Concert Review – Heavy Montréal 2019 Day 2 (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, QC, 07/28/2019)

The fans at Heavy Montreal will always be thankful to the almighty Slayer for their final and utterly devastating concert in Quebec.

INTRODUCTION: Alive and Kicking 10 Years On

The 10th anniversary of Canada’s biggest and most important metal festival, our beloved Heavy Montreal, couldn’t have been celebrated in greater fashion than what metalheads from all over Canada and from several other countries were able to enjoy at the always beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau. Although this was just my second time at Heavy Montreal, not counting the two editions of Heavy T.O. in 2011 and 2012, I must say the overall organization this year was a lot better than in 2014 (check our reviews for both days of the 2014 edition HERE and HERE), with a better layout, better access and exit, better facilities, food trucks, washrooms and so on, which was reflected in the happiness and good vibes flowing from all fans that were literally burning under a merciless sun in a (finally) scorching hot Canadian summer. As I was only able to attend day 2 of the festival, I’m not going to talk about any of the Saturday attractions, so if you’re curious to know how that day was go check the festival’s official Facebook page. And if you’re a hungry metalhead visiting Montreal for Heavy Montreal next year or any other metal concert, I highly recommend Il Focolaio for a delicious pizza or calzone to recharge your batteries before slamming into the circle pits.

SKILLET

Let’s begin with the first band I saw on Sunday, American Christian Hard Rock act SKILLET, who began their fun but not-so-heavy performance at 4:05pm when the sun and the temperature were hotter than the fires of hell. John Cooper, Korey Cooper, Seth Morrison and Jen Ledger put on a pretty good concert during the 45 minutes they had, with songs like Legendary, Sick of It and Hero receiving a very warm feedback from the crowd. I honestly had no idea they were a Christian band, but who cares? They might not be as heavy as most attractions of the festival (or maybe they’re too heavy for less extreme festivals), but they play with a lot of passion and energy, and I guess everyone who was watching their performance noticed that and showed a lot of respect for the band. Not only John is a great frontman, but the two girls Korey (who’s John’s wife) and Jen kicked ass on the guitar, piano, drums and vocals, bringing an amazing feminine touch to the entire festival. In a nutshell, if a heavier-than-usual (but not too extreme) version of modern-day Rock N’ Roll is your cup of tea, I’m sure you’re going to have a very good time watching Skillet live.

GAMMA RAY

As soon as Skillet’s performance was over, it was time for German Power Metal masters GAMMA RAY to fill the airwaves of the festival with some true old school Heavy Metal, especially because the band comprised of the iconic vocalist and guitarist Kai Hansen, bassist Dirk Schlächter, guitarist Henjo Richter, drummer Michael Ehré and second (or first) vocalist Frank Beck was the only attraction of the entire festival who played that type of music. I’m a longtime fan of Mr. Hansen’s music and I was very happy I could witness them playing at Heavy Montreal instead of another Alternative Metal band, but I don’t think most of the attendees had the same reaction when the band hit the stage. I mean, there were still countless fans banging their heads and raising their fists to classics like Master of Confusion, Heavy Metal Universe and Send Me a Sign, but there was something missing to make the show memorable. And to be fair, I still don’t understand why the band needs Frank Beck; he’s a good vocalist, but he doesn’t bring any real value to Gamma Ray’s performance. His microphone was lower than Kai’s, he didn’t sing most of the songs, and the songs he did sing were just OK. I think putting that crazy dude that was all wet dancing samba (and several other rhythms) nonstop on the gray mud to dance on stage would have been a lot more fun than Frank’s performance, don’t you agree?

IN THIS MOMENT

There was no time to breathe as, the second Gamma Ray were over, we were all able to witness a fantastic and very theatrical performance by the stunning Maria Brink and her henchmen (and henchwomen), collectively known as American Alternative Metal/Metalcore band IN THIS MOMENT. The aforementioned Maria, who I dare to say looks and feels like an evil (and of course improved) version of Lady Gaga, together with Chris Howorth on lead guitar, Randy Weitzel on rhythm guitar, Travis Johnson on bass and Kent Diimmel on drums, plus the two sexy masked dancers who worked as some sort of “mirrors” to Maria, delivered a truly hypnotizing concert, with their music being a blend of the blasphemy and anti-religiousness of Marilyn Manson and Cradle of Filth with the insanity of Slipknot and Ghost. The final result was obviously fantastic, with my two favorite songs of their setlist being by far the demented Big Bad Wolf and the closing song Whore, where Maria’s dancers entered dressed up as characters from the excellent dystopian novel and TV series The Handmaid’s Tale, holding sings with the words “SHAME” and “WHORE”. In the end, In This Moment kicked some serious ass without a shadow of a doubt, leaving all fans at Heavy Montreal extremely satisfied and eager for more of the music by metal’s favorite “whore” in a not-so-distant future.

HEAVY MANIA

When the next attraction from the Apocalypse Stage started, American stoner metallers Clutch, I went for a walk as I needed a break and some water. Terror and Demolition Hammer were on fire on the Forest and Garden stages, respectively, but I decided to watch the last wrestling show of the festival in the area called HEAVY MANIA, featuring wrestlers of the International Wrestling Syndicate like The Green Phantom, Sexxxy Eddy and Tabarnak De Team. The name of the fatal-four battle I was able to watch was “Le Cauchemar D’Oppenheimer”, and it was so fun I even missed the beginning of Slash’s concert. Well, it was definitely worth it, with Sexxxy Eddy winning the match amidst some trash talk and a few destroyed tables, just the way we like it in underground wrestling.

SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS

Back to the Heavy Stage, it was time for the one and only SLASH, accompanied by Myles Kennedy on vocals, Frank Sidoris on the guitar, Todd Kerns on bass and Brent Fitz on drums to bring old school Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock to our avid ears. It was still very hot in Montreal, but because the show started at 7:15pm the sun was already lower and we were able to enjoy the concert without sweating like pigs. Myles Kennedy, who looks like a rocker version of Kevin Bacon, is such a great singer to the point I even forgot it was Slash on the guitar at times, showcasing all his refined skills in excellent songs like Anastasia, World on Fire and, of course, their cover version for one of Guns N’ Roses biggest hits, Nightrain. Slash was precise as usual with his unmatched riffs and solos, not to mention how happy he looked on stage, making me wonder if he’s only playing with Guns N’ Roses nowadays to have enough money to fund his solo career. Well, I’m actually happy he’s in both bands, so I can’t complain about that at all. Anyway, at this point of the festival we had already had several subgenres of heavy music, as you can see, except for our good old Thrash Metal. Guess what happened next?

ANTHRAX

From 8:15pm on, Heavy Montreal became Thrash Montreal, with Anthrax and the almighty Slayer leading us all the way into the eye of the circle pit. First, it was American Thrash Metal institution ANTHRAX who revved up our engines with their punk/hardcore-infused thrash, blasting classic moshing hymns like Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time and Antisocial for our vulgar delectation, as well as their already classic tribute to the deceased Dio, Lemmy and Dimebag with the beautiful In The End. Joey Belladonna, Jon Donais, Scott Ian, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante were unstoppable during their short but extremely vibrant performance, inspiring all fans to raise their fists and horns in the air and mosh like there’s no tomorrow. Moreover, I don’t know why but the festival organization decided it was a good idea to throw more cold water on the crowd when it was already nighttime, making some people run away from the stage due to that. Maybe they were trying to calm down the more excited fans who were crushing their skulls into the circle pit, who knows. What I know for sure is that I love Thrash Metal, just like Scott Ian asked us all, and I was more than happy to be able to witness one of the bands of the Big Four once again in my life.

SLAYER

Lastly, the moment everyone at Heavy Montreal was waiting for. The heaviest, most evil and most demonic band in the history of music, Thrash Metal titans SLAYER, took the province of Quebec by storm for one final time before calling it quits by the end of this year, which is something I still cannot believe but that makes total sense taking into account their age, everything that has happened to the band in the past decade, and the humongous amount of energy needed to play their music at the required (and insane) level. Although the opening acts might not have been as demolishing as their 2018 concerts in Canada, when Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God opened for them like their pulverizing concert at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph were beyond possessed during their incendiary performance at Heavy Montreal, proving once and for all why you can play Black Metal, Death Metal or any other type of extreme music, but you’ll never be as badass as Slayer.

If their 2015 album Repentless was indeed their last studio album ever, let’s say they’re retiring in style, as the intro Delusions of Saviour plus the frantic thrashing hymn Repentless were everything they needed to set fire to Heavy Montreal. After that insane start it was pure Armageddon, with old school classics such as Evil Has No Boundaries and Mandatory Suicide being intertwined with newer songs like World Painted Blood and Payback (as Mr. Araya said, “payback is a bitch, motherfucker!”), and even songs they haven’t played in a while such as Gemini, Temptation and Born of Fire. By the way, Slayer played nothing more, nothing less than FIVE songs from Seasons in the Abyss, including of course the battle hymn War Ensemble (where Mr. Araya kindly asked us all to scream “WAAAAAAAAAR!” together with him), the serial killer-inspired classic Dead Skin Mask, and obviously the album’s flawless obscure title-track, or in other words, half of their 1990 masterpiece for our total delight. Furthermore, it was absolutely amazing witnessing all fans at the festival screaming “SLAAAAAYYYYEEEERRRR!”, “FUCKIN’ SLAYER!” and even “OLE OLE OLE OLE! SLAYER, SLAYER!” at the top of their lungs before, during and after the concert, showing a beautiful connection with the band as they masterfully played an avalanche of Thrash Metal classics amidst the flames burning on stage, ending with the all-time classic Angel of Death, including Mr. Araya’s famous demented roar at the beginning.

Gary Holt was once again fantastic on the guitar (needless to say, I can’t wait for the next Exodus album), Paul Bostaph couldn’t stop smashing his drums and our skulls, and Kerry King was the usual beast incarnate shredding his guitar chords manically from start to finish while all fans slammed their souls into the never-ending mosh pits. However, it was Tom Araya who stole the show with a perfect vocal performance, and after everything was said and done he didn’t leave the stage until he could thank each and every fan at the festival for our passionate support through the years. We could clearly see he was very emotional, very touched by our love for Slayer, and we were able to read his lips when he said “I’m gonna miss you, guys…” while tears fell from his eyes. Well, we’re going to miss his screams too, if that’s actually going to be the end of Slayer. Kerry King didn’t cry but he simply raised both fists in the air and roared like a wild beast, as the “demonic machine of Thrash Metal” he is. Maybe that’s his way of saying “thank you!” and crying tears of joy? At least that’s what all fans kept doing while returning from the festival on the subway, screaming SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER! nonstop. And that’s what we’ll keep doing forever and ever, even if Quebec, the rest of Canada and any other part of the world never see the band playing live again after this farewell tour is over. Thank you, SLAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYEEEERRRRR! Heavy Montreal loves you!

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
Evil Has No Boundaries
World Painted Blood
Postmortem
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Gemini
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Chemical Warfare
Payback
Temptation
Born of Fire
Seasons in the Abyss
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Black Magic
Dead Skin Mask
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

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Album Review – Gamma Ray / Empire Of The Undead (2014)

Gamma Ray return with their unmatched empire of Heavy Metal.

Rating4

CoverAfter a very long and exciting wait, Empire Of The Undead, the new album by German Power Metal masters Gamma Ray is finally among us, and once again the one and only Kai Hansen and his crew deliver us excellent music full of great riffs, nice lyrics, and above all that, lots of passion for what binds us all together. Yes, I’m talking about pure HEAVY METAL. And yes, Germany keeps on rockin’ nonstop in 2014.

As a long-time fan of the band, from the times when Dirk Schlächter was still the guitarist and Ralf Scheepers was still on vocals, I, for one, am a huge advocate of Gamma Ray’s music and style. In my humble opinion, they have reached that same stage bands such as Motörhead, AC/DC and The Ramones have, a stage where changing their music direction would be the major mistake of their lives. Who wants to see to Kai Hansen singing Rap or the band adding any electronic elements to their music? Other less important bands can try that, but Gamma Ray exist to provide us the most traditional heavy music we so much love.

BandTo kick off things in an exceptional way, how about the 9-minute epic tune Avalon, with its excellent solos and harmony, which reminds me of one of their biggest classics, “Rebellion In Dreamland”? Then comes the best, fastest and most awesome song of the album,  the pure fuckin’ metal song Hellbent, with its lyrics and especially chorus being  a tribute to Heavy Metal fans all around the world (“Hellbent for Metal / That’s what we are / Hellbent for Metal / Straight from the heart”). Kai Hansen is not only always amazing on vocals and on the guitar, but he’s also one of the best Heavy Metal poets of all time.

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Empire of the Undead CD Jewelcase

And Empire of the Undead continues in a very enjoyable way, with the excellent Pale Rider with its totally Judas Priest-ish riffs and another awesome performance from the whole band; and Born to Fly,  a very traditional Gamma Ray tune with a great chorus. The following two tracks are not exactly new, as they featured in the Master of Confusion EP, released in the beginning of 2013, but who cares? Both Master of Confusion and Empire of the Undead are powerful songs, with the latest having those classic riffs and guitar solos that explain why Gamma Ray are so fuckin’ awesome. Moreover, I had the pleasure to see them playing both live already last year, and those songs kick some serious ass.

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Empire of the Undead LP

In order to give us some air, Kai & Co. come with the smooth ballad Time for Deliverence, with its beautiful lyrics, and Demonseed, which despite its weird intro and headbanging riffs, is not a very entertaining track; however, the band gets back to their roots with Seven, another classic tune that will surely please all of their fans. And to end this pretty cool album, we have the song I Will Return, which starts with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous “I’ll Be Back!” quote, but doesn’t keep up with the same energy level as the previous tracks. And if I were you, I would buy any of the special editions of the album (each with a different front cover color), because all bonus tracks and other stuff are worth the extra money.

In terms of the musicians, kudos to drummer Michael Ehré, as although he had some big shoes to fill he nailed it, and of course to Mr. Kai Hansen, the creator of Power Metal, Helloween and Gamma Ray. Kai is the “Midas” of heavy music: everything he touches becomes GOLD, and that’s valid for Empire of the Undead, another very good release from one of the most influential German bands of all time. May the amazing empire of Heavy Metal built by this great guy “hellbent for Metal” live forever more.

Best moments of the album: Avalon, Hellbent, Pale Rider and Empire of the Undead.

Worst moments of the album: Demonseed and I Will Return.

Released in 2014 earMUSIC

Track listing
1. Avalon 9:21
2. Hellbent 5:23
3. Pale Rider 4:24
4. Born to Fly 4:32
5. Master of Confusion 4:55
6. Empire of the Undead 4:26
7. Time for Deliverence 5:11
8. Demonseed 6:39
9. Seven 5:07
10. I Will Return 6:56

European bonus track
11. Built a World 4:23

Limited Edition Digipack bonus tracks
12. Avalon (Live from Studio) 9:52
13. The Spirit (Live from Studio) 4:19
14. Empire of the Undead (Live from Studio) 4:27

Band members
Kai Hansen – lead vocals, rhythm & lead guitar
Henjo Richter – lead & rhythm guitar, keyboards
Dirk Schlächter – bass
Michael Ehré – drums