Review by Mike Bax
The best European Metal Festival that is not in Europe.
There was no other place in North America offering such a diversified mix of European and North American metal this year than at Heavy Montréal. Put on by Evenko and presented by Molson Canadian, Heavy Montréal attracted more than 30,000 festivalgoers to the Plaine des jeux at Parc Jean-Drapeau over the weekend. This was the 8th edition of the metal fest, a leaner and more focused edition of Heavy Montréal for 2016 that saw the line-up tighten its focus on just metal acts over two days on three stages.
Check out this line-up: Five Finger Death Punch; Disturbed; Nightwish; Volbeat; Mastodon; Killswitch Engage; Breaking Benjamin; Black Label Society; Zakk Wylde (solo); Blind Guardian; Sabaton; Sebastian Bach; Alter Bridge; Despised Icon; Napalm Death; Candlemass; Carcass; Hatebreed; Kataklysm; Fear Factory; Animals as Leaders; Cult of Luna; Suicide Silence; The Dillinger Escape Plan; Attila; Memphis May Fire; Beartooth; Suffocation; Skeletonwitch; Saint Asonia; We Came As Romans; Pop Evil; VASTUM; Escape The Fate; I Prevail; USA Out Of Vietnam and Mantar.
Of these bands, here’s a few highlights: Five Finger Death Punch and Disturbed are never going to play a wimpy show. They brought the heaviest of metal to each evening in their own signature fashion amidst a hail of smoke, flames and fireworks. Their presence played an integral part in drawing the almost 30,000 people that attended Heavy Montréal over both nights. Some of the real magic was to be found in the earlier performances on each of this year’s three stages. Sabaton blew everyone away on Saturday with a full-size military tank on the stage cradling drummer Hannes van Dahl’s drum kit. And an ample supply of flames and fireworks mixed in with their killer live performance.
Nightwish, also on Saturday, brought their full European stage spectacle with them – Heavy Montréal being their only appearance in a North American festival in 2016. It was truly awesome to witness them in all of their glory. Zakk Wylde played three nights in a row over the weekend – doing a Black Label Society club show at Théâtre Corona on Friday night, a Black Label Society set again on Saturday and a Zakk Wylde performance on Sunday.
At the apex of the afternoon on Saturday, Fear Factory performed Demanufacture in its entirety during their 45-minute slot. Considered by many to be their defining album, and a cornerstone metal album from the mid-1990s, it was indeed one of the best performances of the festival. The mighty Mastodon took the main stage
Blind Guardian, like Sabaton the day before, delivered their signature dose of European metal in similar fashion. Danish ‘Metal-Rockabilly’ heavyweights Volbeat executed a stellar live show, complete with a wicked version of ‘Evelyn’ featuring Mark “Barney” Greenway of Napalm Death, who did the studio version of the song on Beyond Hell/Above Heaven. This was right after Napalm Death had just played their killer set on the Blabbermouth stage minutes before Volbeat took the stage. Killswitch Engage performed their cover of ‘Holy Diver’ mid-way through their set, getting the majority of the crowd to sing along regardless of where they were on the Plaine des jeux festival grounds.
And lastly, Candlemass. So good!!! Easily the highlight of the festival for me – a band I’d never been able to see live until this edition of Heavy Montreal. They utterly blew me away. While most of the attendees were watching Disturbed, Candlemass dropped an hour-long set of some of their finest musical moments for a legion of like-minded fans. I’m still tingling over finally seeing them live.
Almost a third of the attendees this weekend came from outside Quebec. Many visitors from other Canadian provinces stopped into Montréal, just like fans from 23 other countries, including the United States, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Switzerland, France and Great Britain.
The two main stages at Heavy Montéal faced each other on the Plaine des jeux, trading off music in synchronization from 1pm until 11pm on both days. Tucked in adjacent to the VIP area was the smaller Blabbermouth stage, offering fans other musical options as a break from the two main stages. It was on this stage that acts like Beartooth, Escape The Fate, Cult of Luna and Candlemass blew away attendees regardless of what was happening on the main stages.
The outer rim of the park was adorned with four massive burgundy ‘guardians’, shrouded in mystery in between the Heavy Montreal stage and the Blabbermouth stage, and fans could be seen taking photos with these guardians for the entirety of the weekend. The amenities were top notch once again; great food trucks and a lovely Molson Canadian shaded lounge for fans to catch a break from the blistering heat. There was also an industrial misting machine that fans walked in front of repeatedly during the hotter periods of both afternoons. Professional wrestlers could be seen both in the Heavy Mania wrestling ring and walking about the grounds interacting with fans.
For their money this year, fans got two solid days of diversified metal from an international cull of artists. Edition 8 of Heavy Montréal delivered the goods once again in world-class fashion. The promoters are already well into the planning of next summer’s 2017 edition.
The Eighty Six Seas – ‘Scenes from an Art Heist’ [Album Review]
Overall, this album does exactly what it sets out to do in encapsulating a fictionalized version of a famous art heist. Well done, The Eighty Six Seas!
On February 23, 2024, The Eighty Six Seas released their first 11-track full-length album, Scenes from an Art Heist. Each track on this album is meant to represent a fictionalized story of the paintings stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990.
The first track sets out an eerie aura that aligns with the track’s title, a dedication to Isabella Stewart Gardner. The next song is a quick switch up from the first, with flighty strings and a whispered voice from lead singer Nick Stevens.
Moving on to track number three, “Coffee and Art,” you’ll hear a faster-paced, nearly techno piece that feels like caffeine hitting your bloodstream for the first time in the morning. Their next song, “Jenny,” is a piano-led ballad spotlighting Steven’s melancholy voice. With “Lonely Afternoon,” the track transforms back into the techno feel of “Coffee and Art,” but with a darker twist.
The next song, “Cat/Mouse,” sounds exactly as you’d expect—like a tense cat-and-mouse standoff, with the music accenting this push-and-pull dynamic. “Hey Little Bird” is more or less an instrumental, with occasional lyrics included, but it is clearly meant to be the interlude.
Moving on, we arrive at a track called “The Day I Die,” a techno piece with a fabulous crescendo after its quiet beginnings. Following that, “The Eighty Six Seas” provides its track, “Portrait of a Smuggler,” which quite literally encapsulates the feeling you have while walking through a park on a sunny day.
Next, we come to “Ghost in the Cityscape,” which has darker undertones, a sorrowful cello, and a slower tempo. The final piece is titled “Frames,” which will remind you of a love letter saying goodbye or a beautiful lullaby. Overall, this album does exactly what it sets out to do in encapsulating a fictionalized version of a famous art heist. Well done, The Eighty Six Seas.
Scenes from an Art Heist Track Listing:
1. For Isabella, March 1990
2. Scenes from an Art Heist
3. Coffee and Art
5. Lonely Afternoon
6. Cat / Mouse
7. Hey Little Bird
8. The Day I Die
9. Portrait of a Smuggler
10. Ghost in the Cityscape
Release Date: February 23, 2024
Record Label: Independent
Glixen – “foreversoon” [Song Review]
On “foreversoon,” Glixen created a song where youthful exuberance clashes heavenly with the established shoegaze sounds of yesteryear,
It’s been less than a year since Glixen released their debut EP, She Only Said, on Julia’s War Records. Still, the Phoenix shoegazers have already dug their heels into the DIY music scene and are heading out on an extensive US tour this year alongside the likes of Interpol, Softcult, Glitterer, and fish narc. Appearances at SXSW and Treefort will only further cement their reputation as a new band worthy of note.
To herald the busy year ahead, the band has released a new single, “foreversoon,” via the AWAL label, and it’s well worth a listen.
Says lead vocalist Aislinn Ritchie:
“‘foreversoon’ represents blissful moments of new love and intimacy. The song harnesses melancholy chords, layered with fuzzy red melodies and gliding guitars that pull you in deeper. I wanted my lyrics to feel like a conversation that expresses my infatuation and sensuality. Time is relentless and memories are fleeting, this song encapsulates those emotions forever.”
It’s a fair summation. Its youthful exuberance clashes heavenly with the established shoegaze sounds of yesteryear, think Ride, Curve and Slowdive, but with the fuzz cranked up possibly higher. Ritchie’s vocals certainly share that dreamlike quality of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, and with many of those bands back on the road this year, perhaps the time is ripe to inject fresh blood into the genre.
Run Time: 3:43
Release Date: February 9, 2024
Record Label: AWAL Recordings
Blind Channel – ‘Exit Emotions’ [Album Review]
While ‘Exit Emotions’ (Century Media Records) contains many of the tropes from the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. Blind Channel continue to move from strength to strength.
Cast your minds back to 2021; it was a dark time for humanity, with the entirety of the world still gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries going in and out of lockdowns, and the entertainment industry being brought to its knees. Yet, in the midst of all of this, mankind fought on, with some events managing to take place. One of these was Eurovision, which has delivered, over the years, some incredible winners and given lesser-known artists global recognition. 2021 saw Måneskin take the crown, but on their heels was Finland’s own Blind Channel in sixth place with their song “Dark Side.”
The Finnish nu-metalers already had a handful of records to their name but it was Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous that contained their aforementioned Eurovision entry and made the world really sit up and take notice. With its mix of metal, hip-hop, synth and a touch of glam, it was a breath of fresh air from the European region better known for its output of, let’s say, the (much) heavier side of metal.
With Exit Emotions, Blind Channel now have their eyes focused on bigger things. Whilst they have broken through to the mainstream beyond their borders, it’s not enough for the six-piece, as they explore what it means to truly be on the global stage.
Exit Emotions kicks in hard with “Where’s the Exit,” with its distorted nu-metal beat laced with some techno elements followed swiftly by distorted vocals mixing rap and metal styles seamlessly. Dual vocalists Joel Hokka and Niko Moilanen bounce off each other in a symbiotic way, indicating how in tune with each other these guys can be. “Where’s the Exit” feels like it throws everything the band can portray at the wall from their varying influences, and while, on paper, a mix of metal, rock, hip hop, techno, and synth, if difficult to get right, Blind Channel nail it with absolute precision. Several songs on this record follow this formula, like “Deadzone,” “Wolves of California,” and “XOXO” (amongst others), and if the entirety of the record kept to this, whilst fun to listen to, it would run the risk of becoming samey. Thankfully, Blind Channel does mix things up throughout.
“Keeping it Surreal” maintains a relatively heavy approach but dials it back a tad to give the hip-hop elements more of a chance to shine and deliver a more emotional element with the band, highlighting the surrealness of their current position. This is followed by the extra-emotional “Die Another Day.” The tune opens with a piano melody and slows the entire pace of the record, and moves into ballad territory. Hokka and Moilanen are accompanied by RØRY, ensuring the sensitive lyrics portrayed are emphasized to the max. Despite the relative negativity of the lyrics, the trio somehow makes this extra melancholy tune drive forward positive feelings.
Exit Emotions is a great follow-up to Lifestyles of the Sick and Dangerous, and although it contains many of the tried and tested tropes of what was delivered in the golden age of nu-metal, it still feels refreshing. The band has gone from strength to strength since their respectable placement at 2021’s Eurovision, which demonstrates they have lots more to offer than just their hit song “Dark Side.”
Exit Emotions Track Listing:
1. Where’s the Exit
W3. olves of California
5. Keeping it Surreal
6. Die Another Day
8. Happy Doomsday
9. Red Tail Lights
10. Not You Bro
12. One Last Time… Again
Run Time: 35:15
Release Date: March 1, 2024
Record Label: Century Media Records
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