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By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Monday, February 8, 2016 @ 4:04 PM

Combat Shock Comes To The Ritual Courtesy Of WARBRINGER And Their Arsenal Of Living Weapons Including ENFORCER, CAULDRON And EXMORTUS, January 12, 2016

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My first concert review of 2016 couldn’t have come at a better time what with rock music being increasingly in the sights of the Grim Reaper over the course of the past 12 months. Terrorists shooting up an EAGLES OF DEATH METAL gig in Paris back in November started the sudden streak of bad luck for music fans; then we managed to lose the likes of Scott Weiland, Lemmy Kilmeister and David Bowie among a host of other music legends within the span of a month. And lest we forget the final touring days of BLACK SABBATH, RUSH and MOTLEY CRUE (all of whom yours truly have had the privilege of seeing on more than one occasion) having dawned upon us after decades of touring activity.

That, and the next day was my day off from class.

The show kicked off with the fiery OTT riff work of EXMORTUS as the California-based quartet tore through their 40-minute set with songs both from their latest release Ride Forth as well as their previous three-album catalogue. Their crossover style of technical thrash and fast-crafted progressive metal combined with the gritty yet wildly melodic vocals of frontman Conan Moreno made for the perfect start for an energy-filled performance. Their neck-wrecking anthems such as “Speed Of The Strike”, “Metal Is King” and “Slave To The Sword” were only matched by a stellar rendition of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata (Act III)” which saw Conan and guitarist David Rivera practically out-solo each other - sometimes on each other’s instrument. Now that’s one way to make classical music entertaining. Prompted me enough to buy the new disc anyway.


CAULDRON would follow up that set with a more mellow yet more diverse performance. The Toronto-based trio mostly ran the musical gamut between the dark and ethereal undertones of 70’s-inspired rock to the bludgeoning sonic beatdown of modern doom coupled with a bit of the punk-inspired sounds that frontman/bassist Jason Decay had saved during his side project KILL CHEERLEADER from about a decade ago. Given that the band had been dormant on and off in between the release of 2012’s Tomorrow’s Lost and their recent disc In Ruin they would generate a large reception from much of the homecoming crowd (the band members are originally from Pembroke, some 90 minutes north of Ottawa, after all). But while they may have been playing at a different speed from the previous band, CAULDRON still whipped the crowd into shape with classics such as “Nitebreaker” and “End Of Time”, along with newer tracks such as “Empress”. If time hadn’t been a factor for them on this quadruple bill, I’m certain that CAULDRON would’ve had more in the pot to serve up to many of the early fans to sample. But luckily their set left me more than satisfied and full that night.


Solely going on the basis that their best-known songs such as “Scream Of The Savage” and “Undying Evil” sounded like the purest uncut version of IRON MAIDEN that either of us had ever heard, my friend Ala and myself were eager to check out Sweden’s ENFORCER as the rambunctious quartet took to the stage. Their set mostly proved how somewhat off we were in being able to pin down their sound to just one facet of 80’s metal. Yes, they did play both those songs and, yes, they had a very awesome MAIDEN-eqsue style to their songs (plus it helps at how much frontman/guitarist Olof Wikstrand resembles a young Adrian Smith from the Number Of The Beast era; further ironic considering how I remember the first time I saw the video for the title track and thought that Smith looked a lot like Sting), but ENFORCER’s influences were rooted far deeper into the old school than many of us had realized. With seven full-length studio albums (including their latest, From Beyond; note the italics as that really is the album title) tucked firmly beneath their studded bullet belts since the band’s inception in 2004, ENFORCER’s punishing speed metal has earned them lots of rightful comparisons to the likes of AGENT STEEL, ANVIL and EXCITER. Maybe Jason Decay introduced the band to the latter a couple of times given how often CAULDRON’s toured with ‘em, but given how much of their early songs such as “Black Angel” and “Speed Queen” had that similar vibe to them anyway, it’s a safe bet that ENFORCER already had their sound in mind when they penned those songs. And the reaction from the crowd was energetic when they played those songs as the first circle pit of the evening was already in motion. One was almost fearful of how the headlining band would be able to follow up ENFORCER’s show of, well, force.


John Kevill is attempting a side career in stand-up comedy as he jokingly complains about “how we don’t get paid enough to endure the cold” just as his band Warbringer are warming up for their set. He can afford to laugh as it was not too long ago his band almost didn’t appear to be seeing out 2014 let alone the beginning of this year, as a long touring schedule compiled with sudden lineup changes almost sidelined the hungry thrash band for good.

Luckily, perseverance (and maybe a couple of months off from recording/touring commitments) prevailed and the latest lineup of WARBRINGER - consisting of Kevill, guitarist Adam Caroll, bassist Jessie Sanchez and drummer Carlos Cruz - were back on the road even though it’s been close to 3 years since IV: Empires Collapse was released. But they got some added support as EXMORTUS frontman/guitarist Conan Moreno guested on lead guitar that night and proceeded to tear through their 90-minute set. WARBRINGER’s maniacal thrash coupled with John Kevill’s abrasive vocals and Conan’s wild shredding made for some serious pit action as the band’s signature songs such as “Total War”, “Living Weapon” and “Combat Shock” among others.

And what would a WARBRINGER show be without the obvious inclusion of “Living In A Whirlwind” also becoming a chant for a massive circle pit? Likely incomplete. And I’m pretty certain that “Scars Remain” was a solid reminder about why an attempted selfie with the bass player in mid-concert can be dangerous especially when he mistakes a concertgoer’s head for his instrument. On the other hand, who would’ve noticed after WARBRINGER’s nuclear-fused killing spree of a concert has left many ears ringing and necks stiff from whiplash?



  • “Total War”
  • “Severed Reality”
  • “Scars Remain”
  • “Future Ages Gone”
  • “Hunter-Seeker”
  • “The Turning Of The Gears”
  • “Black Sun, Black Moon”
  • “Demonic Ecstacy”
  • “Towers Of The Serpent”
  • “Living Weapon”
  • “Living In A Whirlwind”
  • “Combat Shock”

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