spencer LaVon asked, ever so politely, if he could stage dive onto them. This spirit of friendship and camaraderie are what Fatality have built their reputation on, and I have no doubt they will be well received as they head out on their Western Annihilation Tour this week.
After a long weekend of celebrating my home and native land, I decided that 1:30am was a good a time as any to throw in the proverbial towel. My jam packed schedule had left me exhausted but happy. Whether it was mainstream rock or underground thrash, I had proof of our nation’s ability to produce home grown talent and it made me proud. Happy Canada day indeed!