Eve Of Darkness Book Explores Toronto’s Heavy Metal Scene From 1980-1989

Saturday, September 25th will mark the launch of a very important artifact chronicling the history of the heavy metal music scene in the greater Toronto, Ontario area. On that day, UXB Press will be releasing their newest book, entitled Eve Of Darkness: Toronto Metal in the ’80s. This book is a massive, painstakingly put together tome dedicated to the city’s burgeoning heavy scene during its heyday.

On that day, its creators have put together a book launch like no other. Happening at Toronto’s Shacklands Brewery, it will be a free afternoon of metal camaraderie that will include an open air metal market, DJ sets from artists featured in the book, an all metal karaoke heading into the evening and the launch of a beer in honour of the book’s release.

To give you a bit more of an idea about the book, the launch party and what all of it was about I recently sat down with UXB Press co-founder Derek Emerson to find out some more about what those in attendance can expect.

First off, I wanted to say that Eve Of Darkness is an outstanding aural and visual
history of heavy metal in Toronto in the 1980s. How did the idea to do this book
come into vision?

Thanks for the kind words Sean! As a teen, I was deeply committed to and inspired by
Toronto’s heavy metal atmosphere. Discovering heavier bands emerging in the early
80’s like Venom, Accept, Exciter and in particular Anvil, who came from the same city I
lived in, blew my mind. Could a band releasing such incredible metallic anthems as
“Mothra” and “666” really live just down the road?! Wow!! I began tape trading in 1983 and
soon discovered pockets of ’extreme’ metal bands popping up all over the planet. These
discoveries inspired me and my friend Glenn Salter to start a fanzine called Metallic
. We were compelled to tell more people in our city about these new amazing
bands they’d yet to hear. By fall 1984 we gathered enough material to print our first
issue. The idea for Eve Of Darkness stems from the joy we derived in discovering those
bands and helping develop the local metal scene to a point where our city was producing
our own bands of a similar calibre. I’ve always felt compelled to shine a light on
overlooked artists whose work I enjoy – talented yet under-appreciated musicians who
deserve much more attention than they received at the time. Now is our chance to right
those wrongs and share their stories with a wider audience.

This is your second book, the first being about Toronto hardcore during the 1980s.
Was the idea of doing one on Toronto metal in the 80s something that was always
on the plate, or was it something that was decided upon after the success of the first

Our original plan was to showcase Toronto’s punk and metal scenes of the 80’s in one
book however as we began to compile materials it quickly became clear that two books
would be required to do each of these scenes justice. In reality, readers will only ever see
15-20% of the material we gathered due to space constraints. Both scenes were very
vibrant and productive during that era.

There is a lot of work to do a book like this – literally hundreds and hundreds of hours
of interviews with all sort of artists. You must have assembled an army of
people to do this. What can you tell me about the process of putting your team
together and how you got it all to work?

True, it takes thousands of hours of work to complete a project like this, from interviews
to scanning visuals, editing to design and layout, print production and distribution. There
are countless tasks so having a solid team is crucial. At the outset, Shawn Chirrey (Still
Thinking fanzine / record label) and I agreed to form UXB Press with the intent of
producing high quality books that showcase the local scenes we grew up in. A passionate
writer, Simon Harvey (Ugly Pop Records), quickly joined our crew as did Fran Grasso
(Urbain Grandier Records), Paul Morris and Tim Freeborn (from 80’s TOHC band Sons
Of Ishmael) with several other friends lending their support along the way. As we started
work on Eve Of Darkness, life long metal enthusiast Chris Turner (Sacrament AD,Festered
Corpse) joined the fold. His passion for the subject proved a great addition to an
already strong team. On the design end, Goods + Services Branding threw their creative
muscle behind both book projects and as you will see, their efforts produced stunning

How exactly did you first come to be part of Toronto’s metal scene in its infancy?

As a kid in the 70’s we were bombarded by music – disco, funk, soul and of course hard
rock. Like many of my peers, KISS made a huge impact on this 7 year old kid. In fact
my dad took me to see them as my first real rock concert. By the late 70’s Black Sabbath,
Judas Priest, Van Halen, etc… were my soundtrack. There was a TV show in Toronto at
the time called The New Music which promoted exactly what the name says – providing
exposure for NWOBHM, punk, new wave music in a time before MTV existed. That
show provided a window into a wild world of possibilities. As mentioned earlier,
discovering Anvil who hailed from the same city as me, was a revelation. This made me
curious to find out what other bands were active locally – finding records by Rapid Tears,
Banshee and Minotaur, watching Savage Steel play a dive bar in Mississauga, meeting
Terry Sadler / Slaughter crew at Record Peddler as they were just forming the band…
these experiences intensifed our passion for the music and lifestyle. As our bonds formed
with these like minded people, our confidence to tackle the task of releasing Toronto’s
first zine featuring ’underground’ or ’extreme’ metal grew.

As someone who was very involved in the earliest days of heavy metal and thrash in
the 1980s, and without spoiling too much from the book, what do you think were the
most important events that defined the Toronto metal scene?

Although it’s impossible to pinpoint many of the behind-the-scenes moments that helped
the scene thrive, what we attempt to do in the book is to highlight a handful of gigs by
touring bands who showed the way to local metalheads coming up in the ranks. Early
appearances by Judas Priest (El Mocambo in 1979), Motorhead (1981 + 82), Iron Maiden (1981 +
82), Slayer (1984), Metallica (1985), Celtic Frost (1986), etc… – all of these shows and
more are covered in details with stories and photos from those in attendance. These
events provided the spark for many locals to form bands, start zines, form record labels,
etc… Now you’ll get to read these stories firsthand from those who lived it.

You were doing your own metal zine in the mid to early 80s, entitled Metallic Assault.
Apart from the fact that you were a teenager and it was a different time, how do you
find that your own tastes and opinions on the 80s metal scene have evolved from
those days to now?

Like many others, my musical tastes have expanded over the years but there’s never been
a time that I’ve stopped listening to metal from the 80’s, be it local or international, uber
obscure or semi-main stream releases. I am proud of what we were able to achieve in
Toronto at that time and feel privileged to be able to commemorate the bands, zines,
labels, promoters, record stores, etc… of the era via Eve Of Darkness.

Instead of concentrating entirely on the underground metal scene, the book spans
the gamut from early heavy metal (Anvil, Icon, Lee Aaron) to death and thrash
(Slaughter, Razor, Sacrifice) to the city’s hair metal scene (Slash Puppet, Sebastian
Bach, Killer Dwarves). There were so many different types of scenes in the city and you manage
to hit upon all of them. How difficult was it to research and find information?

Admittedly my background was firmly rooted in the thrash (or ‘speed metal’ as it was
called back then) camp. Larry’s Hideaway was our home away from home and it was
rare that we would visit venues like the Gasworks or Rock N Roll Heaven. That said, it
felt like a project like that needs to include all elements of Toronto’s metal scene of that
time and the glam scene definitely thrived during that era. We connected with numerous
members of the glam scene, some of whom we only knew from a distance at that time,
who became invaluable to helping us tell their collective stories. We are quite happy
with the inclusive approach we took to making sure all factions of the local metal scene
are covered.

The two biggest hard rock bands in Toronto are pretty much left out of this book.
Having more on both Rush and Triumph would arguably sell more copies. Did you
feel that their influence on this scene wasn’t important enough to cover or were they
unavailable for interviews?

Both bands were huge influences on many of us growing up, and that influence is
touched upon in the introduction chapter but ultimately their most influential periods on
local teens occurred in the late 70’s so to focus too much on their already well
documented achievements felt unnecessary. As mentioned earlier, giving exposure to
incredible bands who haven’t received the accolades we feel are due is much more
important to us than including namecheck worthy bands to simply sell more books. That
said, if Geddy or Alex happen to be reading this and want to invite us to hoist a pint in
celebration of Eve Of Darkness’ release, we will be happy to accept their generous
invitation. Lol

Were there bands or people that you reached out to be part of the book that you
were unable to reach? Alternately, how many bands came to you looking to be
covered in the book that you were unfamiliar with before starting the book?

Thankfully only two or three people escaped our search; the vast majority of local bands
and personalities make appearances in one form or another within Eve Of Darkness. We
made a few very cool band discoveries along the way including one in particular that was
something of a revelation.

Without spoiling the surprise, this mystery band turned up a
slew of high quality studio master tapes that have remained unheard by virtually anyone
since they were laid to tape in 1980-81. We digitized the masters to discover the
mysteries they’d been hiding for four decades and wow, we were shocked at the
absolutely top tier songwriting and audio quality! To discover an authentic NWOBHM
era treasure like this is absolutely incredible. Plans are currently underway to release
these recordings via a partnership between Urbain Grandier Records and UXB Press,
coming late spring / early summer 2022. This is something you’ve got to hear to believe!

The book does a great job revisiting the venues and the stores that were very
important to the growth of metal in Toronto. The Record Peddler in particular seems
to be one of the main catalysts of the growth of metal in Toronto. For those
unfamiliar, how would you describe the Peddler, what it was and how important it

Record Peddler was like mecca not only for the underground metal crowd but also
punks, goths, etc… basically anyone seeking new music coming from fringe /
independent artists and labels. They hired very knowledgeable (some might say
curmudgeonly) staff who would get to know customers and recommend new
releases based on their previous purchases. The store would always have new,
enlightening music blaring from their stereo. They were also very open to accepting
material on consignment; a key factor in the support of local bands, zines, etc..
Peddler fostered a real community-building atmosphere, with people meeting amidst
the record bins, talking about forming bands, starting zines, putting on gigs. In fact,
Diabolic Force Records boss Brian Taylor, who worked at the store, recruited bands
like Sacrifice, Slaughter and others while working at the front counter, to record their
first demo and vinyl releases on his label. It would be difficult to overstate the
importance of the revered institution that was the Record Peddler.

The book illustrates that Toronto, while having some level of international success,
had a lot of bands that never got “that big break”. Who do you think are the unsung,
forgotten bands from the 80s scene that should have broken big but for different
reasons did not?

So many bands to mention, such little space here. Suffice to say there are many who we
feel deserved that ‘big break’ and with Eve Of Darkness we are doing our small part to
help deliver some posthumous attention their way.

If there was a Toronto 80s heavy metal hall of fame, who would be the first inductees
and what do you think their reactions would be to getting the nod?

No doubt Anvil would be near, if not top, of the inductee list. Their early work is
unquestionably impressive and influential, as the testimonials from Slash, Anthrax, and
Metallica during the intro of their documentary confirms. Anvil’s reaction to getting the
nod? Well, if I know Robb Reiner, and I sort of think I do, he would be 100% certain
that Anvil deserves it. Lol And in my opinion, he would be 100% correct.

The layout of the book is very bold in red, black and white. When I look at it, I am
immediately reminded of Metallica’s Kill Em All and Celtic Frost’s Morbid Tales. What
was the inspiration that gave you the idea to do the book and packaging in these

You nailed it pretty much on the head. Those two releases along with the first Exciter
and Hellhammer records encapsulate the look and feel we are seeking to celebrate.

It is becoming more commonplace for metal records to be released in limited edition
“diehard” editions with bonus materials, stickers, patches, posters, etc and – in great
metal tradition –  your book is being released in a diehard edition that is absolutely
incredible. Can you describe what is available for those that decide to spend the
extra money for the diehard?

We decided to have some fun the the Die Hard edition. We thought, if we could’ve
created band merch / ephemera back then, what would have been fun to see. We started
by reimaginged the rock mirrors you could win at the CNE during the 80’s, adorned with
images of Ozzy, Ratt, Motley Crue which were fine, but what if we could’ve won
Sacrifice or Lee Aaron mirrors to hang in our school lockers – how fun would that have
been?! From there we figured, trading cards of some of our favourite bands would be
cool, let’s do those too! Eve Of Darkness (the book) provides an insiders peek at how we
the participants themselves viewed the Toronto scene / bands. We thought it would be
fun to view things from an outsider-looking-in perspective so we created ‘Exhumed
’ – a 24 page fanzine collecting articles, reviews and other press clippings
written during the 80’s, spanning sources from all over the globe. There are a few more
odds and ends included in the Die Hard edition that should definitely entertain those who
are eager for a deeper dive into Toronto’s metal history.

You are having a public book launch event for Eve of Darkness on Saturday,
September 25th. Can you explain exactly what will be happening, where it will be
happening and what the cost is for those that would like to attend?

We are thrilled to finally let everyone see what we’ve been working on over the past 2.5-
3 years. We hope they will agree it was worth the wait. Our book release party is taking
place at Shacklands Brewery (100 Symes Road, Toronto) on Saturday September 25th . In
order to accommodate a larger audience during these times of covid restrictions, the
entire event will take place outdoors and it is free to attend. There will be an 80’s
focused Heavy Metal Market running from noon until 6pm that day featuring local and
out-of-town vendors selling vintage vinyl, shirts, pins, flags and more. Guest DJ’s, most
of whom appear in the book, will be playing their favorite metal records of the 80’s –
music that inspired them to join the scene, start a band, etc… As the sun begins to set,
Metal Karaoke kicks into high gear. Guests are invied to shout along to Priest, Accept,
Slayer, Van Halen, Metallica, Anvil, Ratt, Maiden, etc… hundreds of songs to choose
from. If you are interested in 80’s heavy metal you NEED to attend this event!

Thanks for your time in answering these interview questions. Any closing remarks
that you would like to leave with the Hellbound readers?

I think the intro to the book sums it up best. We bonded in hallowed concert halls, gritty
taverns and bustling record stores, weathered denim and studded leather our uniform.
Unyielding, unappologetic, uncompromising. Now is the eve of darkness, when the
legacy of early Toronto heavy metal echoes across continents, oceans and decades,
conquering the souls of new generations of the faithful. Now is our Eve Of Darkness.

Order Eve Of Darkness below


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Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.