Running simultaneously with Heavy MTL in Montreal, Heavy T.O. returned for its second year at Downsview Park in Toronto. Again, we had two stages side by side but they added an extra video screen in the middle for a total of three this year. The schedule ran on time for the entire weekend. As soon as one band finished, the next started right away, with no overlapping. The layout of the grounds had been changed and the entrance was now closer to the stages. New this year, was a wrestling ring in the back, which had matches courtesy of the Apocalypse Wrestling Federation. There was a booth offering to get you Zombiefied for $20 and some other vendors were selling various products. Sunrise Records and festival host Jagermeister offered autograph sessions that many of the bands took part in.
The first day started off with So Sick Social Club at 12:15pm, followed by Dance Laury Dance, Protest The Hero and Cancer Bats. All four were Canadian bands and were each doing half-hour sets. Next were 45-minute allotments with Overkill, Gojira and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Gojira from Bayonne, France, dedicated “L’Enfant Sauvage” to Lamb of God front man Randy Blythe, who was recently released after spending five weeks in a Czech Republic prison unfairly. Singer Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan had lots of energy as he climbed amps, scaffolding, and went down to the front row to sing several times. He even brought a fan on stage who was covered in mud from head to toe. Along with his guitar player, the two of them joined in on the fun and did some crowd surfing of their own. Trivium, Suicidal Tendencies, In Flames and Marilyn Manson were next on the schedule playing for an hour each. Suicidal Tendencies was a cool change in pace as they brought their skateboard brand of rock to Canada after not playing here in a long time.
Lamb Of God were originally slated to play today but had to cancel due to Randy’s situation. The last minute replacement was In Flames from Gothenburg, Sweden. Anders joked that their vacation was interrupted for this appearance but they were happy to be there. Marilyn Manson was a huge disappointment with his subpar vocals and his ridiculous banter. The singer had black lines drawn all over his face, which seemed lazy as the rest of the band looked way better with their make-up. Marilyn spent his time on stage being a nuisance by constantly knocking over microphone stands, drums, shifting lights and even pushing around his bass player. He relied on small props like a smoke gun, spotlight, black balloons and microphones that had lighting built in as well as a knife. “Pistol Whipped” was a song that featured Manson playing guitar. A tall podium was used during “Antichrist Superstar” as the singer ripped up and threw bibles. He’s been doing the same antics during his stage show for years now and it’s time for a change. The fact that he shies away from playing earlier songs doesn’t help, but at least he performed “Sweet Dreams” and “Beautiful People” to a raving response.
Slipknot, all wearing matching red jumpsuits, started their assault at 9pm with a 100-minute performance featuring plenty of fire and lots of explosions. No other band at the festival had a full stage production. Clown was adding to the mayhem on his rotating and elevating steel keg apparatus up front. “I’ve been watching you mother fuckers all God damn day. Canadian fans are some of the best and craziest in the world!” That’s what Corey Taylor said early in the show. It was quite a sight on stage as snow was produced for the song “Gently.” We also saw a special performance of “Everything Ends” that the band didn’t play on the Mayhem Festival in the States. This was the band’s first appearance in Toronto since the death of bassist Paul Gray in 2010 and they have yet to replace him. The reason for these live shows is to celebrate the life and music of the man. “Duality” had the crowd singing along loudly in tribute to brother Paul as a backdrop showing his number 2 hung. Taylor got the crowd to get down during “Spit It Out,” and all jump up on cue. During the last song “Surfacing,” Joey Jordison’s drum kit came alive by rotating and then pausing at a 90-degree angle.
Day one was filled with wet and windy conditions but that didn’t stop thousands of people from enjoying the festival. I’ve never seen that much mud before at a live show. Wood chips were put down in front of the stages. They did help, but getting around elsewhere on the grounds was a chore and very messy. During Marilyn Manson and Slipknot, only a static stage shot was displayed on the video screens for some reason. No close ups at all for the benefit of the people standing further back in the field. I thought this definitely took away from the experience.
Day Two had much better weather, thankfully, with no rain but unfortunately the ground was still very muddy to maneuver around on. It also seemed to feature more of the heavier bands. The music started even earlier than the day before, at 11:50am, with Rose Funeral and then Origin. Both bands played 20-minute sets. The next nine bands all performed for a half hour and included Fleshgod Apocalypse, Exhumed, Periphery, The Faceless, Goatwhore, Job For A Cowboy, Veil Of Maya, Between The Buried And Me and Kataklysm. “This Ain’t Justin Bieber, it’s Black Metal,” the singer of Kataklysm stated in trying to stir up some circle pits. Several bands commented on the fact that there was a walkway from the soundboard to the stage, forming a barrier in the middle. Working with this, the metal heads just formed two circle pits on both sides of it.
Cannibal Corpse, Killswitch Engage, Deftones and Five Finger Death Punch all had one-hour slots. Cannibal Corpse’s George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher has been hailed as one of the best death metal singers out there. They are also one of the top selling death metal bands of all time. It was a natural fit for Heavy T.O. and they didn’t disappoint. Fisher was constantly head banging and his hair was twirling around with force. Missing in action from the merchandise tent were all the graphic Cannibal Corpse shirts the band is known for. I was expecting to see Killswitch Engage come out wearing their matching capes but they did not, perhaps they hung them up for good. After a ten-year absence, original vocalist Jesse Leach is back in the fold. It was as entertaining to watch guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz with his crazy antics and humorous banter. They closed with a great cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver” and the crowd thoroughly enjoyed it.
Although not a metal band per say, Deftones are very influential in the alternative world and went over very well with the crowd. A great solid set featuring all the hits and ending with “7 Words.” It was a homecoming show for guitarist Jason Hook in Five Finger Death Punch. Ivan Moody talked about how he was told earlier that Five Finger Death Punch has the most violent fans on the planet. He strongly disagreed and encouraged everyone to shake hands with the person next to him/her, essentially making everyone friends. During “White Knuckles,” a couple young kids were brought on stage and acknowledged as the next generation of heavy metal. Then it was time for a quick game of “Ivan Says” with the audience. Jeremy Spencer put on a mask and got into character for a drum solo on his white kit, including custom white symbols. He is Metal Hammer’s Best Drummer of 2012. Ivan mentioned he was voted second best Metal Vocalist, losing out to Amy Lee. Returning for an encore, “Remember Everything” was performed acoustically with just Ivan and Jason. Headliners System Of A Down took to the stage at 9pm with their unique brand of rock and entertained for 90 minutes. Lead vocalist Serj Tankian was in fine form, he played keyboards on “Lonely Day” and others and dabbled with an effects machine. Guitarist/Vocalist Daron Malakian is quite the character on stage. “Soldier Side (Intro)” was the first of several featuring Daron on lead vocals. The two of them complement each other nicely. Rounding out the line-up was bassist Shavo Odadjian and John Dolmayan on drums. The songs are intelligent but yet goofy and fun as well. “Chop Suey,” one of their biggest hits, was performed half way through the set. “Lost In Hollywood” was dedicated to Michael Jackson’s monkey “Bubbles.” The festival did get it right with both System Of A Down and Slipknot to headline each night.
It looked to me like the attendance was up from last year. Talking with people, many seemed to have felt that this year was a weaker line-up and I tend to agree with that. This festival does work and with bigger bands and it will only get better. I’m looking forward to what 2013 will bring and perhaps selling Heavy T.O. rubber boots, could be a big hit!
Headliner Set Lists:
The Blister Exists
Wait And Bleed
Before I Forget
Pulse Of The Maggots
The Heretic Anthem
Spit It Out
People = Shit
Hey Cruel World
The Love Song
The Dope Show
Rock Is Dead
Personal Jesus (Depeche Mode cover)
Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)(Eurythmics cover)
The Beautiful People
System Of A Down:
Soldier Side (Intro)
Kill Rock N Roll
Lost In Hollywood
Five Finger Death Punch:
Under And Over It
Burn It Down
Hard To See
Bad Company (Bad Company cover)
Far From Home (Ivan solo, first verse only)
Remember Everything (Acoustic, Ivan & Jason)
All Photos by Backstageaxxess.com Correspondent Tom Pandi except Deftones photos by Igor Vidyashev from Livenation Canada
We would like to thank Angela Grant from Livenation Canada for setting up the credentials for BackstageAxxess.com to cover the festival.