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headed into the venue, proceeded to get my media pass and went in through the alternate entrance. Now, I should explain that I had missed out on day 1 of the festivities due to my brother getting hitched and being the best man and all; I felt obligated to go. That meant that I missed out on Overkill, Suicidal Tendencies, Gojira, In Flames, and Slipknot. I know, I tried to convince him to fake his death.  I can only imagine how great the music was. Frankly, it causes me so much pain knowing that I missed out on such great music, that I don’t want to concentrate on it.

What I can tell you though, is that day 2 was the victim of day 1; the previous day it had rained cats and dogs for about half the day, starting with the Cancer Bats and going all the way through In Flames, and Gojira.

It’s a full out graminoid genocide for the entire lot of Downsview Park in Toronto…

Sorry.

Therefore when I stepped onto the field (field being a relative term) I was greeted with one of the most “unique” smells of my life. The constant pounding of the wet grass by angry metal heads created a veritable sea of mud, and not the type that just slips around lightly under your shoe. No, we’re talking about the type that’s been pounded so deep that you’re in danger of losing your shoe every time you pull your foot up. Take that smell and mix it with sweat and grilled meats. Let’s just say it smelled of the seaside, and I’m not talking about the French Riviera.

Yet, the show goes on. This is one of the reasons I love metal so much; the fans are so diehard, so steadfast, so crazy, that it is both amazing and humbling to see the dedication of some people, to see how far they will go to see their favourite bands. Nothing, not even two days of rain and mud can dampen the spirits of this crowd. Not even the stylings rap metal act So Sick Social Club. Talk about odd ones out…

But Sunday started off just as Saturday had, this time with killer sets from Origin, Fleshgod Apocalypse, and Exhumed, who all but decimated any remaining blades of grass. All the bands played to their fullest, and in fact, played much faster than on their albums. For Fleshgod fans that seems impossible, but I assure you it is indeed a reality.

Then Cannibal Corpse hit the stage. I’ve seen crowds go apeshit, but maybe it’s tracks like “ I Cum Blood” and “Hammer Smashed Face” that really get into the primordial mind of man and make it snap. All in good fun of course. Coprsegrinder, ever the charmer threatened to sodomize anyone who wasn’t headbanging during “Priests of Sodom”, especially “…the ugly bitches in the back.”

Then before the last scream had dissipated from Fisher himself, another one appeared, but this time from Jesse Leach and Killswitch Engage blasted onto the stage. It’s not easy following Cannibal Corpse, especially by a band that just had a very publicized split with their singer, but KSE held their own, presenting new versions of “The End of Heartache” and “Rose of Sharyn” and even threw in a new track for those awaiting such a treat.

The weather then seemed turn ugly…again. But the pits just got bigger and the ground just got muddier.

Then, things warped to the late 90’s. In an unabashed return to a time when nu-metal pants were common and hair was bleached and spiked, Deftones rocked the crowd with “My Own Summer” “Be Quiet and Drive” and other hits. Not being a fan, I can’t comment on how good they were (or weren’t), all I know is that the crowd loved them. There is only so much that you can deny, but after hearing grown men shout “I love you Chi” ad nauseam, there’s no denying that they have some of the most loving and dedicated fans I have ever known.

Five Finger Death Punch would bring on their brand of good ol’ American metal, playing crowd pleasers like “Bad Company” “Hard to See” and though they did their best and played amazingly, though the crowd by this time was getting antsy. Several times during the 5FDP set, the crowd started chanting “System”, so much so they completely drowned out 5FDP. The voice of the masses had been heard. Everyone in Heavy T.O. was there to see System of a Down.

Eventually, the entire venue went black and anyone who had vocal chords was screaming at the top of their lungs. The slow chugging of “Prison Song” rang out several times with the obvious spaces left in so the crowd could fill in the blanks. I had literally waited for this moment since I was 16 years old; memories flashed back to my teen years; my band covered practically every song on Toxicity, we knew if front and back. For a moment I was in heaven. Then reality set in; just a few songs in, I could tell something was amiss. Not in the sense that the sound quality was lacking, but in the sense that System themselves were not into it. All the edge of “Needles” and “Chop Suey” was gone, replaced by softer and more bored singing style reminiscent of Serj’s solo project. My worst fears had been realized; I had hoped for a return to form with System, maybe Daron could pick up his Ibanez Iceman again? Maybe, for the first time in years, they could loose themselves in their music, as they had back in the days Reading 2001, BigDayOut 2002. Instead, le enfant terrible continued to play old System songs on his Gibson SG, re-imagining several riffs to have more of ska feel or a down tempo beat to it. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement; to say that I left the show would be accurate. It seems individually, the band members are in are in different places; Daron is stuck in his Scars of Broadway Mesmerize/Hypnotize era (fedora included) and Serj, he genuinely seems to have lost all passion for System. Unfortunately, this leaves John and Shavo to hold up the fort and that, is a weight to great to bare.

For me, it was a disappointing end to a great festival and I know I may be alone on that one, but there was simply no denying it. Otherwise, everything (besides the weather) was stellar; the bands rocked, other fans were awesome, and yet again Toronto put itself on the heavy metal stage.

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I remember staying up past my bedtime when I was a kid, I had been flipping through radio stations aimlessly until my finger just stopped on Q107. I was instantly hooked by the drums, guitar and sheer heavyness of the song. I really didn’t know what music could be that heavy. Ever since then I’ve been hooked and attended shows in the seediest of dives to the most expensive arenas, met my share of rock stars, even won a few awesome pieces of memorabilia. But I’ll never forget the time an 8 year old me thrashed out on my bed at 2am to “Master of Puppets”.