I wasn’t really aware there was a metal scene in Toronto until I saw Ash Lee Blade perform at the Rok Boutique back in 2009. Real metal, I mean. I knew there was metalcore to be found at the Opera House along with hardcore, grindcore, death core, mathcore etc. But I didn’t think anyone in the city still drank from the cup that Rob Halford and Ronnie James Dio filled. Fortunately in the following years I learned about great bands like Cauldron and Skull Fist.
Now in December of 2014 there’s a vivid movement of bands playing the style of music that was popular in the late 70′s and early 80′s. People show up with long hair and denim vests and wear each others’ band shirts. It’s a really cool scene with some extremely skilled players. Craig Rose has been booking some great shows all year and to cap off 2014 he decided to put together a two-day festival of quality metal.
The not-so-creatively named December Fest was hosted at the Bovine Sex Club. Day one featured the superb shredding of one-man-band Nagasaki, the heft of Olde, the flash and showmanship of Zex and the epic twin guitar attack of Call of the Wild.. The second night consisted of the charmingly old-school Ammo, the jet-fuelled group The Rough Boys, the heavy and intense Flying Fortress and the headliners: Phantom.
Phantom, formed by ex-Ash Lee Blade members D.D. Murley and Necro Hippie, played their new record …Of Gods And Men from front to back. It was an exceptional performance of really solid material. I was pretty spent by the end of the two nights, but I had no intentions of leaving until the last band had played their last song.
One really cool trend I noticed was the number of women on stage. Both Call of the Wild and Ammo featured women on lead guitar while Zex had a female drummer as well as a frontwoman. Metal has been a boys’ club for a long time (and probably will continue to be for quite a while longer) but it’s nice see the mold being broken.
I definitely got my money’s worth and more. Any fans of old-school metal would be well served to check out these bands. The all-time greats like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motorhead won’t be around forever. It’s nice to see that there are people in the city happy to carry the torch.