Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: A Look Back In The Year Of Local Metal

Another year has hit it's end, but 2012 was definitely an up and down year for the local metal scene! Things seemed really high and active through August thanks to a number of major concerts and events, but activity really tapered off by the fall, with even the Christmas season not booming like usual, and by post count on the site, 2011 was actually busier for metal in the Soo than 2012. That said, a lot of big things happened, debuted, ended, and changed this year that deserve to be looked back on, and I hope I'm gonna touch on everything of note, so let's remember 2012 with a look back at the eventful year that was for The Sault Metal Scene!

In terms of scope, the biggest concerts of 2012 were (as usual) at The Dreammaker's Theater at the Sault Michigan Kewadin Casino, which played host to six different concerts with a hard rock element! The year began with a triple threat of classic metal thanks to Stryper, Slaughter, and Lynch Mob on February 24th, followed by the return of Allstar Promotions-booked shows on April 6th, when Cavo & The Veer Union backed up recent rock notables My Darkest Days! Rudyard native Zak Stelmaszek brought his Detroit hard rock band Fifth Way back to open for The Gin Blossoms on April 28th, while Fifth Way returned for a heavier night of music on September 29th, when they opened for Evans Blue and State Your Cause at the second Kim Rogers/Kelsey Raffaele tribute show, which saw a great charitable response in the region! August 13th saw modern hard rock standouts Buckcherry & Fuel rock The Dreammaker's Theater with local openers The London Gentlemen, while the year ended on a high on November 12th with Theory of a Deadman, Adelitas Way, and The Charm City Devils, adding to a busy and hard rocking 2012 at Kewadin Casino!

Over in Sault Ontario, an up and down year in the local metal scene brought a number of high profile metal shows (especially in the spring & summer), and despite a late year drop-off in shows, we saw a number of major touring bands come here in 2012, including such notables as 3 Inches of Blood, Anvil, BonJourney Canada, Dead & Divine, Fuck The Facts, Hallows Die, Kittie, Maximum RNR, Novembers Doom, The Saigon Hookers, Skull Fist, Waster, West of Hell, Who Made Who, and Wolven Ancestry, among numerous others! In terms of individual concerts, arguably none was larger and more notable than the Ypres Metal Fest at The Canadian Nightclub on April 7th, where 12 bands from here & afar gathered to pay tribute to the late David Gold with a day full of blistering metal and Woods of Ypres covers! Also this year: Numerous local bands gathered for Dead In The Van, the Sewer Swampstravaganza, and For All That Is Lost's Laird concerts, the last Rosie metal nights & Dismembertainment events took place, and Garden of Bedlam helped bring metal back to the Rotaryfest Second Stage, among many more major 2012 concerts!

Outside of the Dreammaker's Theater shows, the Sault Michigan area also had some notable concerts and events to touch on in 2012, likely peaking with the second annual LemmaFest on June 23rd, where 9 local acts (including many heavier bands) gathered at Dondee Lanes to pay tribute to Mike Lemma once again! Many out of town bands and familiar faces graced local stages in 2012, including The Darwin Project, Driven, Fifth Way, Infathom, Nudge, Peril, and RedStone Riot, while many local bands also graced the stage in their own right! Banned brought hard rock all over the Eastern Upper Peninsula, Powerslug and Monkey's Uncle flew under the online radar for many of their 2012 gigs, Swayze Train played their last shows, Half A Man & Scofflaw returned in time for LemmaFest, and Tantrym Tyme continued their various outdoor concert appearances in the region under their new name! Add in other major events like the Red Ribbon Walk, The Sugar Island Music Festival, and the debuting Sault Riverview Music Festival, and the local metal scene continued to show life and promise across the river in 2012!

And yes, we had to deal with a shocking death of a local metal musician again over the holidays, as we lost Pillory/ex-Bear Hunters guitarist Andres Duchesne almost two weeks ago. Like David Gold last year, this caught everyone off guard, especially as Andres was a well respected guitarist and metalhead locally, and he'd only just debuted with Pillory less than a month prior to what happened. I can only hope that his family (who've already lost two sons) are looking at the positives over the holidays, and remembering what Andres brought to their lives, and hopefully we won't forget what he brought to the scene in his 23 years! Stay tuned to the SMS in the future of course for news on any tributes to Andres or the statuses of his newer music projects.

Beyond that down story from last month, the scene had a lot of major news stories to cover in 2012, so here's a rundown of many of the major ones! In local concert venues, Coch's Corner's move into the Foggy Notions building (and transition to acoustic music) likely ended the metal days of two popular venues, but the (re-)introduction of bands at the Bushplane Museum, Algonquin Pub, and Sportscenter Bar & Grill gave bands & fans some new options! Numerous bands also began or continued work on new albums, from Gates of Winter's long-gestating third CD & The Bear Hunters' demo to Sykotyk Rampage's six new albums. Also in the news: Toronto & Calgary held their own David Gold tribute shows, a Woods of Ypres tribute album entered production, Sebastian Bach came to the Soo to film "Swearnet", View To A Kill became The Valentine's Day Massacre & later moved to London, former classic rock station 97.9 WIHC became a Christian station, Case's Music moved to Queen Street (and Colosimo's moved into their old home), the local scene was profiled on Radio Regent, and Frightlight opened for The Misfits in Toronto, which are just some of the major news stories to hit the area in 2012!

Luckily, one aspect of the local metal scene that was in full force was album releases, with at least 9 metal/hard rock albums being formally released in 2012, and none was bigger than Woods of Ypres' final studio album "Woods V: Grey Skies & Electric Light", which earned the best reviews of the doom metal band's run upon it's April release, and it served as a fitting epitaph to David Gold's life & career! Also in 2012: New local grunge band Haggith put out their first two albums "Dragon Joy Ride" and "Apocalypse" just months after their debut, and their drummer/namesake Mike Haggith released his 45th solo CD "Neighbourhood Watch", while both Destroilet and Late & Loud put out their new albums after months of anticipation! In Sault Michigan, new metal CD releases were dominated by the Giles/Harrison clan, who released the self titled End of Existence album in February, followed by their classical metal project Theatre of Night's patriotic second CD "The Dawn's Early Light" in July! Finally for this year, mid-2000s Sault Michigan death metallers Insipid Brutality posthumously released a self titled EP in April, adding to a busy year of metal/hard rock album releases!

In the year that was, a number of new bands also made their debuts on the local scene, and though the numbers of bands that debuted on stage was smaller than recent years, there was a lot of talent to account for! In Sault Ontario, the latter half of 2012 was heavily filled by local grunge band Haggith and hard/alternative rock quartet The Suicide Kings, who quickly made their presences known with major local activity, from the former's quick studio work to the latter's high number of scheduled concerts! Also this year: Supergroup Skeyes of Seven debuted at July's Anvil concert, Pillory brought pure thrash back to the scene, With Blood Builds Character succeeded March Into Regression, and Lucky 13 brought some talented veterans back to the stage at Toystock! In Sault Michigan, the biggest new metal band was arguably 415E, whose combination of Splitshot & Highest of Fives alumni are poised to breakout in 2013 with a debut album and live classic metal concerts! Add in bands yet to play live like The Eleventh Hour, Giwakwa, Hydra, and Kidshit, and 2012 still gave us a solid amount of new talent and bands to watch out for!

As in 2011 and every year prior, there was lots of changeover in local metal band lineups in 2012, even without Turner Up's previously frequent lineup shifts! No band had more changes than local hard rock band Acention, whose lineup went through at least five different member changes in 2012 alone, but hopefully Dalton, Josh, and company find a full lineup soon so we can see them live finally! Also this year: Caveman Morrison reverted to their late 2010 lineup, Bring The Misery overhauled their lineup as March Into Regression this summer, Borderline Divine ended their long bassist woes by adding Justin Polutanovich, Anthony Orazietti replaced Jason Ladouceur in Winkstinger, and Tony Briglio signed on as a temporary live bassist with Sykotyk Rampage. In Sault Michigan, both Theatre of Night & End of Existence found new voices with the additions of German soprano vocalist Gaby Koss, Erik Rintamaki returned to lead vocals in Half A Man, Quinton Jacobson replaced Kyle Burton in what's now Tantrym Tyme, and both The Eleventh Hour & Chained Memories saw a number of lineup shifts, among many other membership changes locally in 2012!

Disappointingly, the year of 2012 also brought a wide number of band breakups, hiatuses, and descents into inactivity, and arguably the largest was Lion Ride's breakup in February, ending a successful 5 year run that saw them hit some major heights in both the Toronto & local metal/punk scenes. Also in Sault Ontario: Stillbroke's return as Borderline Divine ended after less than a year this summer, and That's Chester amicably split after 8 years together, while Half Past, Sativa Rose, SBD, Skull After Betrayl, and State of Misery quietly dissolved after their own local successes in recent years. In Sault Michigan, high profile funk/metal rockers Clownsack disbanded after months of inactivity, following their own very successful run in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Also across the river: Swayze Train's quick local ascension ended in the spring, Splitshot successors Trail's End dissolved after only a few concerts, and Absolute successors NoXcape drifted into inactivity in their own right. In other local ends in the scene in 2012: Coch's Corner's Bay Street location closed upon their move into Foggy Notions, the owners of both Dismembertainment & Dimension Studios moved out of town, The Outback was demolished, and the Roosevelt Hotel metal nights potentially ended in July, among other closures and ends this year.

Where things end, other things are bound to come back, and we had no shortage of returns in 2012 either! For bands, Stillbroke/Borderline Divine, State of Misery, Half A Man, Dirty Virgin, Sailor's Tongue, and Bring The Misery/March Into Regression all returned to the local concert stage after year+ concert hiatuses, and even if some didn't remain active for long afterwards, all were welcomed back and achieved good responses for their comebacks! Some other bands also re-staked their spot in the local scene, from Moss' return after 7 years away & Riverin's resumption of activity to Destroilet & Late and Loud's re-emergences and eventual album releases. As well, battles of the bands returned after 2 years away in Sault Ontario (with Late & Loud and Winkstinger emerging victorious in each), Energy Rock Radio was reborn in British Columbia, and the 705 Video Magazine was relaunched in a Sault Music Scene-esque layout, helping ensure lots of returns and comebacks in a year full of local highs & lows!

Overall, 2012 was a big year for the local metal scene, even if things drastically quieted down in the second half of it, but hopefully 2013 will see a turnaround for bands, shows, and everything in between! Remember how busy and packed things were from April-July? I hope we'll see the scene pick up to those levels again, but for now, Happy New Year, and stay tuned for our look ahead into what we could expect in 2013 later today! Thanks everyone!

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