Photo Courtesy of Strut Entertainment
Juno-winning bluesman Steve Strongman has just released a new album called No Time Like Now that injects hard rock and gospel into traditional blues. He’s shared stages with legends like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, but it was before a working-class weekday headlining set at Toronto’s Rivoli that I caught up with Strongman. We talked about the warm tone and diverse influences on the new album, whether awards help underground musicians, and how he feels about modernization in blues.
Steve Strongman has a number of dates lined up for the spring and summer in Ontario and Quebec. You can listen to the title track from the new album No Time Like Now here.
Photo by Eric Beiers
The last few years have been good to Canada’s prog-core wizards Protest The Hero. They’ve always had a large and passionate fan-base, but a few years ago things began to get a bit bigger. The crowdfunding campaign for their 2013 album Volition was an overwhelming success. It brought in new fans and was very well-received by the press. The record would go on to be named Metal/Hard Album of the Year at the Juno Awards. In 2015 they took the process a step further with their six song EP Pacific Myth. The release was treated like a subscription service, as fans who signed up received a new song with original artwork once a month.
Late last year the EP was finally released to the general public, and the band hit the road for a short Canadian tour with A Wilhelm Scream, which culminated at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall and the 2016 edition of the Stay Warm mini-fest. Before the show I sat down for the first time in a long time with vocalist Rody Walker to talk about their recent success, and how it’s changed them as a band.
Shot and Edited by Eric Beiers
Protest The Hero are currently on the road in North America as direct support for August Burns Red. The tour has one final Canadian date on February 16th in Toronto at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Pacific Myth has recently delivered the band their second Juno nomination, and you can steam the album here. Rody Walker also has a new punk side project called Mystery Weekend, with their debut album Surprise! coming out on February 17th. Have a listen here.
Photo Courtesy of Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records
The eclectic Ontario metal band ONI have recently had their debut album Ironshore released on Metal Blade Records. Against a solid foundation of Canadian metalcore, the band lays down progressive time signatures and eclectic breakdowns alongside both extreme and clean vocals. Much of their coverage in the press has focused on band member Johnny D who plays the “xylo-synth,” which may be best described as an electronic xylophone with a bit of an earthy keyboard sound.
After a set in Toronto on their recent support tour opening for Children of Bodom, Abbath, and Exmortus, I spoke to the band’s eponymous vocalist Jake Oni about why he thinks progressive metal isn’t an actual genre, his dual citizenship with the Cayman Islands, and why he’s fine with ONI being know as “the band with the xylophone.”
ONI’s debut album Ironshore is available now, and you can stream it in full here. You can also check out their new ultra-NSFW gorno horror video for “The Only Cure” featuring a guest appearance from Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe below.
Photo Courtesy of Rotting Christ
Arguably, Greece’s Rotting Christ have the most controversial band name in heavy metal. Oh sure, there are and have been way more perverse band names involving extreme violence and/or various bodily fluids. But none of those acts have achieved the international acclaim that Rotting Christ has.
The most notorious incident occurred in 2005 when the band was forced to withdraw from two Greek summer festival dates, after Megadeth frontman and newly born-again Christian Dave Mustaine threatened to cancel his band’s headlining sets if Rotting Christ was on the bill. Basically the name is as offensive to the mainstream as you can get before you move into ultra-shock territory.
But the name isn’t the real story. What’s actually worth noting is that, in spite of the name, the band is one of Greece’s most well-known cultural exports with a career spanning nearly three decades. This speaks to the high quality and diversity of the band’s music. Every three or four albums they’ve changed musical directions, and unlike when Mr. Mustaine does it, these changes are generally embraced by their fans.
They debuted with a raw, yet melodic black metal sound, but by the mid-nineties they had infused it with a groovy gothic/romantic atmosphere. This period was also when they would perfect their signature brand of catchy and nearly unforgettable riffs. In the 2000s their sound became accentuated by ethnic musical influences from Greece and around the world. This style attracted a much larger international audience, particularly the 2004 album Sanctus Diavolos and 2007’s Theogonia.
On their more recent albums (the most recent being Rituals which came out earlier this year), the band have traded in their signature riff style for sprawling orchestral compositions with layered choral vocals. I caught up with Rotting Christ co-founder and frontman Sakis Tolis on a recent tour stop in Toronto to talk about the band’s musical journey and what has influenced the latest change in style. We also spoke about their lasting legacy, and whether they still get in trouble for their name.
Rotting Christ’s latest album Rituals is available now from Season of Mist. You can stream the whole album here, and you can watch the video for “Apage Satana” below.