HEAVY MONTRÉAL - DAY 2 - Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal 28.07.19
PHOTO CREDITS: REBECCA BUSH
Day two promised to be every bit as exciting as day one and as I approached the site again - admittedly a little battered after day one - it was with the same level of excitement and anticipation of all the good things to come. I planned to take somewhat of a more varied approach and spend some time immersing myself a little more into experiencing the whole festival today. I filled my water bottle from the much-appreciated cooler in the media tent and set off once again to cover a stellar lineup.
My first 'pit stop' today was a nice change of pace. I headed over to the GARDEN stage for Los Angeles based DIRTY HONEY. They delivered some pure rock and roll, fresh and new but also classic at the same time. There is such a refreshing vibe about them. Lead singer Marc LaBelle is super charismatic and he and the rest of the band are an explosive combo with a real 70's feel to their stage presence. The music is firmly rooted in all that is good - strong melodies, big riffs and plenty of swagger! Yet again I am happy at the mix of genres all in one place, they all blend and complement each other but there really is something for everyone here.
It is a much more crowded site today and the numbers have increased quite significantly. Undoubtedly the likes of SLASH and, of course, SLAYER have drawn more people in, but thanks to the layout it is still easy enough to navigate around without getting held up, even the queues don't seem to be overly long anywhere which is almost unheard of at a big event like this - we have been well catered for.
Next on my list are DESPISED ICON, returning to HEAVY MONTRÉAL, having played previously in 2016, bringing some real power to the lineup. They are definitely a force to be reckoned with! This is some extreme metal - vocalists Alex Erian and Steve Marois go full throttle and don't back down. Such a hardcore mix that really blows you away. This is another band that puts the pedal to the metal and takes you along for the ride! Commanding a circle pit and keeping the crowd totally pumped complete with a steady stream of crowd surfers, they power through a killer set and finish to a roaring crowd.
ATREYU takes to the stage and immediately make it their own, moving across the space larger than life and full of energy. Having released their second album since their welcome return in 2015 with 'Long Live', the break seems to have reawakened a drive in them which is still going strong. We are treated to a wonderful journey around their catalogue of hits with the crowd particularly excited by the track 'Ex's and Oh's' from 2006 release ‘A Death Grip On Yesterday’. They even break out a wicked rendition of Bon Jovi's 'Livin' on a Prayer'! It's another strong performance in an unfaltering second day of top acts!
SKILLET was a band I was really looking forward to and a big crowd puller, not having any experience of them live I was really interested to see what their dynamic would be. WOW! They pulled out all the stops! From on-stage fireworks to cyber-looking arm adornments that shoot out jets of smoke! It was a new approach to smoke that I hadn't seen before and it was so much fun to see. Its a wonderful band dynamic with two female members, Jen Ledger on drums and vocals and Korey Cooper on guitar, backing vocals and keyboard.
Front man John Cooper has the most infectious energy and it breathes another dimension into the atmosphere. I almost forget to shoot I'm enjoying opening number 'Invincible' so much!! It's such a punchy anthem and I like the almost cyber elements to the sound. Coming to HEAVY MONTRÉAL just days before the release of their eagerly anticipated tenth studio album, they bring us new material in first single 'Legendary', a rich tapestry of a song with a wonderful hook - a perfect track to really build the excitement for the album and what it will bring!
Now for something COMPLETELY different in the form of METALACHI - yes that's right Metal and Mariachi of course... Not at all bonkers...
Hailing from Mexico and moving to East Los Angeles where they now reside, this 5-piece comprising of a trumpet player, a female violinist, guitar and guitarron players, and, of course, vocalist Vega De La Rockha, is, as they state ''the worlds first and only Heavy Metal Mariachi band”. Dressed in unique attire, most outrageously Trumpet player El Cucuy dressed in full Mexican wrestler costume, they bring a bit of comedy to the lineup whilst also being very talented musicians. Their brand of metal comes in the form of hair metal covers such as 'Welcome to the Jungle' and 'Holy Diver' with an added bit of Mexican spice! They banter with the crowd and belt out their setlist with quite some force, rounding off with a nod to tonight's headliner's SLAYER with track 'Raining Blood'. Very entertaining and fun to watch.
A personal highlight of the day for me comes in the form of the immensely talented IN THIS MOMENT. I love a show that brings a theatrical aesthetic and vision and before they are even on stage I am excited as the stage has transformed into a dark magical set complete with sigils and symbols and swirling smoke. Maria Brink and her band take to the stage with an atmospheric and beautiful cover of 'Fly Like an Eagle' by Steve Miller Band, shrouded in white with an ornate headpiece and chaperoned by her female dancers, the ritual begins.
She removes her veil of white and the crowd go wild at her reveal as she launches into 'River of Fire'. Her vocals are unlike any other female vocalist I have heard, they have such depth and tone and real grit, not to mention the guttural screams at the top end of her incredible range! IN THIS MOMENT have created an eerie, dark, seductive show and are on top form today. Prowling around the stage with her talented dancers for 'Big Bad Wolf', I get goosebumps watching how they all interact with each other. She rounds off their, sadly short, set of 6 songs with firm favourite 'Whore', taking to a podium emblazoned with the word and delivering yet more powerful vocals and theatrics. They are definitely a crowd favourite today too and it's easy to see why! Absolutely wonderful.
ANTHRAX return to HEAVY MONTRÉAL for their third appearance, having performed in 2011 and 2014. They are firm favourites here at the festival. These guys are so in sync and so gelled that they can, and do, have real fun on stage now. Obviously more than well-rehearsed in their material, they are able to really let loose and fully engage with their audience. Front man Joey Belladonna riles everyone up to screams of approval - this is good old fashioned classic metal and it's going down a storm. Having a well-established fan base, it’s cool to see a band totally comfortable in their own skins and just loving performing. A not surprising jaunt through classic tracks such as 'I am the Law' and 'A.I.R' proving they all stand the test of time and are still relevant and kicking metal butt!!
Now we come to the grand finale of the evening, and indeed the weekend. We've danced and sung our hearts out, we've partied and headbanged and moshed the weekend away and now it’s time to see the mighty SLAYER take to the stage on this stop on their farewell tour. Their last ever performance in Quebec.
SLAYER has been a staple in metal for over 30 years and is widely regarded as one of the ‘Big Four’, forming the same year as Metallica and Anthrax, with Megadeth who followed in '83. With a huge legacy behind them and having inspired countless bands to follow in their footsteps, they come now to say goodbye.
There is no setlist tonight that wouldn't invoke a massive reaction due to their immense back catalogue to choose from, so to say that certain tracks had more of a reaction than others would be hard, quite simply the crowd went wild and stayed with them for the entire show!
And what a show. SLAYER really pulled out all the stops with impressive, beyond crazy, light displays and of course the obligatory pyro! Formations of fire crossing the stage creating a pure, unadulterated metal setting to showcase, and compliment, their talents. It goes without saying that they are immaculate in their delivery and obviously it’s an emotional moment which drives the performance.
When the set is done, they stand back and bask in the applause and love from the crowd, clearly moved by the chants of “Thank you, Slayer” that erupt across the site. Tom takes to the microphone and simply thanks everyone ''I'm going to miss you guys'' he says, ''Goodbye''. And with that, they are gone.
HEAVY MONTRÉAL 2019 you brought your A GAME!! Nothing dampened our spirits, a good time was had by all and as the crowds filter out, the echoes of Heavy-goers chanting “Slayer” drift through the air!
If you have never experienced HEAVY MONTRÉAL I suggest you rectify this in 2020!
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