Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS – Patient Number 9 by Ozzy Osbourne

The heavy metal icon is back and better than ever, and this time he brought friends

September 9 saw the release of metal veteran Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album Patient Number 9. It is the thirteenth studio album in Osbourne’s portfolio which is quite an impressive feat, especially considering his recent health issues.

Besides getting diagnosed with COVID-19 in April, he underwent a major neck surgery in June which brought concern to his family and fans, despite his recovery. While his health hasn’t stopped him from performing suitably on Patient Number 9, the whole theme of the LP centers on life and death. Mortality has certainly struck a chord within Osbourne, making him a far cry from the man who used to snort ants and bite heads off of birds for fun

The album boasts a motley of features that are just as big as Ozzy in the music industry. Musicians like Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, Black Label Society’s Zakk Wylde, and last but not least, Ozzy’s former Black Sabbath bandmate from Tony Iommi. 

It was also quite emotional to see that the late Taylor Hawkins had tracked drums for a couple of songs, like “God Only Knows” along with Metallica’s Robert Trujillo on bass.    

There are quite a few memorable songs from this LP: “Parasite” with Zakk Wylde on guitar was quite a funky and upbeat song for Ozzy’s songwriting tastes. The sixteenth-beat tambourine shakes were oddly reminiscent of Fall Out Boy, and even Britpop bands like Oasis and Republica. 

McCready was featured on “Immortal” which happens to be my favourite track. The mixture of grunge guitar chugging along with hard rock bass from Guns ‘n’ Roses Duff McKagan and funk rock drums from Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith created a best of both worlds track for my ears.      

For a heavy metal artist, this latest release is heavily produced. The rhythm feels almost as if it is quantized (the process of moving notes in a music software to the exact time signature to make a beat sound perfectly in time) — so certain songs like “Parasite” sounded way too digital and processed for my liking. 

Regardless of the musicality, several songs on the album didn’t feel like they were to Ozzy’s liking. Then again, you could just chalk it up to the evolution of a musician’s songwriting process!     

Trial track: “Immortal” (feat. Mike McCready)

Rating: 8/10


Avatar invades Corona Theatre

Swedish metal/hard rock outfit tour in support of new album Avatar Country

Sweden’s Avatar recently took over Corona Theatre on Notre-Dame Ouest street in Montreal. Armed with punishing songs and vocal bullets, as well as opening invaders Inspector Cluzo, and noise-punk duo ‘68, attendees sure were rocked on the night of Sept. 10.

The Gothenburg-based band’s aforementioned takeover was not only a metaphor for their venture from Scandinavia. Their most recent album, Avatar Country, is a concept release based on a medieval-themed land dominated by a noble kingdom, ruled by The King.

In conjunction with this North American tour, The King, who appears onstage in the form of lead singer Johannes Eckerström, once saved a dry, destitute, and uninhabitable piece of land with the incessant heartbeat of rock and roll. The long-standing tale describes a horse-rider troop who scoured the Earth far and wide in search of a land to call home.

Upon arriving at a group of starving settlers, one horse-rider produced an electric guitar, and strummed a long, bone-vibrating note, which summoned a crash of thunder and lightning. This spell caused nearby land to be infinitely fertile, and henceforth the guitarist was named The King by the now-saved settlers. This is Avatar Country, and The King has arrived in Montreal.

Avatar’s music is crafted for the stage and not for the studio, which is undoubtedly apparent if you’ve ever been to one of their shows. Unsurprisingly, this played out in real time in the Theatre Corona. Emerging dressed in black colonial garb accented with gold highlights, attendees were immediately consumed in Avatar Country as the band began their first song.

While the elaborate costumes were a nice touch, Avatar brought a slew of other stage props to make for a cohesive vibe. From the huge electric flashing band logo which spanned stage-right to stage-left with ease, to the various flags and banners strewn about, I had no difficulty transporting myself to the mythical world of Avatar Country.

The band recently released a live album, The King Live in Paris, to critical acclaim. Lead singer Eckerström stated that he was happy with the result of the release but, ultimately, “Every live show should be worthy of a live recording,” unabashedly citing Deep Purple’s infamous album Made in Japan as inspiration. This sentence resonates within me, especially after seeing The King live in performance, as his claim materialized in front of the audience that night. The energy was unsurpassed once Avatar was present.

Although the group’s sound is hard to define due to the excessive variance between album tracks, they blend elements of groove metal, black metal, melodic death metal, and even country music. One minute the listener is indulged in proper headbanger material, while in another they are subjected to the mellow forces of folk interludes. This translated extremely well to a live setting, as there is an inherent sonic variance present at all times. This ensures that the heavy and melodic portions both hit hard in their own right with a healthy balance between the two.

“The essence of metal music to me is that it needs to be a physical genre,” Eckerström said about the success of live music. “Hence the volume, hence the speed, technical level on many things. It can be slow, simple, a bunch of things. That makes it physical, and our performance needs to be physical as well. When performing metal, you need those moments of being out of breath, it’s a very visceral, physical thing.”


Photos by Cecilia Piga


Together as one in the mosh pit

Diving into the unique environment of black heavy metal concerts

Last month, I had the opportunity to see the legendary Norwegian black metal band Mayhem perform at Club Soda. They were set to play their classic album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. This was the second time I would be seeing them perform live. On both occasions, there was a palpable energy in the air. At the first concert, as I approached the venue, I immediately noticed that there were a handful of protesters out front.

I had no idea what they were protesting. Could it be the fact that Mayhem sometimes uses dead animals as stage props? Or, that one of their album covers has a photo of a former band member with a self-inflicted gunshot wound on his head? I discovered that it was actually related to a racist comment the drummer had made in the 90s. In 2004, the drummer had retracted his comments, however.

The reality is that people who listen to this type of music often speak about the “feeling” of the music, rather than the comments of the intentionally offensive musicians. After all, being offensive is part of the business. However, if that first impression stops you from seeing a black metal band in concert, you will be missing out on something special.

At my second Mayhem concert, the protesters were absent but, not unlike my first experience, there was a line of police officers in front of the venue. After having passed through security  and having had number of alcoholic beverages, I entered the main floor and found myself in a friendly atmosphere.

The room soon filled with people in black t-shirts that featured ghoulish pictures of Satan, cryptic band logos and all manner of blasphemous imagery. The demographic included men and women ranging from their mid-fifties right down to nervous 18-year-olds attending their first concert.

When the opening act finished their set, there was a change in the air. It was as if all of our minds were buzzing with anticipation. I found myself talking to absolute strangers, and there was camaraderie and a shared notion between the concert-goers that we would soon be witnesses to something almost secret and hidden from the outside world.

Following a 40-minute wait, the lights dimmed and a cloud of fog engulfed the stage. Within a matter of minutes, Mayhem took the stage. Several of the band members were dressed in black hooded robes, not unlike how one might imagine a band of diabolical monks. The singer himself was not wearing a robe, but he was so enshrouded in the artificial mist that you couldn’t actually see what he was wearing.

It was at that point that a wave of sound lit the room ablaze, and soon the center of the floor area began to stir violently with activity, like a rhythmic organism composed of several hundred human beings. Within the mosh pit, the concert-goers had become one. Soon, I found myself being sucked into the maw of the beast.

Once I had arrived in the belly of this crazy monster, my senses were on high alert despite the amount of alcohol that was flowing through my system. After 10 minutes of “mayhem,” I managed to drift out of the pit, drenched in sweat and watched the rest of the show from the side.

It occurred to me, after reflecting on that night, that within that darkened venue which belched fog and blasted the ear drums of a couple hundred fans with deafening black metal, something unique had transpired. My thoughts were centered on the very nature of the mosh pit.

Within the extreme environment of a black metal concert, there exists a counterintuitive social phenomenon—the mosh pit. It does not care about your age, sex or gender. Regardless of who you are, it will chew you up and spit you out. Everybody is welcome to join at their own risk. How you identify does not matter to it. Its intrinsic nature is composed of a chaotic environment which manifests within itself complete egalitarianism.

Even if you disagree with the message and outlook of black metal and its propensity to offend individuals, one cannot deny its acceptance and facilitation of gender equality in a live performance setting. In a dimly-lit venue and the surrounding chaos, no one cares who you are or how you identify. The boundaries are broken and there is only the music.


Heavy metal punk band Gutser

Chris Aitkens is a Concordia student by day and a rockstar by night

Behind the screaming vocals of the heavy metal-punk band Gutser is Concordia undergraduate student Chris Aitkens. Aitkens is currently pursuing a BA in the Journalism program. The singer-songwriter founded the band in 2014, and said he feels he has finally found his place in the music world. “I think this is the band that I was meant to play in after all those years,” he said. “I finally found my voice. I finally found my sound.”

Aitkens first got involved in the music scene at 14 years old, after going to an all-ages Halloween show at Club Lambi. “I saw these incredible bands and I just really wanted to be part of what they were doing,” he said. “The first band that I saw was Trigger Effect, which to this day is still my favourite band, even though they dissolved a few years ago. I started going to more shows and started to develop my taste in music, and then wanted to be in my own band.”

At 16 years old, Aitkens formed his first band with high school friend James Armstrong, and went on to start other bands after that. “Most of them were terrible to begin with,” said Aitkens, adding that Gutser actually took off by accident. “It started off with myself singing, James Armstrong playing bass and James Thomas playing drums,” he said. The bassist, Armstrong, has been with Aitkens since the very beginning of his musical career. “I’ve known him for half of my life, so we’re really good friends,” said Aitkens.

Aitkens then started talking with Thomas, the drummer, who at the time was playing with the band Bearmase. “I kept on annoying him, [saying], ‘Yo, man, we’ve got to be in a band together,’” Aitkens said. They were still missing a guitar player, but, according to Aitkens, when Thomas brought along guitarist Paul McWhaw, they immediately hit it off. “We’ve been playing, every single week for almost three years now,” he said.

Rocking out at the Buckfest. Photo by Miguel Mendes

Aitkens said he feels he can fully rely on his Gutser bandmates, a connection he never had with previous bandmates. “It’s often very difficult to find people who are as enthusiastic [about music] as you are,” he said. “It took me a while to finally find a band that was stable enough [to play with].”

However, being a Concordia student by day and the frontman of a heavy metal-punk band by night does have its challenges. “There’s this whole lifestyle of staying up very late and drinking. But when you have school the next day, then it’s kind of difficult to maintain that rockstar lifestyle,” said Aitkens. What makes it all worthwhile is the fact that he loves performing on stage. “I’m a bit shy in real life, but when I’m on stage, I’m the centre of attention and I can say anything, do anything,” he said. “It just feels really good. I don’t have to be such a lonely person all the time. I can be part of something bigger than myself.”

The band is set to release their first EP titled Gutser Sucks within the next month. “We still have a bit more recording to do and there’s the whole technical aspect of mixing, mastering and getting our CDs together. Hopefully we’ll get that done in about a month,” he said.  While they are not sure what venue they will be having their launch party at, Aikens said he would like for it to be held at Turbo House in Saint-Henri. It is run by his favourite band, Trigger Effect, so he said that there is a certain sentimentality about that place. Aitkens said that he hopes people will enjoy their new songs. “I want people to listen to our music and think, ‘Oh wow, this is a really intense and energetic band. I would love to go see them live, and I would love to party with them,’” he said.

Photo by Miguel Mendes

According to Aitkens, their music has an in-your-face tone that’s also humorous. “The way I like to describe it is: it’s painful for us to play and it’s painful for people to watch, just because it’s so fast and so demanding. It takes every ounce of our energy to get through one song,” said Aitkens. A theme that is present in their EP is disillusionment. “[It’s about] being pushed to be a certain way and then snapping out of it all of a sudden and just realizing, ‘Wait a second, I can think for myself, I don’t have to do what the television tells me to do, I don’t have to do what the church tells me to do’ or anything like that,” Aitkens said.

On Feb. 4, Gutser will be performing at On Rock Community Services in Pierrefonds, an annual benefit show for the homeless. Aitkens said this could be a very good opportunity for the band. “There’s most likely going to be children there, so I’m wondering if I could inspire any young kids to pursue music the same way I was inspired 10 years ago,” he said.


Beginner’s guide to thrash metal

Fast guitar riffs, speedy drumming and loud, in-your-face vocals—those are the characteristics that define thrash metal. When metal music came onto the scene in the 1970s with bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, it was a sign that rock music was evolving past the age of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. While Black Sabbath played slower, their sound was dark and mysterious, thanks to down-tuned and distorted guitars. In the early 80s, American bands who were inspired by Black Sabbath continued to push the genre forward by playing faster and increasing the volume. One of the genres that spawned from this technique was thrash metal. Thrash metal has since evolved with some of the best albums in heavy metal history. If you’re interested in the genre, the albums below are a great starting point to get yourself acquainted with it.

Master of Puppets – Metallica

Metallica’s 1986 third studio album, Master of Puppets, is a classic in the world of thrash metal. Not only is it one of their best albums, it’s one of their heaviest. If there was one album that could perfectly sum up the 1980s thrash metal sound, it would be Master of Puppets. From the very start, listeners are greeted by the song “Battery.” It’s a song that begins with a quiet, melodic guitar intro that eventually explodes into an earth-shattering riff, setting the tone for the whole album. The album features multiple nine-minute anthems, like “Master of Puppets,” “Disposable Heroes” and “Orion.” Each song has intricate, heavy riffs that are complemented with drummer Lars Ulrich’s signature double-bass playing. While the songs are heavy, the arrangements are still beautiful. The song “Orion” is an eight-minute instrumental that sounds orchestral while at the same time exhibiting relentless aggression. Overall, Master of Puppets is a must-listen if you’re new to metal. It’s heavy, but still accessible for a first-time listener.

Reign In Blood – Slayer

If you thought Metallica’s Master of Puppets was heavy, just wait until to you hear Slayer’s Reign In Blood. Just like Master of Puppets, the album was Slayer’s third and it was also released in 1986. Reign in Blood begins with the song “Angel of Death” which welcomes the listener with a speedy riff and a blood-curdling scream from lead singer Tom Araya. When compared to Metallica, the music and the imagery is much more violent, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. The lyrical themes on the album include war, injustice and the Holocaust. The music itself reveals the darkness of these themes. For example, the riffs and drumming are faster and Araya’s vocals are manic, with the cadence of a man spiralling into madness. Don’t expect any orchestra-type sounds on this album. Reign in Blood is a relentlessly heavy album that will have your blood pumping in no time.

Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying? – Megadeth

In 1986, Megadeth released their second full-length album, Peace Sells…but Who’s buying? After having been kicked out of Metallica because of his alcoholism, lead singer and guitarist Dave Mustaine brought a unique sound to the world of thrash metal with this album. For starters, Peace Sells, while still fast, is not as speedy as the previous two albums on this list. Instead, the instrumentals on this album are more technical. In the opening track, “Wake Up Dead,” the riff is simple, yet delivered with a precision that bands like Slayer lacked. Megadeth also sets themselves apart on this album by incorporating more bass into the mix. In the intro of the title track, “Peace Sells,” there is a groovy bassline that is quite unique when compared to bands like Metallica and Slayer. Apart from the bass and the riffs, Mustaine’s guitar work on the album is impressive, as his solos hit so hard they’ll practically melt your face off. If you’re looking for a politically charged metal album, Peace Sells is an incredible listen.


Among the Living – Anthrax

Anthrax’s 1987 album, Among the Living, is one of their best and was regarded by the BBC as “arguably their big breakthrough.” Among the Living is probably one of the most progressive albums on this list, as all of the instrumentals contain various beat shifts and melodies. Anthrax demonstrates not just aggression and speed on this record, but shows their humorous side as well. In songs like “I am the Law,” a song based on the comic book Judge Dredd, the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek and kind of make you laugh, all while encouraging you to head bang. Unlike the seriousness of the last three albums, songs like “Caught in a Mosh” can be played at any party and people could get into it. Among the Living is a thrash metal album that doesn’t take itself too seriously which is why it’s a great place to start.

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