Heavy Montreal 2014 Recap: 7 Storylines From Metal’s Wild Weekend
Hey MetalSucks reader! It’s me, Anso DF! Dude, I had an awesome time this weekend in Montreal at the big fancy metal festival — so we now know what we once only sensed: Last year was no fluke! Of course, you and I both wish that you had attended this year, cuz throughout the two-day rager we could’ve shared wows, chuckles, smoothies, doobs, tears, and jeers. See, a mostly-daytime and completely outdoor metal event like Heavy Montreal supplies a lot of each — for there is no escape, no shadows, and no filter! So read on and see what you would’ve gabbed about with me (and everybody) while in line for pizza and while dozing around beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau. Thanks for reading!
1. Babymetal Is A Complex Paradigm :)
Huge Stage B
America’s favorite Japanese bands are hyper-Japanese — all exotically ethnic, cute, fashionable, or otherwise in line with stereotype. So, it’s wise that Babymetal‘s vibe eschews normal, everyday Japaneseness; instead the trio and their backers, if you didn’t know better, might be mistaken for an attempt at Japanese Metal that was made by seven culture-crazed Americans: They sing in junior-high Japanese, dress like a teen horror manga, and move like expressionless play-robots. It’s so over-the-top Japanese, like an American band dressed in full Yankees uniforms line-dancing while singing about Big Macs. Yet even a blind person at Heavy Montreal would be certain that Babymetal is indeed a product of Japan’s pop industry: One song’s deft hook repeats in your head even throughout their next song! That’s J-Pop. Plus, Babymetal is heckle-proof; even the buttmaddest IMNs at Heavy couldn’t bring themselves to shower boos on sweet teen girls.
2. That Overkill Isn’t “Big Four” Is Good (For Us)
Huge Stage A
The shadow of Metallica loomed large over Saturday at Heavy Montreal: Every third festgoer wore a Metallica shirt. Every other dude mentioned them from the stage and in the crowd. Every fest staffer was occupied with their demands. But at Overkill‘s first tour date since March, they aimed to steal Metallica’s show. It was a small victory: At Heavy, jams like “Ironbound,” “Electric Rattlesnake,” and the live debut of “Armorist” were happy reminders that unlike Metallica, Overkill still makes awesome records. You lament that fact at first, but then relish it for if Overkill were as big as Metallica, their old standbys like “Deny The Cross” and “Rotten To The Core” would no longer be “true” to them, and their authors wouldn’t aim to upstage the superstars. They’d sound flabby like Megadeth (at last year’s Heavy) or janky like Anthrax (below). In fact, Overkill’s only sign of age was a change of cadence in the chorus of “Fuck You”: What used to be a punk hesher shouting “We don’t care/What you say/FUCK YOU!” is now a Bronx cabbie squinting and dismissing you with an annoyed wave “We don’t care/What you say/Fahhk youu.”
3. Whitechapel Could Be In Lamb Of God’s Slot Next Year, Then Slipknot’s Next Next Year
Big side stage
Just a few years ago, it was easy to predict a big future for Suicide Silence. But their eye-grabbing frontman with mystique died, and his survivors erred critically by replacing him with his opposite: A bro who seems pretty normal and nice. That means there’s a spot open for “next heavy band to be embraced by a wave of young people who don’t yet realize that they love metal,” the next link in the chain that started with Black Sabbath, basically. And after their huge moment at Heavy Montreal, Whitechapel is my enthusiastic vote for the gig. They’re just like their forebears Slipknot and Lamb Of God, all monochromatic, indecipherable, awesome, and of one reaction to everything: pissy. Those older bands will keep their fans, but Whitechapel could scoop up the ones who relate to a group of twentysomethings — not to grizzled bros pushing 40 and major gut mass. They’ll choose Whitechapel for the goosebumps (“Possession” “Mono) and elementary rage (“Worship The Digital Age” “The Saw Is The Law”). That lumpy old cranks single them out for ridicule is just a bonus.
4. Protest The Hero’s Singer Should Bail
Big side stage
Away from home and without my salon products, I was nonetheless having a pretty good hair day until festival security blasted me with a firehose at Overkill. I let the hot breeze dry my slick coif, then used my sunglasses as a band to hold it back, no problemo, crisis averted. But later at Municipal Waste, the hose got me again good and blammo! my shit was back at square one. Damn. Panicking at Protest The Hero, I positioned myself with a tree between me and that cockblocking hose, and thereby settled for a view of only one guitarist (the one who runs scales throughout every song) and vocalist Rody Walker. Like the weekend’s other acts with super-busy riffs, PTH’s songs are hard to follow, so it was easy to tune out and use my vantage point to ponder Walker’s appearance: He is way buff now! So, now that his bod is jammin’, is there any reason for him to continue whining and shrieking for Protest The Hero? Does he even relate to PTH’s IMNy, beardy vibe? Shouldn’t he bail for Coachella-type glory before he wastes his dazzling voice and the best dong-years of his life? Somebody get him a suit and a guest spot on a big Kanye/Sia jam!
5. Voivod Is Going To Be Just Fine
Huge Stage B
Donning a Motorhead shirt and playing a Rickenbacker, new Voivod bassist Dominic “Rocky” Laroche raged like a cheerful Lemmy through triumphant new stuff (“Kluskop O’Kum” “Target Earth”) and classics (“Tribal Convictions” “Ripping Headaches”). That means that the second loss of an original member, Jean-Yves “Blacky” Theriault, isn’t a fatal bummer in VoivodVille. In fact, the men of Voivod each looked as happy as Rocky, like bros playing a hometown show beside buds from the old days. Accordingly, singer Denis “Snake” Bélanger addressed the crowd only in the local language, but I deciphered his admission that he was then celebrating his 50th birthday. He hadn’t mentioned that during our chat a couple hours prior, so I cursed my rude cluelessness! But then again, a one-to-one talk with me is an amazing and rare birthday gift. And staring into my eyes is like fireworks. So happy birthday Snake!
6. Anthrax’s Caress Is Cold
Huge stage A
Halfway through Voivod’s set, the sun had dropped to a spot just above their stage, so I blindly stumbled forward and into the shade. But I realized too late that the wiseass sun had tricked me back into hose range — and yep, that jerkass hose blasted me yet again right before “The Unknown Knows.” Later, my post-set mussing and pouting was interrupted by a text message of “Miss you!” from the girls back home. Totally cosmic, right? Somehow they sensed that I needed a cheer-up right then, all feeling unsexy with my thrice-drenched/-dried hair? And I’m sad to report that I got more bummed moments later at Anthrax: The problem is not that a fan has seen their set so many times — it’s just that the set is not great. “Among The Living” and “Indians” shouldn’t make the cut for any show, long or short; for “Anti-Social” and “Got The Time” the band was 60% indifferent; and the godly Charlie Benante sounds like he was checked out of drumming. If singer Joey Belladonna hadn’t been sprinting around the stage, cheering doob-smokers, and being as hilarious as Scott “Not” Ian is creepy, I would’ve bailed on one of my most beloved bands. Hey Anthrax, are we breaking up? There’s no love in your eyes :(
7. Metallica: Brand Ambassadors
Huge stage A
When Metallica took the stage to close out the first night of Heavy Montreal, festgoers had already seen their puffy faces a few times that day. See, the men of metal’s biggest band took to the Jumbotrons periodically to urge us to vote for their set’s final song. Even in Canada, we Americans are distinct in our drive to get others to do our work (ie. design their setlist) and their push was aggressive, man. A few times during their 120-minute set, they checked in on the tally and reminded all ten zillion of us in the Heavy crowd to vote during the show.
Doing so would’ve caused fans to miss Metallica sounding better than usual. Foremost, Lars had a good night. That’s so-called “found money.” And though the quartet’s performances of old rippers — the best albums’ first, second, and fourth songs, basically — could sound like cover versions, their heavy rock jams were real. Hetfield was into that shit and Lars played mid-tempo stuff like a man. I mean, fuck, I cried during “Sad But True,” and that’s the dumbest song on Earth. So their Heavy Montreal show was a good argument for them to abandon the speedy epics of their first era, the ones that express feelings no longer experienced by their creators, the ones that they must force. (A proponent of this plan could also point out Lars’ hackwork on the verses of “Ride The Lightning” and the disfigured guitar solo passage of “Blackened.”) In concert, they’re more compelling in “rock mode,” though “Bell,” “Justice,” and even “Sanitarian” can remain to fill out what would be a solid 90 minutes. Hey James, may I vote for that? :)
To be continued :)