After a year hiatus, Heavy Montreal was back with a vengeance for 2018, and we were there to cover the event.
Day 1 of the festival was summed up in my mind as every mother’s worst nightmare: the “Satanic” performers Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, black t-shirts, leather boots, mostly pale skins and no sunscreen protection. Or at least that would have been my mother’s nightmare 17 years or so ago when I started listening to heavy metal.
I could hear my mother’s voice of concern every couple of hours as I listened to all sorts of bands from the full range of choices we had in front of us, from the unintelligible grindcore metal of Napalm Death to the powerful metalcore compositions of Jinjer.
I had the chance to see many bands throughout the day, staying for two or three songs on most of them and only seeing the whole set for Rob Zombie. Here are the ones I checked out during day 1 at Heavy Montreal 2018:
Here was a great performer that even though had been playing for more than 25 years, I only came to hear him during the festival, and for that, I am very thankful. He has had 19 top 10 albums on Billboard and has played with the great Serk Tankian, with T-Pain and Kendrick Lamar.
This rapper delivered a lot of power through their music and lyrics, interacted a lot with the crowd and even asked for some weed from those in front of the stage.
Check out this video – Straight Out the Gate Featuring Serj Tankian
Next up was Witchcraft, a radical change in pace and music from the previous act, but that was one of the privileges of the 2-day fest.
This Swedish doom metal band was enjoyable, with a refreshing vintage sound that reminded me of early Black Sabbath and pleasant enough for me to stay for a third song.
I would highly recommend listening to their single “It’s not because of you” HERE
With a vast rubber duck on stage and drinking like there was no tomorrow, the Scottish pirate metal band took the stage to delight us with their ridiculous songs, drinking hymns and weird sailing references.
Even though they really tried to engage with the audience, the majority of the people outside of front stage rarely employed back, neither answering to their requests for choir answers or any sort movement resembling a headbang.
Now, I have written before about Allegaeon on this site, and this was my third time seeing them live, but they are one of the few death metal bands I can enjoy time after time due to the very skilled technique of the musicians and the sweet melodic songs that accompany the death growling.
If they come again, I will sure be there. Definitely take a look at their 1.618 video, in which they go through a history of metal.
There is little to say about my experience seeing Napalm Death. For me, this side of grindcore metal is something that I have a difficult time wrapping my ears around and more than two songs during this first day of the HM would have been a waste of time.
This newcomer to the scene (est. 2013) drew a big crowd to the main stage. Many seemed to have come especially for them given their t-shirts and enthusiasm.
This band’s success is a tale of our age, surging in popularity after a viral cover of Taylor Swift on Youtube, they quickly went to headlining their own tour shortly after their newly found fame.
They showed their love for the city by naming their top 3 reasons for wanting to always play in Montreal, the fantastic and responsive crowd that they draw, the beautiful women and the delicious poutine.
The 3 songs I witnessed were engaging and were enough for me to determine that this band was definitely post-hardcore and as such it flew over my head, and even after listening to their songs online the only one that remained memorable was their cover of Taylor Swift.
Listen to that cover HERE
After “I Prevail” I didn’t know what to listen to next, so I briefly stopped by one of the other stages to check out Underoath after having seen several people with the t-shirt. It turned out to be a big waste, with terrible vocals and an underwhelming delivery of anything worth writing about.
Next up was Erra, a band that I found to be both quite primal and progressive in their sound. The three songs I heard were definitely a good taste of what they can deliver, and since then I have added them to my “to listen” playlist.
Now came the time for one of the main acts, Mr. Manson himself.
I had very high expectations for this show, but, as I later heard from other people, it’s been a long time since Marilyn Manson delivered an excellent presentation.
Apart from the audio problems Manson was experiencing on stage, the heat, or his recovery from the supposed “flu” he got before his cancelled Toronto concert two nights before, the show was depressing to watch. With a mix of lethargy, depression and the lack of showmanship made the set impossible to enjoy.
He barely moved, sang or seemed alive. The years of Antichrist Superstar are well behind and might never come back. Maybe he should retire already and avoid everyone this aftertaste of pity and disgust mixed together.
Listen to any of his recordings but never go see him live, even if it’s free.
Having previously planned to listen to Manson’s whole set but changing my mind after having witnessed a pitiful show, I had time to go and explore promising bands, and it was Jinjer’s turn.
This Ukranian band combines the best of progressive rock, djent, and metalcore. The musicians are highly-skilled, the singer is talented in delivering both sweet notes and powerful death growls, and together they make music that stands out by itself and makes waves in the coming years.
Unfortunately, the storm that was being announced on all of our weather apps came to be fulfilled during their set, a flash storm with heavy downpouring caught many off guard and cut the set short, only to be restarted for two more songs after it stopped raining.
Listen to “Bad Water” and start from there.
Through puddles and mud, I went to another stage and checked out Emperor, an old highly-influential Norwegian black metal band. The pair of tunes I listened to left me drained of any will to stand there for any longer. It was time for a break before the last act of the night, Rob Zombie.
And last but definitely not least is Rob Zombie. His set, as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, is the only one I saw from start to finish and was absolutely worth it. The music, the scenography, the montage, the videos and the musicians delivered a true rock-n-roll immersive experience.
Zombie and the band played all the hits and then some. “Dragula,” “Superbeast,” “Living Dead Girl” and even “Thunder Kiss ‘65” from his White Zombie years were played in one of the best concerts I personally have seen this year in Montreal.
The whole set was like going back to the best of the early 2000’s. Rob Zombie at his almost 60 years of age delivered a fantastic performance, one that did not disappoint 16-year-old me.
At the end of the day, the only concerns from my mother that were worth heading were those related to sunburns, hydration and some of the more explicit images of Rob Zombie. The disappointment of seeing Marilyn Manson live was enough to turn the idea I had of him in mind into a depressing unstable performer who does not want to either improve or at least retire.
Photos – Steve Gerrard
Review – Ricardo D. Flores