Do not be fooled by our polite smiles and unceasing repetition of the words “I’m sorry” for even the most innocent of slights, Canadians are a thoroughly metal people. The frost and chill of the Great White North flows in the blood of every proud Canuck, and neither rain nor an ocean of mud could keep us from descending on Downsview Park for the Heavy T.O. Festival; two days of metal, $8 Budweiser (which tastes like poison to the aforementioned proud Canuck) and rain.

The Heavy T.O. Festival is in its second year, and perhaps this is why the festival still feels a little uneven. Don’t get me wrong, there were some great performances and plenty of excellent bands. I had a fantastic time banging heads with the rest of my brothers and sisters in the metal community, but I couldn’t help but notice that the festival still has yet to capture the variety of modern heavy metal.

Day One featured a bizarre mix of rap metal (So Sick Social Club, who I hope never make another record again), metalcore (Trivium, that goes double for you), and some metal stars of yesteryear (Slipknot, Marilyn Manson). Obviously, there were other bands, and some fantastic highlights; I’m reasonably sure that if the headlining band had been open to an audience vote, we’d have all been watching Cancer Bats instead of Slipknot. Already hometown heroes, Cancer Bats played an superb set that kicked off with a fantastic cover of the Beastie Boys‘ “Sabotage”. These guys had limitless energy and a killer sound, and the crowd could not help but cheer loud and proud as their set came to an all-too-quick end. If you’re not listening to this band yet, come back to this review later and give them a listen.

The modern Alice Cooper, Mr. Marilyn Manson was also entertaining. Sporting a setlist of ‘best ofs’, Manson was everything I expected he would be, all lights, sound and fury. He also ripped up a Bible onstage and shoved the pages in his mouth. He’s still doing that, I guess, and it didn’t exactly shock, but it’s good to see the boogeyman of every 90s parent is still trying to impress.

Day Two of Heavy T.O. was primarily devoted to an impressive lineup of death metal bands. There were plenty of great moments here. Rose Funeral, the opening band, blew their amps in the first 20 second of performing. Origin brought the thunder and fury (as I expected). Exhumed showered the audience in fake blood and offered up a severed head and some freaky fuck with a chainsaw for our amusement. One of my personal faves from Day Two HAD to be Goatwhore. These NOLA psychos brought their Southern-fried blend of blackened death to the fest and gave one hell of a performance. I was amazed that the crowd was so small for them. I’m going to pass it off as an unenviable lunchtime start time.

Cannibal Corpse played a great show (aside from Corpsegrinder‘s creepy threat to sodomize less-dedicated-to-Cannibal-Corpse female metalheads. I know, Cannibal Corpse and misogyny go together like Cannibal Corpse and gore. but still…creepy). Deftones were MUCH heavier than I remember them being back in 1999 (it’s a good thing). The bro-metal of Five Finger Death Punch did nothing for me, and the profoundly unnecessary acoustic song they played at the end of their set riled up enough people to start them chanting “SYSTEM” before FFDP had even finished up. And headliners System of a Down? Never my thing growing up, they played a wonderful set of fan favorites and really impressed me. Seeing ‘Chop Suey’ performed live was a nice way to finish my time at Heavy T.O.

So the festival was pretty good. Here’s my problem:

There’s no VARIETY here! Heavy metal is such an EXCITING genre of music that this is unacceptable. There’s plenty of doom, black, stoner and who-knows-what-else metal that Day Two especially should have been more than death metal band after death metal band. I realize that Toronto is not Wacken, and Canada is not Central Europe. We’re not easy to get to, and Heavy T.O. is simply a young festival. Nevertheless, the sheer lack of new and interesting bands (with a few exceptions!!!) was off-putting. Next year, let’s see a mix of genres and styles, let’s get some CANADIAN beer for the tents, and let’s start taking heavy metal seriously in Canada. We’ve got the ice and snow in our soul for a solid metal festival. I can only hope that Heavy T.O. tries to develop itself into something that metalheads can start looking forward to the moment it’s over.

Heavy T.O. – Official Webpage