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

Concert Review – Disturbed & Breaking Benjamin (Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON, 08/08/2016)

The city of Toronto got awesomely “infected” by David Draiman and his horde on a warm and beautiful night of alternative music.

OPENING ACTS: Saint Asonia and Alter Bridge

Disturbed_Breaking Benjamin_2016Due to my hectic working schedule yesterday and the distance from my place to the fantastic Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, I wasn’t able to see the performances by the two special guests of the night, Canadian Nu Metal/Hard Rock band SAINT ASONIA and American Rock N’ Roll/Hard Rock band ALTER BRIDGE. To be honest, I wasn’t very excited to watch Saint Asonia, despite the fact they’re portrayed as a “supergroup” based in Toronto formed by lead singer and guitarist  Adam Gontier (ex-Three Days Grace), lead guitarist Mike Mushok (ex-Staind), bassist Corey Lowery (ex-Stuck Mojo) and drummer Rich Beddoe (ex-Finger Eleven). I’m not sure how many people were actually able to watch their concert, nor if they were a good warm-up for the following bands. All I can say is that the music they play is not my cup of tea and I don’t really regret missing their performance.

What I do feel slightly sad about was missing the excellent singer Myles Kennedy and the talented guitarist Mark Tremonti (together with bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips) playing their straightforward and honest rock music with Alter Bridge. We all know Myles and Mark are awesome musicians, and even considering the music by this Orlando-based group a bit too soft for me I’m sure that might have been a kick-ass concert. Well, that’s the price to pay when there are too many bands in such a short period of time, fans end up missing a good chunk of what they paid for unless they arrive REALLY early to the venue, which was not the case for most fans last night.

BREAKING BENJAMIN

IMG_1585The Molson Canadian Amphitheatre got packed only a few minutes before American Rock N’ Roll/Hard Rock band BREAKING BENJAMIN began their show, with frontman and guitarist Benjamin Burnley leading his competent band from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania formed by Jasen Rauch on lead guitars, Keith Wallen on rhythm guitar, Aaron Bruch on bass and Shaun Foist on drums. The band got back in action a couple of years ago after Benjamin was finally able to overcome his phobias and addictions, with all members being completely new to the band (except for Benjamin, of course), and based on the warm reaction from everyone at the venue I believe fans truly missed Benjamin’s melodious mix of Alternative Metal and Hard Rock during the band’s hiatus.

As a fan of the darkest side of music who’s always listening to the most visceral forms of Thrash, Death and Black Metal, I must admit their music didn’t excite me despite being extremely well-crafted and played to perfection by all band members. Except for the brief moments when they played an excerpt of the superb Walk, by one of my favorite bands of all time, Pantera, as well as another excerpt from the classic Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, I couldn’t really connect to the band’s music. One thing I enjoyed a lot though was the vocal range by Aaron, going from clean and melodic lines to furious growls whenever he was responsible for the vocal parts, and for me that was the best ingredient of their concert. Please don’t think I hate Breaking Benjamin with all my strength or that it was a horrible concert, let’s simply say it’s hard to pay some decent attention to a band you’re not a fan of their music or style when you’re anxious for the following act.

Setlist
So Cold
Angels Fall
Sooner or Later
Blow Me Away
The Imperial March / Schism / Smells Like Teen Spirit / Walk
Polyamorous
Ashes of Eden
Believe
Breath
Failure
Until the End
I Will Not Bow
The Diary of Jane

Band members
Benjamin Burnley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Jasen Rauch – lead guitar, electronic strings, programming
Keith Wallen – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Aaron Bruch – bass, backing vocals
Shaun Foist – drums, electronic percussion, programming

DISTURBED

IMG_1592Only one day after playing at Heavy Montréal, Mr. David Draiman and his Alternative Metal horde DISTURBED hit the stage at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre to do what they do best, which is playing electrifying razor-edged modern metal music. Still promoting their 2015 album Immortalized (which by the way was awarded gold in Canada as well as platinum to the single The Sound of Silence, as informed by Draiman during the show), this iconic band from Chicago, Illinois not only revolutionized music with their inception back in the 90’s, but they also keep bringing different generations to their live concerts like what happened yesterday, something only traditional bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica do nowadays.

Blending classics such as the opening song Ten Thousand Fists and the classy Stricken with new songs like the kick-ass The Vengeful One, Draiman and his crew conquered all from the very first notes of their powerful performance. Draiman might not be moving around like before, but it looks like that’s a task he’s leaving for guitarist Dan Donegan, drummer Mike Wengren and especially bassist John Moyer to do, with those three guys being unstoppable on stage while Draiman focused on his unparalleled vocals (including his classic “monkey screams”) and leading gestures. They even invited the guys from Saint Asonia and Breaking Benjamin to sing the classic Who Taught You How to Hate with them, although it felt a bit weird seeing two bass players on stage at the same time.

IMG_1602One of the most anticipated moments of the show was their beautiful version for Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, and I have to say that lived up to all expectations and beyond. The drumming by Mike was incredible, as if he was pounding our hearts, and the piano notes embellished the entire ambience, but of course the main ingredient in such a unique ballad were Draiman’s vocals. He sang each and every note to perfection together with the fans, a memorable moment in a warm Torontonian night that will stay fresh in our minds and hearts for many years to come. Another great example of how Draiman flawlessly captivated and commanded the audience throughout the whole gig occurred during their new song called The Light, where he asked everyone to raise their lighters and mobiles during the chorus of the song and every single person obviously attended his demand, creating a sensational view of brilliant dots all over the venue.

My only complaint is that their setlist was way too short, with only fourteen songs being played in total. They could have played a few more tunes like the title-track “Immortalized” or even their version for “Land of Confusion”, which has been part of their recent setlists. Anyway, the icing on the cake came in the form of their biggest hit Down With the Sickness, with all fans jumping up and down and screaming the lyrics together with Draiman, especially the ones in the floor section like myself. The heat of the fire coming from the stage might have been strong, but the heat coming from their music was even stronger, leaving all fans happier than usual on a Monday night on their way back home. When introducing Down With the Sickness, Draiman said Toronto was “infected” by their music. I can’t think of a better definition to their concert than that.

Setlist
Ten Thousand Fists
The Game
The Vengeful One
Prayer
Liberate
Who Taught You How to Hate
Stupify
The Sound of Silence
Inside the Fire
The Light
Stricken
Indestructible
Voices
Down With the Sickness

Band members
David Draiman – vocals
Dan Donegan – guitar
John Moyer – bass
Mike Wengren – drums