Y’know, it almost feels like I didn’t attend as many concerts as I did last year. Mind you, if I were to count up and tally every local gig I went to, there’d probably be twice as many shows that didn’t make the cut as there are gigs on here. And hey, looking at this list, there’s really nothing but quality from start to finish. As it were, the top gigs I saw in 2012 spanned two countries, three states and five cities, although most of them occurred in Toronto, naturally. Here they are in ascending order…
10. Accept/Kreator @ The Phoenix, September 12th
Accept was one of the bands that first got me into metal back in the day, and I certainly can’t complain about their latest post-reunion album, either. The subsequent tour saw them team up with Teutonic thrashers Kreator for what turned out to be a pretty bitchin’ double bill.
CHOICE WORDS: And yes, they still played all the hits, “Fast as a Shark,” “Restless and Wild,” “Breaker,” “Princess of the Dawn,” “Balls to the Wall” and “Teutonic Terror”–the latter of which firmly belongs in the Accept canon. If they can pull a couple more “Terrors” out of their army helmets in the next studio session, I know I’ll be back for Round 4 — Accept: Third time’s slightly less charming… (Hellbound.ca)
On that note, check out my top 10 German metal bands.
9. Melvins Lite @ Opera House, July 5th
The Seattle sludge forefathers/idols of Cobain were sporting a slightly different lineup this time around. Eschewing their recent double-drumkit attack, they went out as Melvins Lite, a three-piece featuring Trevor Dunn (of Mr. Bungle fame) on standup bass. That said, I can now attest that this incarnation is almost equally excellent as the full-bodied, five-per-cent-alcohol version.
CHOICE WORDS: Having seen the Melvins last time, I sorta knew what to expect. They went on right at 10, played for 75 minutes, didn’t really do an encore (although both Buzz ‘n Dale left the stage for a Trevor Dunn bass solo) and left everybody satisfied yet wanting more. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: MELVINS, Retox @ Opera House, July 5, 2012
They also did a bitchin’ cover of Sir Paul McCartney’s “Let Me Roll It.” I count down my top five Melvins cover tunes over here.
8. Corrosion of Conformity/Torche/Black Cobra @ Opera House, June 21st
Another reinvigorated, stripped-down lineup performing at the Opera House, and just as couple weeks before the Melvins, as it were. I’ve really dug COC’s self-titled comeback record–and that new EP ain’t too shabby, either! When they took their act on the road with possibly the best stoner/sludge/whatever lineup to hit Toronto this year, needless to say I made sure to mark it on my calendar.
CHOICE WORDS: Seeing a good chunk of the record in the flesh a few feet from my face only reaffirms its status as a top contender for Album of the Year 2012 in my books. And it’s safe to say that Mike Dean isn’t lip-synching on stage, either. His voice is just as raw, his delivery as garbled as it was in ’85. — COC still sounds good to me! (Hellbound.ca)
7. Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper @ Molson Amphitheatre, July 13th
(This was taken by someone with a much better camera than me.)
Another band that I’ve been listening to for a really long time, and for whom I’m guaranteed to be in attendance at their biennial Toronto concerts, is Iron Maiden. I’ve seen ‘em at the Amp a couple times now, as well as the ACC. And while I’ve never been able to get floor tickets at the former, you really don’t need to be in front of the stage to enjoy Maiden in concert, lemme tell ya! They also got bonus points this year for bringing Alice Cooper along as an opening act; twas worth getting there early, that’s for sure…
CHOICE WORDS: Though they didn’t have me leaping out of my seat by starting their set with “Moonchild,” the elaborate stage production coupled with a classic set certainly won me over by the end of the night. By injecting the aforementioned “Trooper” and “2 Minutes” into the set, along with “The Number of the Beast,” “Run to the Hills” and “Phantom of the Opera,” it certainly made the material from their 1988 release appear more palatable. — Maiden pulls out all the stops to make Seventh Son number one! (Hellbound.ca)
In case you’re wondering how they stack up, I compared Maiden’s back catalogue to Cooper’s–albeit with a 10-year distance–back in July.
6. Witch Mountain/Blood Ceremony/Castle @ Hard Luck Bar, June 13th
The first appearance of Witch Mountain on Torontonian soil–surprisingly, they’d be back by October–was arguably the best stoner/doom gig this city had seen in 2012. (OK, maybe second best–more on that later…) Bolstered by support bands Blood Ceremony and Castle, this three-headed Medusa delivered an unhealthy triple dose of female-fronted doom, capped off by the headliners showcasing the just-released Cauldron of the Wild album in its entirety. The initial live impression might not have been as overpowering as when I first stumbled across South of Salem, which I’d later crown as album of that year, but it was definitely right up there, to be sure. You can bet their new record figures on my list for 2012, too–more on that tomorrow!
CHOICE WORDS: I was a little disappointed that they only played one song offa South of Salem, opting instead to play their new album in its entirety, but y’know what, that new record is pretty amazing in its own right–as seen last night. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: Witch Mountain, Blood Ceremony, Castle @ Hard Luck Bar, June 13th
On that note, check out my list of the top 10 female-fronted doom bands going!
5. All That Is Heavy II feat. Iron Man, Blood Ceremony, Blizaro, Revelation @ Mavericks, Ottawa, May 12th
Yes indeed, Blood Ceremony appears twice on this list. (Their gig with Ghost back in January missed the cut, mind you.) But while they headlined this biennial(?) festival in the nation’s capital, the biggest draw for yours truly, who’s seen BC about a dozen times, was the first-ever Canadian appearance for Maryland doomsters Iron Man. Hey, if you’re keeping score at home, Iron Man finished two spots higher than Iron Maiden this year.
CHOICE WORDS: New frontman Dee Calhoun is quite the imposing figure, but this band is truly the Al Morris Show, the man channeling Iommi for some serious doom riffage! And I must say, Mr. Morris and his cohorts were much more animated than the last time I remembered… — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: All That Is Heavy II @ Maverick’s, Ottawa, May 12th
4. Church of Misery/Hail! Hornet/The Gates of Slumber @ Studio Seven, Seattle, WA, June 9th
I don’t wanna say that Seattle is like a home away from home–fact of the matter is, I’ve only been there twice. But as a long-time Seahawks fan, I definitely feel a certain connection to the city. And while I didn’t fly out there back in June solely to see Church of Misery (along with TGOS and Hail! Hornet), you could say I feel a certain connection to the Japanese serial-killer stoner-doomsters as well. And since the closest date on their first-ever North American tour was Philly, well, I figured I’d head out to the Land of the Hawks instead…
CHOICE WORDS: This being the last date of the tour, Church of Misery brought Karl Simon and T-Roy up on stage for a rousing rendition of “War is Our Destiny” with the other members of TGOS and Hail Hornet lurking in the background. This is the great thing about seeing the last date of a tour–the headliner not having any merch left, well, that’s the not-so-great thing. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: CHURCH OF MISERY, Hail Hornet, The Gates of Slumber @ Studio Seven, Seattle, June 9, 2012
3. Saint Vitus/Weedeater/Sourvein @ The Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH, September 29th
Incidentally, Vitus also took the third spot on last year’s list, albeit their all-too-brief Metalliance Tour appearance left me wanting more. Fortunately, with a new record in the can, the band embarked on their first North American tour in nearly two decades, and a Saturday night in Cleveland Heights was alright with me, merci! (That said, trying to catch a cab in Cleveland at 1 am isn’t tons o’ fun…) You could even say the added bonus of Weedeater and Sourvein made the seven-hour bus ride worthwhile.
CHOICE WORDS: Vitus came through with a solid 13-song set that included all the non-instrumental numbers off their new album, a fistful from Hallow’s Victim, and other classic tunes like “Dying Inside,” “I Bleed Black,” “The Troll” and of course, “Born Too Late.” Unbeknownst to me beforehand, the 29th was Wino’s birthday, and even though he’s now 51, old age didn’t stop him from stage diving on a couple occasions. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: SAINT VITUS, Weedeater, Sourvein @ Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH, September 29, 2012
Leading up to this gig, I reviewed every single Saint Vitus album. Perhaps that’ll give you some idea of what you missed.
2. Dream Death reunion @ 31st Street Pub, Pittsburgh, PA, April 21st
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably noticed quite a few big-name metal bands on this list. However, one of the best gigs I saw all year was when I took a little trip down to Pittsburgh to catch a cult band that only released one album–way back in 1987. Although they don’t fit its modern-day description, Dream Death actually coined the term “sludge metal,” and like several sludge bands, their sound is somewhat of a head-on collision between hardcore punk and doom. This home-town, one-off (well, they are playing next year’s Days of the Doomed fest…) gig was sold out in advance, packing a bar about twice the size of the Bovine, and the energy was certainly palpable. Now this is why I collect Air Miles, right here!
CHOICE WORDS: As Dream Death took an awfully long time to set up, you could feel the anticipation building, along with the urge to urinate–but hey, I was NOT giving up my spot for this. It was, after all, their first gig in 24 years! But the band sounded as good as ever, hell, better than some of the dodgy demos and bootlegs in their discography. — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: DREAM DEATH/ARGUS @ 31st St Pub, Pittsburgh, April 21, 2012
1. Kyuss Lives @ Cherry Cola’s, January 1st
I may have initially balked at shelling out 200 bucks to see Kyuss Lives on New Year’s Eve, but I eventually came around. Hey, your average New Year’s evening of dinner and dancing costs at least 50–and they don’t have Kyuss. It turned out to be a good call, especially since this was effectively the outfit’s last gig before the lawsuits started rolling in. (More on that below–if you’re on the homepage, that is.) Vista Chino might end up playing venues the size of Cherry Cola’s, but it just won’t be the saaaame, maaaan!
CHOICE WORDS: It’s one thing seeing ‘em on a massive stage, and quite another being in a tiny bar, where the bouncer knocked over half the drumkit while forcibly removing a patron from the premises. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera out when that happened… — AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: Kyuss Lives @ Cherry Cola’s, January 1st, 2012