(Pics by Anthony Abbatangelo, poster by Kartigan Clownbaby Karnivorous)
Who: Outlaw Renegades, Black Absinthe, Adrenechrome and The Rough Boys
Where: The Comfort Zone, Toronto
This is a local gig that features some of my favourite local acts around, with Black Absinthe, Adrenechrome and the Rough Boys impressing me once before already. While this is a launching gig for the Rough Boys EP Speed, it was also bittersweet as it would be the last show with guitarist Alex Bernier, but none the less I knew this line-up would not disappoint.
First off was Toronto groove metallers, Outlaw Renegades. The 5 piece was definitely an energetic bunch, moving in sequence with their mid-paced groove metal and alternative/hard rock riffing, while also trying to coerce movement out of the crowd. Vocalist Nathan Stokes pulls off a pretty convincing Phil Anselmo-styled vocal approach, capable of entrapping the Pantera vocalist’s chest-beating barks as well as his southern croons, so the guy is definitely a capable front man. While his vocals are impressive, it makes the more radio-rock orientated sections seem somewhat awkward, as his vocals are gruffer then the music. Despite this, Stokes and the rest of the band do their best to interact with the audience, getting into the crowd and actively playing alongside the attentive audience. Their sound was clean and precise, and after a barrage of physical, southern-esque metal riffing, the band managed to garner enough interest in the crowd to warrant an encore and to which the band obliged the crowd. [7.5]
Next up was heavy metal trio, Black Absinthe, breaking onto the stage with their raw, spitfire riffing and gruff, vinegar vocals. With the odd hint of Kill Em All-era Metallica in their veins, Black Absinthe absolutely bring the energy to the rest of the crowd, enticing the more physical and active people in the audience to come up to the pit and mosh. While images of motorcycles and chains are evoked by the flair of guitarist/vocalist Jack Cerre, bassist Kyle Scarllette keeps the low end and the crowd focused on the band with his spontaneous presence and neon-green bass guitar. This is then all pulled together by drummer Austin Henderson’s basic but frantic and blitz-like pummeling, giving the more classic metal riffs a more bit more of a punch. Black Absinthe does a great job creating the DIY, raw metal presence that one can compare to the NWBOHM bands of the early 80s, as dazzling lead work and heavy riffing perfectly complements the hard rock choruses and atmosphere. While the vocal mixing on Jack’s mic could have been better, the band’s reach to the audience was impeccable, as humour and banter between the whole band made their set even more entertaining. 
It was then that we were treated to one of the more prominent and established local Ontario acts, Orillian sludge/stoner thrashers, Adrenechrome. Combining the punk presence and riffing/lead work of thrash metal with the variety, complexity and the heavy, rhythmically chunky demeanour of progressive sludge metal, Adrenechrome mix the best of both classic and modern metal. And not only is the band some of the most promising song writers in the Ontario scene right now, but their live performance is just as alluring. With dual-lead passages and guitar wizardry that blew every act of the night away, the band was capable of showing that despite the thrashy, punk-related riffing and choruses, there is also plenty of precision and technicality to their work, most likely requiring hours of practice and talent. In the middle of this fray was front man/guitarist Chris Friesen, whose metallic singing ranged from barked chants to more melodic, punky choruses. It was he who was the voice to the crowd during the set, along with lead guitarist Tim Cahoe, and while they were fair bit more relaxed then the other bands in their presence, they still had the audience by the balls. Considering the band created a frenzy of moshing from the first song, one can see just how capable Adrenechrome was at retaining the audiences devotion, even during the more chilled out, progressive passages found on songs such as The Horror, showing that even without a more intimate connection with the crowd, it’s the music that pulls the crowd in. 
Last but not least, it was the cut-throat Hogtown rockers themselves, The Rough Boys. Coming onto the stage with the piss n vinegar, rock attitude that makes the band who it is, front man/bassist Tom Gervais quickly introduced the bands set up before breaking into a Motorhead cover and their ballsy brand of raw and vicious, hard rock n roll. Playing through set favourites such as Born to rock, Hell for Leather and Spithead, Tom’s viciously gruff vocals and pounding bass guitar formed the base of the tunes structure as Alex Bernier’s bluesy solos and riffs danced with the spunky, rock drumming of Sam Greenland. Considering the energy of the band and the music, it wasn’t long till all the shirts were off and the temperature and volume of the room had skyrocketed. With Tom as the main voice to the crowd, he kept in consistent contact with the crowd and explained to the audience some of the origins of the terms found in their songs or sometimes just joking around with the rest of the band, making the gig a lot more wholesome. Not only that, but the band had a lot of guest musicians come on stage and play with them, such as Black Absinthe‘s Jack Cerre (who is a former member of the band), playing some of the songs he wrote with the band, or the southern rock jam between the band and former Organ Theives guitarist Ben Davies. It was sad to see the skills of Alex Bernier leave the band, but at least they went out on high note with a fantastic cover of The Stooge’s, I Wanna be Your Dog. Bringing in not only a piano player, (Robin Smith) but a trumpet player (Steve Evans) as well, the claustrophobic and atmospheric vibe of the original song was amplified several hundred times, as the band tuned into every enjoyable aspect of the song perfectly, making it one of the best executed covers I’ve seen. In the end the band was glorious, releasing their Speed EP with a bang and showing me that real rock n roll will never die. Man, do I regret missing the after party.