Etobicoke, Ontario - In 1978, a speed metal band emerged in Ottawa, Ontario. The band was originally called Hell Razor, but they changed their name to Exciter in 1980, and in 1983, they released their first full length album Heavy Metal Maniac. To celebrate the album's 40 Year Anniversary, the band has taken to the road on a North American Tour.
Most metal fans are familiar with the "Big 4" of the genre, namely Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. They ruled the roost through the 1980s, and beyond. Hard to debate their place in Heavy Metal music history.
Now, most Canadian metal fans will also know that we have our own "Big 4". But of course, there are some who may not fully be aware. Sacrifice, Razor, Annihilator, and the Godfather's of Canadian metal, Exciter! Again, these bands owned the Canadian metal scene through the 80s, 90s, and into the 21st century. And they are still all touring, putting out new music, and/or kicking ass! I had seen all 4 bands on one bill in Calgary, Alberta in 2016, and it was a must to get out to help the band celebrate their milestone.
The chosen venue for this event was just a hair west of the city, in Etobicoke, Ontario. I had never been to The Rockpile, and as soon as I pulled up to the location, I thought "Damn! This is going to kick ass!!" First of all, the parking was free, a complete oddity anywhere in the GTA, and the exterior of the building screamed Rock and Roll! Another anomaly here is that it's actually a sit down venue with tables. Your typical bar-like atmosphere with food and drink. A number of people around me were eating french fries and they looked bloody fantastic. Even a couple of the boys from Exciter (drummer/vocalist Dan Beehler, and bassist Allan Johnson) were hanging out, having a feast. You see, heavy metal is a pretty tight knit community. At smaller venues like this, bands are always seen hanging around, and it allows for a much more intimate experience. The positives continued to add up, leading up to the opening act.
New York City! A city known all over the world. It is unlikely you will ever meet anybody who does not know this city. What may not be fully known is the Heavy Metal music that has come out of here. Of course, there is a ton, including the aforementioned Anthrax, White Zombie, Type O Negative, and a favourite of mine, Nuclear Assault! Since we're on the subject, let's add Tower to the list.
With 3 albums to their credit, the band opened the show at The Rockpile. With the opening track "Under the Chapel", the vocal range of lead singer Sarabeth Linden was immediately noticeable. Very reminiscent of Canadian legend Lee Aaron. What a great voice! Right out of the gate, the band was tight, and bassist Philippe Arman was on fire, banging his head, and thrashing to the beat.
During the band's instrumental track "Metatron", Linden comes down off the stage, into the crowd to become one of the fans. Another example of the metal world that just can't quite be beat. Tower plays a fantastic set, and they finish it off with the furious "Elegy", that hits so hard and fast by the track's end that we see guitarist James Danzo is less one string.
I'm a thrash metal guy. It's the heavier side of metal that I first got into with bands like Metallica and Slayer. The speed, the crunch of the guitars, the gravelly vocals. It's a beautiful sound. And Toronto has one of the best new thrash bands on the local circuit. And it's a true, classic, thrash metal sound. I first heard these guys at an Accept concert in 2022, that I was covering for one of the supporting acts on that show, Narcotic Wasteland. Unfortunately, I missed most of the band's set as I was performing an interview with Narcotic Wasteland's Dallas Toler-Wade when Korrosive hit the stage. I was pretty excited to get a chance to see a full set from the band.
War sirens fill the air in concert venue, and the band explodes out of the gate with their opening track "Vitriolism". Rapidly, the mosh pit is active, and there is crazy energy from the fans and the band. This is Toronto thrash metal at its finest! It's fast and heavy, and guitarists Derek Solomos and Jack Neila are bringing it hard, and the whole band is on fire through the whole 7 song set. It's intense as hell.
Ahead of the band's last track, "Hail the Hellfire", lead singer Rad Zarei calls out "It's time for our last song of the night. Let's show Exciter what we're made of motherfuckers!!!" The moshpit covers the entire floor, and at the end of sweat inducing set, tons of fans come to the stage to fist pump and congratulate the band. What a great show!!!
Earlier, we had the war sirens, now, ahead of Exciter's appearance on stage, howling winds of "The Holocaust" seemingly whip through the venue, and the 3-piece appears before us. I think I say it every time, but there isn't anything quite like the raw, no nonsense sound of a 3-piece. And you can easily differentiate between the professionalism, and stage presence of the pros. And I'll tell you, it's immediately noticed once Dan Beehler, Allan Johnson, and Daniel Dekay appear before us for the first track of the album that we're here to celebrate. Then right into "Stand Up and Fight" which is the second track from Heavy Metal Maniac. The band's start is fire, and it reminds us quickly why they're one of Canada's BIG 4!
Guitarist Daniel Dekay and bassist Allan Johnson are all over the stage, moving from side to side, front and back. Dekay gets right up front of the stage, as close a he can to the fans in the front row, and even jumps off the drum riser of drummer, and lead vocalist Dan Beehler. Now there's something to ponder. A drummer/vocalist for a speed metal band. I can only imagine the difficulty in keeping the beat and tempo for the style of music, but to also then sing? It's quite a spectacle! And after 40 years, Beehler still has his classic screams.
While the band does not play Heavy Metal Maniac from beginning to end during their set, they do play a handful of tracks from the debut album. The crowd is completely gassed at the power coming from the stage in front of them, and when the band rolls into "Rising the Dead", an insane mosh pit erupts.
The band members are extremely gracious for the support from the crowd. They make mention of how great Toronto is on a number of occasions during their set, and how good the city has been to the band over the years. They are beyond appreciative. At one point, Johnson asks "How are you so far Toronto? I'm having a blast! You guys are fucking amazing! You are ALWAYS amazing", at which point, the crowd goes nuts, to which the bassist exclaims "WOW! I think this is the rowdiest crowd yet! FUCKING TORONTO! LET'S POUND SOME METAL!!!!"
There's so much action during Exciter's set on this Wednesday night. The mosh pit burns during "Beyond the Gates of Doom". The crowd amps it up even higher during "Violence & Force". So much so that Dekay is wondering if this is really a Wednesday night, and not a Saturday night. After band introductions, Dekay says "OK Dan! Let's fucking rock this place to the ground!! What's this song called??" to which Beehler responds "LONG.... LIVE.... THE LOUD!!!!", as the impromptu last track of the evening. It's a fan favourite, and the first album I actually heard from Exciter in 1985.
This crowd isn't going to be duped out of an encore though. Immediately, the chants of "One more song! One more song!!" fill the bar. Of course, they're going to be rewarded! Beehler announces that it is also the 40th Anniversary of another classic album, Motorhead's Iron Fist, and there you have, a cover of one of the greatest influential bands in heavy metal and rock and roll history! The encore sees smoke filling the stage, as if it's literally on fire (well, it kind of was) and Dekay jumping into the crowd not once, but twice. Yeah..... WOW!
This was a barn burner! What a show. Right from the opening act, to the headliners, celebrating a major milestone. The band comes out, high fives, and fist-pumps their fans. It's a great night, and makes me sad that all good things must come to an end.
Stand Up and Fight
Heavy Metal Maniac
Die in the Night
Feel the Knife
Rising of the Dead
Beyond the Gates of Doom
Violence & Force
Long Live the Loud
Iron Fist (Motörhead cover)
Show Date: October 18, 2023