PHOTOGRAPHY BY: JEANETTE LEBLANC
WORDS BY: SCOTT CRUICKSHANK
The snow rolled in just as heavy as fans and bands did on Friday February 6th night at the Opera House in Toronto for Periphery’s Headlining Juggernaut Tour with the support from Nothing More, Wovenwar and Thank You Scientist. This being one of only two Canadian tour dates, fans were in for a real treat.
First up to bat was Thank You Scientist of New Jersey. This stellar group of virtuoso musicians was formed as a result of attending the music program at Montclair State University in New Jersey. The band is comprised of vocalist Salvatore Marrano, Tom Monda on guitar, bassist James Robbins, drummer Odin Alvarez, Ben Karas on violin, Ellis Jasenovic on Saxophone, and Andrew Digrius on Trumpet. The addition of your non-stereotypical ‘metal’ instruments really adds a refreshing charisma to Thank You Scientist’s sound, with well placed brass section segments that were thoroughly enjoyable.
To accurately describe the band’s sound would be a challenging feat however it could be said that they are a true sonic stew of progressive rock, jazz, ska, and classic rock. The more progressive riffing side of their sound is so incredible tight while retaining musicality and melody is really something to be admired in a genre that seems to become more watered down by the release.
Having a larger amount of members playing varying instruments really offers up a layered sonic thunder from the loudspeakers with these guys including prolific guitar solos, a huge round grooving low end, smooth high register vocals and vacuum tight drumming. The band seemed to have quite a good draw of fans coming in the door and Toronto was more than happy to have had them open up. If you haven’t heard them before check out their album Maps Of Non-Existent Places to get a taste of Thank You Scientist.
Next on the docket was the boys of Wovenwar. For those of you who may have not followed the grueling story behind the demise of As I Lay Dying and formation of Wovenwar, here’s a brief run-through; As I Lay Dying, one of the biggest Metal acts of the last decade was extremely successful with several of their album releases and an extensive fan following. All of this glorious brutality and success came to a screeching halt in May, 2013 when their vocalist Tim Lambesis was incarcerated and sentenced to six years in jail for attempting to hire a ‘hitman’ (who was actually a police officer) to kill his ex wife. The attempt was blamed on steroid abuse, and regardless of any other details, As I Lay Dying was no more. So out of the ashes was born Wovenwar consisting of the remaining four members of As I Lay Dying, guitarists Nick Hipa and Phil Sgrosso, Bassist Josh Gilbert, and drummer Jordan Mancino. Joining the four horsemen was former Oh, Sleeper vocalist and guitarist Shane Blay.
The band maintain a heavy foundation of their former group, with punishing fast rhythms and melodic riffing and shredding. However, that being said, for fans who may have came to see a re-incarnated AILD, they would be mistaken. Wovenwar is definitely a different animal in their own right with a new fresh sound, harmonized with the original instrumental brilliance and chugging brutality. Trading in the heavy guttural vocals of their former band, singer Shane Blay has tremendous clean chops that both blend and duel with the backing vocals of Gilbert when called for. The hard hitting chest thumping rhythms of award winning drummer Jordan are always an awesome sight and sonic experience to witness. The band played fan favorites off of their 2014 self-titled release to a very enthusiastic crowd, who needless to say has embraced the change and couldn’t be happier with the sound of Wovenwar.
The third band to grace the stage of The Opera House was none other than Texas’ own Nothing More. Opening up with ominous droning drums over a backing track Nothing More plunged into the huge percussive sound they create. The stage setup they bring on tour with them is very impressive with metal sculptures and artistic racking created by the bands own bassist Daniel Oliver. The band carries themselves on stage with a huge energy, especially singer Jonny Hawkins who had such explosive movement that the crowd seemed to feed off of endlessly while singing along word for word. These guys definitely know how to put on a full show with percussive interludes where all the members of the bands beat on various drums turning the opera house into a tribal haven temporarily. They also at one point mounted Oliver’s bass to a custom metal rack which spun on two axis while Oliver, guitarist Mark Vollelunga, and Hawkins did a jaw dropping three man tapping bass solo to an astounding crowd response.
Nothing More had an extremely well put together set with huge production value, giant sounding backing tracks, and an overall fantastic musical performance. The band more than accurately replicated the emotion and power captured on their most recent self titled album release, closing with their hit single off of the same record, “This Is The Time (Ballast)”. If you haven’t heard Nothing More yet make sure to check them out, as they really have something unique here.
To finish off the already spectacular night was the monsters of progressive metal themselves, Periphery. Taking the stage to an absolutely packed house, the band emerged from the fog and dove head first into the auditory destruction of “Icarus Lives!”. The colossal wall of sound that Periphery has live is something that truly must be experienced by any metal enthusiast. The band has definitely invested themselves in finding a live sound that is completely void of any tonal ‘holes’, perpetually driving and full sounding, yet immensely clear and concise.
Periphery’s lineup has been one of the most heavy-hitting since their initial rise to popularity and the seemingly effortless talent that this group demonstrates is quite remarkable. Vocalist Spencer Sotelo’s range is almost endless, going from sky high silky melody to absolute bone crushing bellowing without the slightest sign of wavering; he is a true power house of a front man. The tonal obliteration that makes Periphery’s sound so identifiable is in my own opinion partially due to the overall chemistry of the instrumental section of the band. Having three guitarists to most people might seem a bit ludicrous to some bands, but these guys use their numbers to achieve a layered range of frequencies that really reinvent the wheel almost when it comes to guitar playing.
The trifecta of 6, 7 and 8 string guitar players are: Jake Bowen, Mark Holcomb, and founder Misha Mansoor. The rhythm section of bassist Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood, and drummer Matt Halpern are also a force to be reckoned with, creating a staggering groove that serves as a foundation for the bands dynamic riffing.
The band has been revered as a major gear influence in modern metal, and recently all three guitarists and bassist have put out signature guitars and pickup sets that encompass cutting edge technologies (Bowen- Ibanez/Dimarzio, Holcomb– PRS/Dimarzio, Mansoor Jackson/Bareknuckle/Protone, Nolly Dingwall/Darkglass/ViK).
The well balanced contrast of mammoth heaviness and celestial ambiance takes Periphery’s material and live performance to another level, driving fans into a fluctuating parade of moshing to lighter wielding séance. The bands set list was a well-oiled machine of fan favorites; including “Make Total Destroy”, “Scarlet”, “Alpha” and “Graveless”, resulting in a constant chorus of sing/scream alongs from the audience at the Opera House.
The band played a tremendous encore of “Ragnarok” and “Messiahmune” leaving the venue roaring. Periphery recently released their two part album Juggernaut: Alpha and Omega (Find Gerrod’s review here), complete with their own making of documentary entitled Juggerdoc, to an excellent response. If you haven’t already, we forcefully advises you to check out Periphery.
All in all, the Opera House was an excellent venue for this show in my opinion. The size of the venue is large enough that even at a seemingly at capacity concert there was room to breathe, yet the venue was small enough that the gigantic sounds these bands encompass seemed even more gargantuan. All four bands really gave it their all and put on a spectacular show that is surely one that will be remembered.