Thrash Your Face Off Tour Live In Ottawa

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 @ 5:38 PM

Mavericks Bar

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For many metal fans it would seem - and it honestly is - ludicrous that people would rather drop $50 to see a DJ/'actor" from a lame reality show attempt his nonexistent DJ skills instead of seeing five up-and-coming thrash bands for less than half that price. But that seemed to be the case when the Thrash Your Head Off tour would go up against Jersey Shore's Pauly D in attracting a sold-out audience on a Sunday night whose forecast called for freezing rain. And technically, for $50 Pauly D should at least be a half-decent DJ even for his genre of music and maybe have J-WOWW or Sammi give free lap dances that won't cause permanent spinal damage to the paying customer. Yet even with the weather hindering the journey from Montreal for two of the bands on the bill Thrash Your Head Off not only provided good value for one's entertainment dollar but also the chance to interact with the band members, check out new songs being debuted live and bear witness to an all-star jam featuring the bass player from one of Canadian thrash's most influential bands that was close to the Ottawa thrash scene's version of a Camp Freddy gig as it would get.

And here's a more detailed description of the gig that didn't Snooki smoosh-smoosh my bank balance:

First up would be Joe Thrasher who despite having gone down to a three-piece following the departure of longtime bassist Gumby who left in 2008 for an extended stretch still got the job done as effectively as they did when they were a quartet. Having been busy for most of the year recording their follow-up disc titled Cries Of War the band debuted some new takes of the tracks from the disc - the title track and "Hell Hounds" - alongside their better-known Joe Thrasher classics such as "Speed Kills" and the chorus-friendly "Metal Forces". And while it's still taking some getting used to seeing frontman Scott Wark also handle bass duties while former bassist Gumby is watching from the audience for me anyways, I have to bear in mind that it has more to do with not having seen the band live in over a year and less to do with a slower transition of a frontman taking on the extra duties as both a replacement and musician. And listening to some of the new Joe Thrasher tracks it's clear that Scott was set on bringing his own shoes to fill in the whole time rather than stepping into Gumby's, never altering any of the vital components of the band's identity. But let's get that new full-length disc out already!


There has yet to be a concert that I could review that I could bring my mom to and have her leave without a scratch. Even when she brought my sister and I to see Glass Tiger in 1987 her ears were ringing for a week after the concert. Seriously....Glass Tiger has the same effect on my mom's hearing that a Motorhead concert would have on ours - and Motorhead still draws crowds even after 20 years. But for Brian Stephenson's mom, adaptation seems to come naturally at her son's shows since he is the frontman for local thrash metal merchants Aggressor and she's been a significant presence at their shows probably for being the only woman in the audience in office attire. Not that she really needs to be in the moshpit anyway - she's wearing high heels for God's sake - but she does bring inspiration for the band who are completely restless from the opener "Locust" to the closing track "Mission To Mosh". Even the dark brooding "More To Discover" (dedicated to late Evile bassist Mike Alexander) picked up momentum and solid thrash groove midway through and the song became less of a maudlin eulogy and more of a celebration to circle pit for the fallen. Watch for the band's new CD Beyond All Reckoning to see the light of day next spring and precede to make their current killer release Staring Down At You nearly feeble in comparison. That's gonna be a large order to fill which for most bands in their position would have them run home to mommy. Whereas Aggressor actually bring their moms along for the ride.


Straight outta Pomona, California would be the diehard Exodus fan club collective known as Bonded By Blood who write songs about fighting back against The Crong who are a cybernetic species of advanced intelligence whose deviance is so indubious in its intricacies that they hide among the human race undetected, plotting the systematic population decline in careful segments. A bit like early Fear Factory but without the industrial samplings. And their lead guitarist plays insanely fast lightning solos and riffs that would make Dino Cazares take notice. With songs like "Another Disease", "Feed The Beast" and "Necropsy" this quintet were meaning serious business that night. Frontman Jose Barrales certainly did when he was encouraging people to crowd surf; maybe it was his way of separating the humans from the Crong but it made for awesome entertainment. Following their closing number "Prototype Death Machine" however, it was then that Barrales broke the news which the Crong weren't at fault this time around for:

Both headlining bands would be late arriving from upstate New York due to a sudden freezing rain front that was coming through the St. Lawrence, making driving conditions dangerous due to the ice and sleet. The running joke was that with the headliners being from Ireland and England they weren't used to driving on the right side of the road in North America (oddly it was both bands' third North American tour though their first time in Ottawa) but even when I ducked out to grab a slice of pizza during intermission I noticed that the rain was starting to come down pretty fierce. If they were wise, they'd wait until the weather let up to get to Ottawa if the OPP weren't already out on the 417 making sure there weren't any serious accidents.

That said, weather conditions weren't holding any proverbial curry for the paying audience who demanded live music and the first three bands had already played their share of original material. But if it meant returning to the stage to play something, anything, to keep the show from being cancelled there would be a unanimous bonding of almost three generations of thrash metal to make it happen. This meant the following:

Aggressor and Joe Thrasher fitting in a couple of unrehearsed Kiss numbers that were sped up by a couple of hundred kilometers per hour. Paul Stanley wasn't in the audience so the fans could get away with doing the gorilla and picking up change to "Strutter" that night.

Brian Stephenson's mom taking the stage and persuading Exciter bassist Rob "Clammy" Cohen to come up and do a few numbers with her son's band as well as with assorted members of Joe Thrasher and Bonded By Blood. He obliged and with the all-star band tore through manic versions of "Crazy Train" and "Seek And Destroy" while inviting as many of the audience up on stage with them as the stage could hold. That brought me back to seeing the Dayglo Abortions in Saskatoon some 7 years ago when the audience stormed the stage in similar circumstances at the band's insistence. Stage diving, needless to say, would not be happening as much.

....and then cue the extremely tardy and apologetic yet very thrashin' Gama Bomb eventually making their way to the stage. Their hybrid of punk and 80's Bay Area thrash put the "fightin'" in "fightin' Irish" (as would their Irish accents also do likewise) as the quintet that was born and bred in the mean streets of Newry during a time when political strife left them to worship their own thrash heroes from a distance unleash their 3-album catalogue upon Ottawa for the first time. For anyone looking to revisit their childhood back to a time when TV programs such as The A-Team and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were in their original format, computer games such as Super Mario Brothers and Tetris were cutting edge in video technology and the undead remained a taboo songwriting topic outside of anything that Chuck Schuldiner or Lux Interior ever transcribed from paper to audio, Gama Bomb are the band you've been waiting for at least the past 15 years. And if you couldn't feel that "Final Fight", "Slam Anthem" and "Hammer Slammer" were played like their titles intended that night and then some, you missed out on a young hungry band (and a killer rendition of the TMNT theme song with a little help from Bonded By Blood's Jose Carrales) that revisited their own youthful enthusiasm and fought to make their visions a reality. Just as they fought their way through an ice storm to honor a show in a city they're playing in for the first time even if it was for less than 30 minutes. But they've promised to return and play a full show that is truly representative of what Gama Bomb's music is about. And Ottawa sounded eager to welcome them back for a real show in the near future.


And if Gama Bomb didn't seem genuine enough in their apology to their late arrival, headliners Evile were twice as apologetic and even blamed their own bad timing rather than the freak freezing rain that delayed their east continental trek. Or at least their inner rage stemming from their bitterness from almost missing their first Ottawa show sure seemed to be channeling into their music that night. Either way, you gotta respect their guitarist/frontman Matt Drake, a man who looks like Russell Brand, delivering a heartfelt apology for his band's tardiness - half of the crowd even yelled back "Mistakes happen!" - before he launches into a ferocious guttural vocal workout in the form of "Infected Nation". It's actually the second time Evile have toured North America but it's their first tour with their new bassist Joel Graham (ex-Rise To Addiction) following the sudden death of original bassist Mike Alexander last year and he nails the material flawlessly. The band tore through their signature catalogue such as the breakneck-sounding jams such as "Armoured Assault" and "Thrasher" and the bleak atmospheric rage of "Time No More" which were the songs of the night. The members of Bonded By Blood and Aggressor seemed to think so as they were in the moshpit for both songs and came close to starting their own Walls of Death before being cautioned by bouncers about the dangers of the practice. Closing the show with "Enter The Grave" Evile also promised to redeem their much-abbreviated set with a real performance for their newly-added Ottawa fanbase. And then second guitarist Ol Drake, Clammy and myself hung out and chatted briefly before the winter storm that followed Evile and Gama Bomb northward started to get more intense and it was time to split.

And that's how metal ruled over gym, tanning and laundry that night at $30 less than the normal ticket price. Thanks again to Blackwidow Promotions for putting Ottawa on the touring destination for new bands. And the bands themselves for braving the weather for the fans.


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