Didn’t do a lot of travelling to see shows this year, but there were a lotta great gigs in Toronto! I’m not even gonna bother with a “Top Non-Metal Concerts” this time around (except for just one), or even do that reverse countdown thing to keep you reading to the end. Instead, we’re delivering the goods, straight from the top:
1. Sleep @ Danforth Music Hall, July 30, 2018: I have seen Sleep six times in four different cities, but this was the first time the vocals were actually audible above the riffs! And you know how they’re playing two sets at Roadburn next year, one of the new album and another one of the classics? Yeah, they already did that last summer in Toronto…
2. Corrosion of Conformity/Eyehategod/Pale Mare/Ol’ Time Moonshine @ Opera House, January 9, 2018: Eyehategod’s first-ever Canadian show might have been the night before in Montreal, but you definitely felt the anticipation for this one…and COC brought the fire afterwards. Funny thing is that this was a last-minute “make up” gig when Zakk Wylde cancelled his tour stop at Rebel, with these two bands opening…but who needs Zakk Wylde anyways?
3. Angel Witch/Blood Ceremony/Cauldron @ Lee’s Palace, May 16, 2018: Speaking of firsts, this was Angel Witch’s first-ever Toronto appearance, and a North American one-off, with the band en route to a major metal festival in Chile. Throw in two of the most established names in the Toronto scene, and you’ve got an evening to remember!
4. Eyehategod/The Obsessed @ Spirit Hall, Pittsburgh, September 22, 2018: This particular gig was memorable for starting at 7 pm sharp, for being Gary Mader’s birthday…oh, and for Wino, of course!
5. Yob/Bell Witch/Vile Creature @ Mod Club, July 4, 2018: Mike Scheidt has been through a lot in the past few years, leading to a more emotive album from Yob in 2018…and a very heartfelt performance at the Mod Club in July.
666. Slayer + guests @ Budweiser Stage, May 29, 2018: This show was so epic that a guy from Oshawa tried to swim across a creek to get in. Nuff said!
7. Earthless/Kikagaku Moyo @ Lee’s Palace, March 14, 2018: Despite some reservations about their new albums, Earthless brought the jams—and the lava-lamp light show—to Toronto with some solid Japanese support.
8. Monster Magnet/Electric Citizen @ Lee’s Palace, September 28, 2018: A long-overdue makeup gig from Dave Wyndorf and company definitely didn’t disappoint, with Lee’s Palace sold out well in advance. And Electric Citizen made more than a few new fans that night!
9. Clutch @ Rebel, October 23, 2018: While promoting a pretty solid new album, Clutch also reached deep into their discography for some unexpected chestnuts in this late-fall performance. Also worth noting that they opened with “The Mob Goes Wild” just a few days after smoking pot in Canada officially became mainstream.
10. The Skull plays Trouble @ Hard Luck, January 30, 2018: Speaking of lost classics, The Skull (featuring Trouble alum Eric Wagner and Ron Holzner) brushed off Trouble’s classic self-titled album in its entirety on this brutally cold evening.
11. Brujeria/Dayglo Abortions @ Opera House, June 16, 2018: Man, I fuckin’ love Brujeria; I own not one, not two, but three of their t-shirts, including one of the best anti-Trump band shirts I’ve seen. I had only seen them south of the border (once) before this date.
12. Witch Mountain, Volur, Smoulder @ The Garrison, August 4, 2018: Maybe one of the best-curated bills in terms of local support I saw this year (aside from the Number 3 concert on this list). Witch Mountain’s new singer made her Toronto debut, with some impressive new material…but it was Smoulder who sold out of their merch this night.
13. Uriah Heep @ The Phoenix, February 12, 2018: Middle-aged dads and their 30-something sons found common ground in this rare local appearance from the 70’s proto-metal legends. There might only be one guy left from back in the day, but they still put on a good show!
14. Dirkschneider @ Mod Club, February 28, 2018: Udo and company dug deeper into the Accept back catalogue than on their previous tribute tour, which was pretty cool. For my money’s worth, he still sounds better than Mark Tornillo.
15. Pallbearer/Tribulation @ Lee’s Palace, September 15, 2018: I came to see Pallbearer, but was still pretty entertained by Swedish “dark metal” outfit Tribulation, making their Toronto debut. The crowd actually seemed to thin out a bit after their co-headlining set.
16. Windhand/Satan’s Satyrs @ Horseshoe Tavern, November 5, 2018: Yes, this same duo played the same venue last year. But any chance I get to see Satan’s Satyrs in the flesh, I will definitely take it!
17. Black Tusk/Whores/WhiteNails @ Lee’s Palace, August 20, 2018: This gig was super high-energy from start to finish, with each outfit leaving a ridiculous amount of sweat on stage!
18. Monolord/The Death Wheelers/Low Orbit @ The Garrison, September 3, 2018: Yeah, Monolord was fuckin’ heavy, but I was also impressed by The Death Wheelers, an instrumental “horror doom” biker gang from Quebec City, of all places…
HONOURABLE MENTION: Margo Price/Tyler Childers @ Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, May 20, 2018: I will refrain from putting a non-metal show on my list this year—but this was one of the top five concerts I saw in 2018. If you’re remotely into country music, it’s worth seeing at least one show at the Ryman in your lifetime. And if you don’t know either of these artists, well let’s just say that Price and Childers have enough songs about drinkin’, cheatin’ and hard livin’ between ‘em to put a tear in ol’ Waylon’s eye…