Heavy Montreal 2014 Conclusion: 6 Storylines From Slayer Sunday
After the all-consuming hubbub of Metallica’s headline spot on day one of Heavy Montreal, festgoers got to mellow out on its second and final day. Gone was the hectic vibe of metal’s biggest band and their baggage — as were with the frenzy of Babymetal mania and Unlocking The Truth rubbernecking. So Sunday’s focus was festing free and easy, the focus on fun, friends, and fucking metal! Re-live our recap of day one’s drama and read all about Sunday below. Thanks!
Exodus Feels Right
Huge stage A
As Overkill did on Saturday, so thrashed Exodus on Sunday: If Overkill was hilarious, Exodus and returned frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza were lovable. Where Overkill’s evergreen classics co-mingled coolly with new ragers, Exodus’ pitch-perfect setlist included two jams from the recently- and abruptly-concluded era of vocalist Rob Dukes. Watching Overkill, a dude worried when Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth spent a minute of “Rotten To The Core” crouched, dazed, and hanging on the mic stand; watching Exodus, a dude fretted about at least one member’s scary amount of extra weight. (Spoiler: Other studs at Heavy day two were even more worryingly tubby.) But at Zetro’s fourth show back in Exodus, mostly it just felt right. After all, “Toxic Waltz” and “Fabulous Disaster” may be ageless, but they aren’t exactly timeless. So they sound better sung by an old guy, a resident of the world that spawned them, a dude who spews their lyrics for thousands then garners squeals of “He. Is. So. Sweet.” from a row of women in the media tent. That’s an ’80s thing.
Cynic: Same As It Ever Was
Big side stage
For my first Cynic experience since main dudes Paul Masvidal and Sean Reinert unveiled their gayness, I got in position to do a bit of staring. Cuz now that their secret is out, I wanted to detect any signs of liberation in their vibe. Would the studs of Cynic unleash vibes that once were repressed for the sake of their audience? Would they seem happier, more relaxed, and/or gay(er)? If I rolled up my sleeves and made sparkly eyes at them, could I get a smile or wink or something? Answer: No, no, and damnit. Nay, according to their breezy, sunny set on Sunday, the men of Cynic have always been themselves — with or without sharing their sexuality with their fans. Which is a relief; it would’ve broken our hearts if they’d been holding back. But duh, they never hold back — be it whispy melody (“The Space For This”), counter-intuitive dynamics (“Kindly Bent To Free Us”), or plain, friendly stage banter (“Wear sunblock and drink lots of water everybody.”). They are Cynic. Wish I was too.
Body Count’s Diplomacy In Action
Huge stage B
Early in the set by gangsta-metal quintet Body Count, vocalist Ice-T blurted out what we all might’ve been thinking: “Well, they let my black ass across the border again. I don’t know why.” That thought, though, isn’t just about Ice-T; it’s also about those who have been turned away at the gate to Canada every couple months. Sure, those denied aren’t backed by the clout of WME and NBC, and aren’t half as rad. And anyway, Ice-T has made a few diplomatic edits in 2014: At Heavy Montreal, “Body Count” (the song) skipped the spoken segment about drugs and gang violence found in his neighborhood; his new beefs are more universal, like internet trolls (“Talk Shit Get Shot”) and how today’s men aren’t real men like in his day (“Manslaughter”). Still, Ice-T and Body Count sound like a load of illegal missiles smuggled into the country, and Sunday’s first goosebumps moments arrived at several points in BC’s jam via the Ferguson-ready anthems “Cop Killer” and “There Goes The Neighborhood.”
Bad Religion Is Metal Not-Metal
Huge stage B
Not much is metal about Bad Religion‘s music, but the line-up of Earth’s most erudite pop-punk band is pretty damn metal: Guitarist Brian Baker is an ex-member of Samhain (with Glenn Danzig, 1983) and of Junkyard (blues hair rock, 1989), while drummer Brooks Wackerman, a superstud, first appeared on our radar in that all-teenager metal group Bad4Good (launched by Steve Vai in 1991) and then in post-glory era Suicidal Tendencies. So that would’ve been a gab topic for you and I before the Bad Religion hour on day two of Heavy — but that convo would’ve bled into the set as we shared bafflement at Baker’s new gauntness and at the identity of their second guitarist. Sure, an internet search would’ve tipped us to the departure of guitarist Greg Hetson and the arrival of his replacement, Mike Dimkich (touring guitarist of The Cult since forever). But mid-show use of mobile devices is a real vibe-killer (right Metallica?), so between one eerily-familiar new guitarist and one unrecognizable longtime guitarist, there was a lot to squint at with a puzzled look on your face. Hilariously, it was said best by singer Greg Graffin — himself now a gray, Hank Kingsley-style baldy: “Well, here we are in Montreal again. One year older, ten years uglier.”
Twisted Sister And The Big Dumb Party
Huge stage A
Perusing the Heavy Montreal roster, one may not have noticed right away the dazzling feats of booking that set up such a singular fest experience. For one thing, the promise of a huge headliner kept you drooling each day in anticipation. Even more impressive were the many appearances by bands who aren’t on tour (or not yet). A one-off, it’s called, and costly it is for a band that’s not already on the road. So we might suppose that the Heavy Montreal team loaded up the guarantees and incentives to confirm Overkill, Lamb Of God, Slayer, Municipal Waste, Death Angel, Anthrax, Voivod, Body Count, Babymetal, and probably a few others that had been happily at home or on their way there from overseas. And then there’s Twisted Sister, who hustled to Montreal from a show in Belgium the night before. Why did the Heavy team make it worth their trouble? And how was TS a brilliant booking maneuver? Cuz every get-together needs music like theirs: big, loud, dumb, hilarious, and friendly to all skill levels. Don’t know the jams from their blockbuster album Stay Hungry? You will by the second verse! Want some brain-proof smile time rammed into your face by a shirtless sexagenarian from the flamboyant ’80s? Then shake hands with singer Dee Snider, fella! Need an ice-breaker for the traffic-stopping blonde hairdresser with a Maiden shirt pulled snugly over her knockers? Throw your arm around her shoulders and joint the chant of “I wanna rock!” Sure, Heavy Montreal’s every moment was fun — but only on Sunday evening was it a PARTY.
Slayer Is Still Fucking Slayer
Huge stage A
Lamb Of God put a stop to Twisted’s street party vibe (more here), yet focused us all on the most important part of Sunday: its finale and metal’s most riveting band. Still. Yep, tottering dazed from the venue, you and me (and that hairdresser xoxo) would’ve stammered that even at half strength and at age 50, Slayer is magic. For in this band in 2014, a fiery Tom Araya is worth ten Dave Lombardos; Gary Holt — returned to the stage from Exodus’ set that afternoon — has half the mystique of his predecessor (Jeff Hanneman love youuuu), but is neither a blank nor a distraction (which is a feat); and most of all: Kerry King. His name says it all: He is a ruler. That doesn’t imply that he’s the best at everything — just the most powerful, the most driven, the most timely, the most commanding. His vibe might fool you — his last 25 compositions aren’t incredible, his look is 1995, his expression and body language are that of a dude unselfconsciously whacking off — but maybe that’s the trick. I stared at him like the cure for AIDS was embedded in his beard. But I snapped out of it once he and Slayer rolled out deep cuts from Seasons In The Abyss — everybody in my section shit a brick during “Hallowed Point,” flipped at the opening notes of “Spirit In Black,” and slumped dumbly at the reverse one-two punch of its title track and “Born Of Fire.” In 2014, Slayer may be diminished, but they are not different. Slayer. Still. Rules.
Check out this week’s MetalSucks podcast for bonus tracks from Heavy Montreal, including Lamb Of God’s miscalculation, the “Babymetal Boost,” and Jamey Jasta’s hilarious grin. Follow Anso on Twitter for Spotted At Heavy Montreal.