TOP 10 TORONTO STONER BANDS OF ALL-TIME: 2. Blood Ceremony

I recently counted down the top stoner/doom bands from Portland, which offered me a valuable lesson in Oregon geography.  Turns out that Eugene isn’t to Portland what Mississauga is to Toronto…although I don’t think they’ve got much of a scene in Eugene.  However, this got me thinking about the best local stoner bands I’ve seen over the years.  Considering that I used to run a little website called TooHighToGetItRight.com, you could say I’ve seen a few.  Alas, in order to narrow the list down to 10, I had to limit it to Toronto-based bands, meaning that acts from Hamilton (Shallow North Dakota), Windsor (Mister Bones, Fiftywatthead) and Barrie (Indian Handcrafts) all missed the cut.  Oh, and there aren’t any bands on here from Mississauga either. ;)

And with no further ado, I give you…

10. Luz Atomica

9. The Womb

8. Nice Cat

7. The Illuminati

6. Sea of Green

5. Quest for Fire

4. Electric Magma

3. Diablo Red

2. Blood Ceremony

015(Suffice to say I’ve taken a few pictures of this band.)

Now, as much as I love Blood Ceremony–and let’s just say I like them a lot–I actually debated whether to include them on this list.  While they’re definitely one of Toronto’s finest metal exports of the past few years, I’m not sure I’d consider them a “stoner band.”  Hell, I might not even file their latest album under “metal,” as much as I enjoy it.

That being said, their self-titled debut from 2008 is still one of my favourite Canadian albums, period.  And there’s no denying the doominess of said debut (even if it’s not “stoner rock” per se).  Hell, even if they hadn’t released another record, I suspect they’d still be on this list…and despite the slight tendency towards progginess on Living with the Ancients and The Eldritch Dark, they still remain a pretty decent band to burn one to.  Case closed!

Check out my Top 10 Blood Ceremony Tunes, if you need more convincing–or, y’know, just watch this clip from Roadburn:

About these ads

TOP 10 CONCERTS OF 2013

For me, 2013 was the year of the festival: I attended three of them last year, of the one-to-three-day variety.  Twas also a year that I crossed two big-name bands off my bucket list…and, on a more depressing note, the year of the cancelled concert.  In light of the U.S. government shutdown, many bands from across the pond had to alter their tour plans, which meant me missing Hawkwind, Church of Misery and Monster Magnet in the fall/winter.  Well OK, the latter had nothing to do with Ted Cruz–they cancelled their dates on the East Coast due to illness.  I presume that Dave Wyndorf ate the brown acid

That being said, here are the Top 10 concerts I attended in 2013:

10. Kylesa, Blood Ceremony, White Hills @ Lee’s Palace,

June 11

Despite a strict(!?) no-photography policy, this was a pretty sweet gig with three heavy psych/doom/sludge bands in which female musicians feature prominently.  Leading up to the show, I highlighted 10 women of sludge metal, which lead to a temporary spike in traffic for yours truly.  Here’s hoping for that Electric Wizard/Boris/Jucifer tour next year. :P

9. Fu Manchu @ Lee’s Palace, April 15

068(Click here for more pics!)

Twas the second time up here in a couple years for the Fu, who dusted off their vintage The Action is Go album after giving In Search Of… the same treatment in 2011.  Only this go-round, they benefited from a superior sound system and a better mix at Lee’s Palace than the previous venue.  I also appreciated their call for requests at the encore, even though my cries for “Weird Beard” went unheeded.

CHOICE WORDS: Crazy to think that most of these guys who played on said album 16 years ago are still here, with the notable exception of Brant Bjork, who’s been replaced by Scott Reeder.  No, not that Scott Reeder… — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: Fu Manchu @ Lee’s Palace, April 15, 2013

8. Blood Ceremony, Biblical, Cauchemar @ Horseshoe

Tavern, September 14

041(More pics here.)

Though it was a few months overdue owning to their Kylesa/White Hills tour, the Blood Ceremony CD release party was no less of a memorable occasion.  Playing to a packed house at a large Queen St. venue, BC made the new album come alive with additional props, lighting and musicians for the occasion.  Every Blood Ceremony release party has cracked my top 10 list in its respective year, and this one was certainly no exception.  Check out my top 10 Blood Ceremony tunes!

CHOICE WORDS: Blood Ceremony brought out all the stops for this one: the stage fog, the cardboard cutouts… they even had a violinist!  Their set was understandably focused on the new album, but they still played “Return to Forever,” so I’m happy. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: BLOOD CEREMONY, Biblical, Cauchemar @ Horseshoe Tavern, Sept 14, 2013

7. Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 @ The Acheron, New York

City, July 27

NYC 044(Click for pics!)

July brought me to Brooklyn on a hot summer’s eve for a nine-pack of bands and about as many Miller High Life’s.  As far as straight-up stoner-rock goes, it doesn’t get much better than this lineup, which featured a fistful of Small Stone artists including Gozu and the mighty Lo-Pan.  But I was perhaps the most stoked to see a D.C. outfit called Borracho, who, I hafta say, sorta stole my bandname–not that I ever did anything with it.

CHOICE WORDS: True story: I once thought Borracho would make a good name for a stoner-rock band seven years ago, being that it’s Spanish for drunk.  But my short-lived outfit never even got off the ground, so when I found out there was a band from D.C. a couple years later who took that name for themselves, I raised a glass in their general direction.  On this evening, I was able to toast ‘em in person–albeit with a can of Miller High Life. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 @ The Acheron, Brooklyn, July 27, 2013

6. Clutch, Orange Goblin, Scorpion Child @ Sound

Academy, April 18

127(Dun-dun-da-duh-da-duh…. PICS!)

Clutch is always awesome, although the last three times I’ve caught ‘em, they weren’t even my biggest draw on the bill–whether they were touring with Wino, Motorhead, or, in this case, Orange Goblin.  The British southern doomsters brought plenty of enthusiasm across the pond along with those Hawkwind t-shirts not available in North America…yet.  Pity I missed ‘em on their October headlining jaunt–but sheeeet son, I was in Texas!

CHOICE WORDS: These guys played as much of a career-spanning set as you can cram into 45 minutes, all while encouraging the crowd to get as crazy as possible.  Not only is he one of the tallest frontmen I’ve ever seen, but Ben Ward certainly has the energy to match… — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: CLUTCH/Orange Goblin @ Sound Academy, April 18, 2013

(For those uninitiated in the Orange Goblin, I ran through their back catalogue back in March.)

5. Scorpion Child, Kadavar, Gypsyhawk, Mothership @

Hard Luck Bar, October 3

114(If you want pics–you got ‘em!)

Though they were hardly any household names on this bill–the headliners were fresh off a stint as the opening band on the Clutch/Orange Goblin tour–they sure brought the heavy rock from start to finish.  (Well, there was one band that I’d rather not mention, but I digress.)  Twas hard to get more headbang for your buck than at the Hard Luck Bar, and while Scorpion Child was pretty sweet and all, they sorta had the show stolen by both Mothership and Kadavar.

CHOICE WORDS: The Texas trio put out a killer debut early this year on Ripple Music, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t crack my year-end top 10.  Yes, it’s that good!  It goes without saying that those who arrived early were blown away by their exuberance, their raw power — and their punctuality. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: Scorpion Child, Kadavar, Gypsyhawk, Mothership @ Hard Luck Bar, October 3, 2013

Sure enough, Mothership’s self-titled debut did crack my top 10 albums of 2013. ;)

4. Housecore Horror Film Fest @ Emo’s/Antone’s,

Austin, TX, October 25-27

HHFF 352

There are at least a couple things you don’t mess with, including Texas and Phil Anselmo.  And when the two come together for three days of horror movies, heavy metal and high cholesterol (man, you shouldda seen that chicken ‘n waffles!), I kinda knew I had to be there.  So many highlights from that extended weekend, including Eyehategod, Jim Van Bebber, GWAR, the Melvins and Cannibal Holocaust–not to mention the closing screening of Suspiria with its live soundtrack (pictured above).  In fact, I simply couldn’t contain them all to one post, so check out my festival recap, in three parts:

CHOICE WORDS: Man, what an emotional performance from Eyehategod.  Mike IX very nearly teared up as fans chanted “Joey, Joey” between tunes–although their special guest drummer acquitted himself admirably on numbers such as “Sister Fucker,” “Blank” and a tune Mike rechristened “White Neighbor.” — HOUSECORE HORRORFEST RECAP: Day Three

3. Days of the Doomed III @ The Blue Pig, Cudahy, WI,

June 21-22

days of the doomed 354(Vic says click for pics!)

If all you know about doom metal is Black Sabbath and Pentagram, then this probably isn’t the fest for you–although the latter’s most well-known axeman did make an appearance last year.  But when it comes to the U.S. doom underground, the place to be is Cudahy (pronounced Koo-da-hey) for this annual two-day event.  For the record, it’s just a couple miles from the Milwaukee airport, and they even had a van to pick you up and take you to the venue–which was much appreciated after 14 hours of doom left me pretty wiped out.  Well that, and the Miller High Lifes.  (I don’t normally drink that beer, but when in Rome…)

Alas, they’ve already announced this year’s fourth edition, with tickets going on sale today.  Let’s just say there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be back next summer.  In the meantime, check out my pics from last year’s fest:

CHOICE WORDS: Day Two of the Doomed saw no fewer than 12 bands take the stage–and I can actually say I witnessed all of them.  Twas a long, slow, downtuned, distorted day, definitely.  And while my feet are still feeling the effects of 13.5 hours of heaviness (although to be fair, I just got off the treadmill), I absolutely loved every minute of it. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: DAYS OF THE DOOMED Day Two @ Blue Pig, Cudahy, WI, June 22, 2013

2. Neurosis @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple, New York

City, January 19

023(Gimme a P…I…C…S!)

This midwinter’s trip was not only my first time seeing Neurosis in concert, but my first time in The Big Apple, period.  I even stuck around an extra day to see Spider-Man on Broadway and the Rangers’ home opener, so it was quite the memorable excursion.  But man, seeing Neurosis in concert was a religious experience–and not just because they played a Masonic temple.  While it’s pretty sweet that they’re playing Montreal twice that same weekend in 2014, I almost don’t want to go this time…cuz surely, the Seahawks will be in the NFC final this year, if not the Super Bowl, which just so happens to be in New York City. ;)

That said, if you are heading off to MTL in a couple weeks, here is some reading material to get you in the mood.

CHOICE WORDS: Picture The Opera House in Toronto, Le National in Montreal or Portland’s Roseland Theater, dropped smack-dab on, let’s say Albany Ave in the Annex, and run by an organization of religious weirdos with great big beards (a couple of whom were milling about before the music started).  Yeah, that’s a lot to wrap yer head around, isn’t it? — AMATEUR (flashless) CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: NEUROSIS @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple, January 19, 2013

1. Black Sabbath @ Air Canada Centre, August 14

(Pic taken by someone with a better camera than me.)

As y’all might be aware, I lived in Calgary at a time when it wasn’t a very happening place.  I can tell you that Black Sabbath never came to Cowtown on their ’99 reunion tour, nor did Ozzfest ever grace an Albertan stage.  Hell, from what I gather, Calgary wasn’t even part of the band’s touring circuit in the 70′s–for all I know, they’ve never been there.  Which is to say I had never seen Sabbath in concert until August 14, 2013.  Sure, they’re well past their collective prime, Ozzy can’t really sing, and they’ve got some Bill Ward lookalike on drums…but I’ll be damned if seeing ‘em in concert for the first time wasn’t a religious experience–even at an overpriced hockey rink!

As a matter of fact, I’ve already got my ticket in hand to see ‘em again in Hamilton this April.  I’m even a couple rows closer this time, so maybe I’ll actually bring my camera. :P

CHOICE WORDS: Let’s just say that by starting their set with “War Pigs,” they had me at hello.  “Into the Void,” “Under the Sun” and “Snowblind” followed, and the band was definitely on form.  They even managed to make Not-Bill-Ward look like a young Bill Ward by borrowing one of his old headbands! — Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, they’ve still got it!

AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: BLOOD CEREMONY, Biblical, Cauchemar @ Horseshoe Tavern, Sept 14, 2013

Now, I don’t usually take my camera to local gigs, but this wasn’t your regular local gig.  With Toronto prog/doom stalwarts Blood Ceremony hosting their belated CD release party and a couple solid support acts, I figured I’d shoot a couple pictures.

Of course, the lineup wasn’t strictly local, as francophone trad/doom metalleux Cauchemar made the trip from Montreal.  I’d seen ‘em once before on their home turf almost three years ago, and was looking forward to this repeat engagement.  They didn’t disappoint.

001

002

003

005

007

010

011

014Annick ‘n Chains!

Been a little bit since I’ve seen Biblical, but these guys bring it every time.  Not sure if that epic 30-minute set-closer is going on their next album, but maaaan, that’s some trippy shit!

015

017

019

020

023

027

030

031

Blood Ceremony brought out all the stops for this one: the stage fog, the cardboard cutouts… they even had a violinist!  Their set was understandably focused on the new album, but they still played “Return to Forever,” so I’m happy. ;)

032

034

037

038

041

OMG… HAND OF DOOM!!!

043

044

045

048

050

051

053

TOP 10 BLOOD CEREMONY TUNES: 1. Return to Forever

So, local doomsters Blood Ceremony are having their third CD release party TONIGHT!!!! at the Horseshoe.  I’ve been listening to and watching this band for a long time–let’s just say I have fond memories of their first two CD release parties.  With their 70′s throwback vintage prog colliding with flute-heavy doom, they pretty much had me at the first note.

Of course, if this band was actually around back in the 70′s, the label would probably be pressuring to put out a greatest-hits album by now.  Not sure who buys greatest-hits albums anyways, but if I had my say… these are the songs that would be on it.

10. Goodbye Gemini

9. My Demon Brother

8. Hymn to Pan

7. Oliver Haddo

6. Witchwood

5. Into the Coven

4. Master of Confusion

3. The Great God Pan

2. Children of the Future

1. Return to Forever

Dun-dun-dun-dah-DUN-da-dun-da-DUN-da-dun-dun-do-do-do…  No, I’m not singing some Sting song, man, that riff pattern is forever etched into my brain!  Though they might not have been the first band to use it, and I’ve come across a few more since–I know that riff when I hear it–that doesn’t make it any less impactful.  While it’s almost caveman-like in its simplicity, “Return to Forever” is the point of any Blood Ceremony set where I start headbanging furiously.

That being said, the main riff is seemingly so simplistic that I haven’t heard Sean play it straight up for years; he’s always adding some additional flourishes, much to my chagrin.  I actually had to go back a few years to find a live vid where it’s performed as originally written…  2006, to be precise:

And yes, I was actually at that gig.  Twas a memorable evening that I would recall with fondness a few years later.  If you don’t see me on camera, it’s cuz I was sitting at the bar with my jaw nailed to the floor.  Long story short (click the link if you wanna read more), I came to see a headlining band that never made it across the border and discovered Blood Ceremony entirely by accident.  And sure, they’ve refined their look, their sound and their rhythm section since then, but man, even in its rawest form…  it still gets me, every freakin’ time.

TOP 10 BLOOD CEREMONY TUNES: 2. Children of the Future

So, local doomsters Blood Ceremony are having their third CD release party TOMORROW! at the Horseshoe.  I’ve been listening to and watching this band for a long time–let’s just say I have fond memories of their first two CD release parties.  With their 70′s throwback vintage prog colliding with flute-heavy doom, they pretty much had me at the first note.

Of course, if this band was actually around back in the 70′s, the label would probably be pressuring to put out a greatest-hits album by now.  Not sure who buys greatest-hits albums anyways, but if I had my say… these are the songs that would be on it.

10. Goodbye Gemini

9. My Demon Brother

8. Hymn to Pan

7. Oliver Haddo

6. Witchwood

5. Into the Coven

4. Master of Confusion

3. The Great God Pan

2. Children of the Future

This crunchy, chunky doom number off the debut contains perhaps the most evil-sounding flute intro/interlude I’ve ever heard.  After a couple minutes of pummeling, slow-motion headbanging, it takes a flute-driven prog-rock detour around the halfway mark–proof positive that the progressive influences have always been there.  But just when the music makes you want to make a merry jaunt across the meadow, they bring things back down for one conclusive chorus, leaving us with the last line: DO WHAT YOUR LOVE TELLS YOU TO DO.  Nuff said!

TOP 10 BLOOD CEREMONY TUNES: 3. The Great God Pan

So, local doomsters Blood Ceremony are having their third CD release party next weekend at the Horseshoe.  I’ve been listening to and watching this band for a long time–let’s just say I have fond memories of their first two CD release parties.  With their 70′s throwback vintage prog colliding with flute-heavy doom, they pretty much had me at the first note.

Of course, if this band was actually around back in the 70′s, the label would probably be pressuring to put out a greatest-hits album by now.  Not sure who buys greatest-hits albums anyways, but if I had my say… these are the songs that would be on it.

10. Goodbye Gemini

9. My Demon Brother

8. Hymn to Pan

7. Oliver Haddo

6. Witchwood

5. Into the Coven

4. Master of Confusion

3. The Great God Pan

Sophomore effort Living in the Ancients opens in style with this seven-and-a-half-minute epic.  The band being no strangers to starting off with keys, they then adopt a blistering pace–by doom-metal standards–with some heavy breakdowns built around a ringing melodic guitar line.  Of course, it all culminates in that killer chorus…  Man, this is even better than their previous Hymn to Pan! ;)

Aaaaand here they are playing it at Roadburn.  Whoa.

TOP 10 BLOOD CEREMONY TUNES: 4. Master of Confusion

So, local doomsters Blood Ceremony are having their third CD release party next weekend at the Horseshoe.  I’ve been listening to and watching this band for a long time–let’s just say I have fond memories of their first two CD release parties.  With their 70′s throwback vintage prog colliding with flute-heavy doom, they pretty much had me at the first note.

Of course, if this band was actually around back in the 70′s, the label would probably be pressuring to put out a greatest-hits album by now.  Not sure who buys greatest-hits albums anyways, but if I had my say… these are the songs that would be on it.

10. Goodbye Gemini

9. My Demon Brother

8. Hymn to Pan

7. Oliver Haddo

6. Witchwood

5. Into the Coven

4. Master of Confusion

The very first song on their very first album opens with an eerie keyboard intro before delivering a devastating slice of doom.  Believe me when I say the main verse of this tune is my second-favourite Blood Ceremony riff–Number One is a few spots higher on this list. ;)