If my experience on day one of Heavy Montreal 2018 can be summed up by saying that meeting the idols of your youth can be both be incredible (as in the case of Rob Zombie) and utterly depressing (in the case of Marilyn Manson), then day 2 can be summarized with the feeling that I am growing older quickly and I what I used to like from metal 17 years ago now seems tedious and repetitive.
While writing this review and having taken a look at my notes from day 2 of the festival it revealed to me that novelty is hard to come by these days and that what seems novel and fashionable these days is at times, and at best, watered-down imitation of what happened before.
What I did like, and subsequently added to my streaming rotation, came, in its majority, not from the big main stages but the smaller ones where a cleaner, heavier and more intelligent sound came from.
The second day had started a bit earlier, but I arrived just as Ultra Vomit was about to start playing. This French band is the epitome of parody-metal, with strange and funny lyrics, it got the crowd laughing, moving their heads and clashing in a hilarious wall of death, bashing together “puss and caca” as they called it.
The music itself was different, very entertaining and full of energy. Throughout their career, they have parodied almost everyone from the metal scene, from Manowar to Rammstein.
Next up, after a couple of songs from UV, I walked to the next stage to check out Voivod, the veteran Quebecois band from Jonquiere. The public was mostly absent; maybe they were in the shows that were running parallel, Warbringer or The Agonist.
During those first few hours of the fest, it felt somewhat empty compared to the crowd sizes of day 1. I think it’s probably due to the main acts and the fact that one of them got changed almost at the last minute for Limp Bizkit.
Voivod’s music was very progressive and varied, probably due to the long history they have had. Punk and classic metal were played with lots of strength making the couple of songs I heard very enjoyable.
But, I had to keep walking and check out the other acts, and this time it was The Agonist’s turn. This woman-led band is a Montreal band that has been climbing the scenes since 2004. They were more alive than Voivod and presented a wide vocal range. Their melodic death metal and was very nice and a welcome surprise.
After a couple of songs from The Agonist, I walked a few minutes to check out Warbringer, a thrash metal act from the US that has been playing together since 2004 and was in Montreal as part of the Napalm Records tour that also brought the bands I saw earlier in the day.
I caught the last half of their show, and they were engaging with the crowd, saluting and being happy to be present at the festival. Unfortunately, their last two songs had audio problems and made the experience spotty and more erratic than needed. What sounded well during the set brought out the trademark sounds of thrash metal.
Right after Warbringer, I walked to where Sleep was playing. This classic stoner rock act was very hypnotic, with cyclic melodies and rhythms made me feel like I was in some gloomy trance in a sweltering sauna. It was interesting for a couple of songs but not enough for me to stay for the couple of songs I heard.
I quickly walked to check out Gloryhammer, the other crazy side project from Alestorm’s keyboard-vocalist Christopher Bowes. They were on stage with strange costumes, and to anybody who has never heard them up to that point it gave them a great idea of what they will be about with a giant hammer on hand, the singer sang hymn after hymn, and most of the crowd sang along to each of them. A nice change of pace from the screams, growls, and doom from the previous acts.
Now the afternoon was at hand, and the more prominent acts and crowds started showing up. First up was Trivium, putting on a show that made it worth it for the hundreds of fans that carried their t-shirts all day. Between songs, the singer, Paolo, encouraged the crowd to be louder and to compete for the number one spot of their crowds for this tour. He says we made it there, but I think he means that to everyone.
I did not know them much before this show but having seen them live made me respect them and know that they have what it takes to keep on making crowd-pleasing songs and memorable lyrics for years to come.
I quickly escaped the last 15 minutes of Trivium’s set to catch a glimpse of Hollywood Undead, a rap-rock band that has been getting, since 2005, lots of teenagers angst adequately channeled through strong, vengeful and rage-filled lyrics.
Their music was made for the rebel years with words like “watch your back” and “watch what you say,” the theme of what they are about could be made out quickly in the first couple of songs. It seemed like I was witnessing a hybrid clone of Eminem and Slipknot, they rapped and had masks, but to my eyes (and ears) it looked like a cheaper attempt at capitalizing on the masked group from Iowa as if the masterminds behind N-Sync and Backstreet Boys dreamt up of this.
Not willing to stay under the sun listening to them, I quickly headed out to check out the highly recommend and remembered Necrotic Mutation, a classic Quebec band from the early 90s that has reunited and broken up again several times during the last three decades. Their music varied from the hardcore death metal to more “delicate” and intricate compositions, intertwining power with melodic variations and, what it felt at times, as some (death)jazz, to put it somehow. After having seen them live, I was able to piece together memories from other local death metal bands that I have seen in the last 6 years and I sense a commonality in Quebec metal, a more intelligent (for the lack of a better word) approach to it and an added layer of virtuosity to the songs.
Finally, the main course, at least for me, Gojira, a band that I ran into by chance, through their album Magma, for the first time a couple of years ago while I was looking for albums from another french band by the same name, the great experimental-Zeuhl-rock gods of Magma.
The unique blend that this band from Bayonne brought forth is remarkable, borrowing from death metal, prog and industrial rock, they were able to set both the stage and crowd on fire. Their music coupled with the charisma of the singer made the act worth waiting for thousands of fans, and from the start, to finish, it did not disappoint.
After they were over and out of the stage, I somewhat dreaded seeing Limp Bizkit. Not because they were replacing Avenged Sevenfold, but because I had already seen them once two years ago and I had no hopes to see something either different or better than what I saw before. I had outgrown them, I was getting old, and they were not getting any younger by reliving year after and show after show the late 90s and early 2000s.
I did not stay until the end, I just couldn’t, but I did hear a couple of songs and clearly remember where I was at the first time I listened to those songs and was happy to know that all that teenage anger was momentary, and that metal was not dead, dying or moribund, it was just evolving and that many of the bands that I had seen for the first time were learning to age and make better music than before.
All in all, I think this might be the first and last time I review a heavy metal festival, my insights, notes, and takeaways resemble more that of a grumpy old man longing for better yesteryears when music seemed heavier and, at least to my ears and adolescent brain, more rebellious.
Review – Ricardo D Flores
Photos – Steve Gerrard