Ken Jones

REVIEW/PHOTOS: Metal warriors Canedy blow away blues fest with heavy debut

REVIEW/PHOTOS: Metal warriors Canedy blow away blues fest with heavy debut
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So here I am, a passenger in the car of one of the area’s preeminent hard rock guitarists, Charlie Russello, driving to Binghamton, New York on Sunday, Sept. 8 for the 18th annual Blues on the Bridge, thinking about and jamming to nothing but metal. This isn’t so odd for two guys our age who have been metalheads for well over 40 years, but what is a bit strange is that this new project that Charlie is a part of is a very hard-rocking metal band that is headlining this huge blues event.

Canedy, a new musical project for legendary drummer Carl Canedy of metal icons The Rods, is a very intense combination of old school and newer metal stylings. The band is a collaboration between Carl and former members of Scranton-area metal standouts Totally Lost Cause (TLC) – Mike Devlin Blair on vocals, Tony Garuba on bass, and Russello on guitar. While they may not be the youngest group of headbangers around, don’t let that fool you – they rock as hard and as heavy as anyone.

Listening to the tracks on the way down from their upcoming release, “In This Sign,” I was reminded of some of the hard-rocking bands I listened to in my youth. With the power of Priest and the virtuosity of bands like Queensrÿche, these guys are putting the best effort of their metal careers forth for us. I could not wait to see what they could do live.

We arrived at the show about two hours before set time. I got a chance to see a few of the blues bands playing and immediately wondered why this event was picked for the debut of such a hard-rocking metal band. I really thought this was going to be a failure for them; the crowd did not resemble any metal crowd I’ve been a part of in my long history as a metalhead. In my long history of being wrong, I was happy to learn soon enough that these guys could win over any crowd with their heavy-hitting songs.

After the introduction of the band, with acknowledgment of Carl being New York’s favorite son, the crowd reacted with the same enthusiasm as they had for the assortment of blues bands they’d heard earlier. Actually, even more. Blair grabbed the mic and warned the crowd that they might not be ready for what was in store for them, and he promised the event coordinator not to scare too many people away, but he couldn’t truthfully say that with certainty. From the opening notes of “Warrior,” this was no longer a blues festival but a metal show of the highest order on the South Washington Street Bridge.

“Warrior” is an incredibly powerful song that has deep meaning for all four of these gentlemen. It’s the story of how, just when metal was at its peak, grunge came about and caused the downfall of that era of heavy metal, at least in the minds of the general public. It takes the listener on a journey of being at the top of your game and having it taken away. It also shows the sadness of not pursuing your art the way you want to, by “selling out” or even just walking away. Then it brings you back to fighting for that love, to get it back no matter what the cost. I think this song is an anthem for all musicians from that time period who endured the changes and did whatever they could to keep playing, and the sacrifices made until the time was right to have that glory restored to them. The overall power of the riffs and bombastic drums of this song had the crowd totally won over from the get-go.

The rest of the set was filled with nothing but power metal songs that transformed the audience from a laidback, mellow, blues-loving crowd into a head-banging, horns-throwing metal mob. When Blair would talk to the crowd to set up the next song, you could hear the screams of appreciation from this group of people I had no idea would so warmly accept them. This is where music, when played by exceptional musicians, is at its best – it defies genres.

People were in awe of the prowess of Canedy, Russello, and Garuba, as well as the uncanny vocal range of Blair. As someone who’s been a fan of Russello’s work since I first saw this Clarks Summit musician play with a friend’s band, Deranged, at the mere age of 16, I can say that he has always been a phenom. I love to watch the reaction of the crowd when he cuts loose on a solo. From playing familiar songs by industry idols like Neal Schon when he was with the tribute act Idol Kings to his early metal projects (such as TLC and Bare Knuckle) to his eclectic progressive instrumental band the Russello Project, Charlie always manages to leave jaws hanging. Tonight was no different. Jaws were hanging and heads were shaking as many were seeing this man shred for the first time and wondering how they’d never seen or heard of him before.

Midway through the set, the crowd was in for more of a metal staple – the drum solo. Canedy took the crowd by storm with his bombastic percussive thunder. Fans of The Rods already know that Carl is one of the best in the genre, but that night, fans of normally laidback drumming were having their minds blown by what a metal drummer can do. His double-bass blasts and inventive fills gave this longtime metalhead who never really cared for drum solos a new appreciation for drumming. While I don’t deny the power of the drums, I’m more of a guitar and bass guy and usually take the drum solo as an excuse to get a beer. Not that night. I already knew how good Carl was, but I was completely impressed by how thunderous he is live. So was everyone else. He showed that he truly is one of NY’s favorite sons – they went wild for him.

After a set of nine songs that will be on the upcoming album, Canedy bid the crowd farewell. The crowd, however, wanted no part of that. Screams of “Encore!” and “More!” shot out. Blair explained that they’d given them everything they had, but they would not let them down. He told them that when he first started out as a singer, one of the first songs he ever played live in a band was from the metal gods themselves, Judas Priest. The crowd exploded as Canedy ripped into “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.” Even with Charlie playing only one guitar, Canedy captured the raw energy of this classic metal anthem with a power I’ve only seen by Priest themselves. They finished their set strong and exuberant with the victory they had that night.

Metal may have changed, but it has never gone away. It’s back, stronger than ever, and metal warriors like Canedy are taking the battle for supremacy back to the frontlines. You need to see these guys as soon as you get a chance; you won’t be disappointed. And I hope you enjoy these shots that I had to fight my urge to headbang to get.