I’m still trying to adapt to the idea that Montreal’s beloved Metropolis is now MTelus. Even my autocorrect doesn’t want to accept it, constantly trying to minimize the T. But on this night, as Sweden invaded in full force, we may as well rename it the MThor. It was a crisp October night, perfect for throwing on your favourite pelts, assembling a raiding party and paying hommage to Odin and his sons.
First up on to altar of Valhalla were Grand Magus. These veterans first draw attention as they’re something rarely seen in the realm of Viking metal, a trio. Montreal is a crowd that likes to be fashionably late, but this crowd was hungry and in full force by the 7:00 start. These three men and an already packed room made enough noise to make sure that the Gods would take notice.
Up next were At The Gates, a band who has spent more time broken up than active in their 30 years. This certainly seems to affect their performance. They only played 2 tracks from their latest album To Drink From the Night Itself, instead concentrating their efforts on 2014’s At War With Reality and 1995’s Slaughter of the Soul. It’s incredible to see how 2 albums, nearly 2 decades apart seem to fit so seamlessly together.
Arch Enemy were next. Like a poutine at the Ikea cafeteria, they brought some local flavour to the mix, featuring Montreal native Alissa White-Gluz. This was the blue-haired frontwoman’s first appearance in her hometown since reigniting the flames with a very public feud with her former bandmates in The Agonist and new frontwoman Vicky Psarakis.
Still, this is metal, not politics. From the moment she stepped on stage the crowd erupted for their hometown heroine. She came out clearly pumped to be in front of her people. At the opening notes of “The World Is Yours” a frenzy started. Crowd participation was mandatory and rock horns were held high. In a stage full of gigantic Norsemen, the diminutive vocalist took her place and stood tall. The intensity of this set was turned up a notch as if she had something to prove. Her bandmates backed her with deathly precision and attempted to match her energy. It was clear Montreal wanted to show their appreciation. White-Gluz seemed a little choked up as she was bowing at the end of their set.
As a fan of creativity at the merch table, I must give Arch Enemy some credit for selling power banks with their logo etched in them and the name of their latest album Will to Power. It’s both clever and useful!
As the crowd readied themselves for the main event Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” came over the house speakers. It was clear this crowd was engaged as the sold-out theatre sang the song as loudly as if Bruce Dickinson himself were on stage. They were ready.
Amon Amarth came out and immediately claimed the stage as their own. The set was dominated by a gigantic Viking war helmet with glowing eyes atop which sat drummer Jocke Wallgren. As they blared into “Raven’s Flight” every plastic cup in the crowd became a drinking horn and was raised to the skies as an offering to the metal Gods. Fists were pumping in unison with “hey” chants. This raiding party was in full swing. At the end of the song singer Johan Hegg proclaimed in his best Ragnar Lothbrok voice “You are all crazy motherfuckers!”
For “Deceiver of the Gods” the band was joined on stage by a creature that I can only describe as Loki made love to a Tusken Raider. The creature had Loki’s horns and staff with glowing green eyes. It walked about the stage encouraging the crowd to make noise as if they needed it.
Showing a little bit of levity, Hegg announced: “this song is called First Kill because everyone has to start somewhere.” It was a brief moment of levity. This crowd seemed to be fully buying into the Viking horde mentality and were whipping themselves into a frenzy worthy of the “Berserker Tour.”
The encore started with “The Pursuit of Vikings” which saw everyone erupt into the largest circle pit I’ve seen at this venue since Pantera back in 1997. The ceremonies closed with “Twilight of the Thunder God” as a giant dragon head loomed from the side of the stage.
The crowd was starting to show signs of fatigue after more than 4 hours of raiding, but they were screaming for more. On this night, the lords of Valhalla took notice of the world of men and they were pleased.
Review – Richard Brunette
Photos – Kieron Yates