As a Brazilian, I was always expected to like carnival – rhythm and dancing is supposed to be in our blood. In my case however, I never understood why the whole country stopped for almost a week to celebrate. Add that to the fact that I don’t enjoy samba and any of its ramifications, and you can imagine why I was never able to engage in this party. My mother tells me of the time I was taken to a carnival matinee when I was three years old, and at some point I started flicking away the confetti that fell on my shoulders.
As I grew older, I started to appreciate the break provided by carnival, but was always trying to avoid going out on those days. I used to prepare myself by renting a million movies and getting a supply of the heaviest music at reach, to be able to enjoy those days off. In the carnival of 1993, I went to my favorite record store (which is now defunct, sadly) and chose Biohazard’s Urban Discipline as my companion, and never regretted it. Tastes change and evolve, and today I consider myself more of a prog-metal fan than anything else, but I will always have a soft spot for Biohazard in my heart. The relief and excitement provided in those days by songs like “Mistaken Identity”, “Wrong Side of the Tracks” and “Shades of Grey” will never be forgotten. And the door to the world of hardcore punk was open at once.
Fast forward to 2018, and after many lineup changes in Biohazard, frontman and main guitarist Billy Graziadei decided to take matters with his own hands and release music under a different entity, which he named Billy Bio. His debut album, Feed the Fire is a heavy, fast, groovy and energetic affair, which will please the old fans, while gathering new ones. Billy is currently on tour promoting this album, and had a stopover in Toronto recently, at the Hard Luck Bar.
The first band to get on stage were local boys Powerbomb, and their show felt more like a rehearsal with friends, with no more than ten people attending. Singer Burton took things in stride and joked about it: “wow, ONE guy clapping!”, he said, after one of their songs. Their sound can be defined as a wrestling-themed hardcore with screamo influences, and some of the standout songs on their set were “Screwjob” and “Major Threat”. Coming up next was Born Without Hope, which plays thrash metal with hardcore breakdowns here and there. Their guitar players had one of the dirtiest guitar tones I’ve ever heard, and songs such as “Ruthless”, “Matter Of Time” and “Against All Odds” got a more engaged response from the crowd.
Thy Will Be Done presented their thrash/death metal with tinges of doom. Hailing from Providence, RI, they were hand-picked by Metallica to perform at the inaugural ORION Music+More Fest, and have supported Machine Head, Lamb Of God, Devildriver, and Trivium. No wonder their set was a lot more professional and carefully crafted. Songs like “Breath Of Light”, “A Lion And A Lamb” and “The Great Rebuilding” showed their prowess and versatility, and are clear evidence that they can aspire more. It’s also worth noting their cool shirts on sale at the show, with “loud riffs save lives” written in the back. Amen, brothers!
A tad before 11 PM, Billy came on stage with his bleached hair, camouflage pants and Vans shoes. The first song on his set was “No Apologies, No Regrets”, which begins with a slow burn kind of riff and soon explodes on call and response verses and mob choruses. One of the best songs off the new album, “Generation Z” got the crowd all worked up, and the chorus of “a new generation that is kicking ass / fuck the world and the upper class” was sung with fists in the air and at the top of everyone’s lungs.
Billy addressed the crowd and said, in this thick Italian-American accent “It’s not often that you get to do something in your life twice. When we started Biohazard we were met with puzzled looks and closed arms, and look at where we got. Now I’m getting to do it all over again with Billy Bio”. He definitely seems determined to take this band to the next level. Although the attendance wasn’t great – certainly not compatible with Billy’s iconic status and his importance for the genre – the band played like they were on a festival crowd. And if tonight is any indication of how things will go down for this band, expect a much larger crowd on upcoming tours.
Including choice cuts from Biohazard’s discography proved to be the right move: songs like “Victory” and “Shades of Grey” still resonate with the crowd, and “How It Is”, with rap-like verses and an added dose of gain in the guitar, were high points of the show. Rhythm guitar skills are often ignored (unless your name is Malcolm Young), but Billy’s performance on songs like “Enemy” and “Untruth” should definitely be praised. His dark grey Gibson guitar was used and abused during the whole set, and sounded like a chainsaw working its way through a steel pipe.
The title track of Billy Bio’s debut “Feed the Fire” was probably the song with the biggest response from the crowd – even a strike or two of karate were seen as some audience members got way too excited. Funny enough, in a completely non-punk attitude, Billy wore a headset, and felt compelled to explain why he was using a “Justin Bieber microphone” – this was his son’s idea to allow him to move like a maniac on stage and still sing. It’s ok, Billy, you’re forgiven!
The anthemic “Freedom’s Never Free” closed the set, with the volume knob turned to 11 and a pedal-to-the-metal approach. Billy promised to come back next year with a brand new album and a bigger show. Here’s hoping he does come back and that his audience grows with time. On this last song, he screamed “we have a voice and we will be heard”, and his music certainly deserves to reach more ears.