Metal Chick of the Month – Annick Giroux

Emmène-moi dans ton monde… De lumière et d’ombre… Emmène-moi dans ton monde… Car ma nuit est longue…

Born in May 1986 in Orléans, a suburb of Canada’s national capital Ottawa, in the province of Ontario, our metal chick of the month of June is much more than just your average metalhead. Not only she’s the lead singer for Montreal-based Heavy/Doom Metal band Cauchemar, but she’s also a bass player, the author of a fantastic book entitled “Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook”, writer for UK’s Iron Fist magazine and for Morbid Tales fanzine, one of the promoters of the now defunct Wings of Metal festival in Montreal, and the co-founder of Temple of Mystery Records, not to mention she’s also a graphic designer who has already worked with the iconic Skyclad and countless underground bands. This might look overkill for any regular person, but not for the unstoppable Canadian superwoman Annick Giroux. Having said that, do you have what it takes to join Annick in her quest for metal music, good food and arts in general?

Annick’s life in metal and graphic design actually started when she was still a very young girl, at the age of 10, when her father brought home a floppy disk containing Paint Shop Pro 4.0, which she used with another software called Visual Page to make a primitive website about her favorite cartoon character. Almost at the same time, when she was 11 or 12 years old, she became pen-pals with a Vietnamese girl living in Belgium, who sent her some cassettes with the albums by Japanese Power Metal institution X-Japan. Annick immediately fell in love for their music, and that turned into an obsession to her to the point she even created an X-Japan fan site before eventually becoming a full metalhead. After that first contact with X-Japan, she started to properly explore the world of heavy music and to develop a deep passion for what she likes to call “Ancient Metal” (which includes Doom, Black, Speed, Thrash and NWOBHM), with bands such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Pagan Altar, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Anvil, Exciter, Mercyful Fate, Destruction, Sacrifice and Celtic Frost, among many, many others, changing the way she used to see music. She then started playing bass, joined a few different bands, designed their logos, demo layouts and flyers, ran the Morbid Tales fanzine for six issues, and even DJ’d weekly at a traditional Montreal metal/punk pub named Katacombes.

Owner of a potent voice, Annick founded the French-Canadian metal institution Cauchemar back in 2007 together with guitarist François Patry originally as a recording project, as performing live didn’t really appeal to them. Still, Cauchemar released in 2010 the five-track EP La Vierge Noire (which means “the black virgin” in English) and played live three Canadian shows before putting the band on hold in 2011 and embarking on an eighteen-month trip around the world. However, that plan lasted only until a friend of the band from Chile invited them to play in the country with local musicians, igniting their desire to keep the band alive and kicking and, consequently, taking them to the most distinct places like Peru, Japan, India and Thailand. All material they wrote during that insane trip ended up on their debut full-length album, entitled Tenebrario, released in 2013, and Annick even said in one of her interviews that trip was the richest and most inspiring experience of her life, as she had the unique pleasure of getting to know many different cultures, metal scenes, local cuisines, religions and social classes.

After Tenebrario, Cauchemar also released another full-length album, titled Chapelle Ardente (or “burning chapel” in English), in 2016, and as you might have already noticed Annick sings all songs from Cauchemar entirely in French, giving their music an extra touch of mysticism, delicacy and occultism. By the way, the name of the band, wihich means “nightmare” in English, stems from a series of violent nightmares Annick used to suffer, some described exactly like sleep paralysis. “I actually did some research into this in the past as some of my nightmares were rather troubling. In fact, the first meaning of the name Cauchemar, or cauquemaire, loosely translates to ‘ghost pressing down’, which surely derives from those very sleep paralyses. But I’m unsure if that’s what I experienced, I’ve been having dreams about dying ever since I was a child,” mentioned Annick in one of her interviews. If you want to feel that nightmare-sih vibe flowing from the music by Cauchemar and especially from Annick’s vocals, you should definitely take a listen at songs like Étoile D’Argent, Trois Mondes, Comme Un Poignard, Tête de Mort, and Le Fantôme, as well as several live performances by the band such as at the Nuclear War Now! Festival V in 2016, playing the song Sepolta Viva at the Magog, in Sherbrooke, in 2014 and the song L’Appel at Cafe Deckuf in Ottawa in 2013, and playing cover versions for Black Sabbath’s The Wizard at Montreal is Doomed in 2010 and Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi in Montreal in 2016.

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Apart from her career with Cauchemar, you can also enjoy her bass punches and vocal lines in several other bands and projects from different parts of the world. For instance, in 2008 she played bass for Japanese Black/Thrash Metal act Barbatos during their live concerts, which ended up having Annick as their bass player in the 2008 Barbatos/Bastardator split live album Live in Montreal; you can also see her playing keyboards (yes, she can also play keyboards) on the introduction from the brand new album Destiny Calls, by Finnish Heavy/Speed Metal band Chevalier; and playing synths and/or doing female vocals on the songs Nordkarpatenland, Keď Svetlonosi Započnú V Močariskách Nazeleno Svícit, Nedlho Po Púlnoci Opacha Sa Doplazila Z Dzíry, and V Rujnovej Samote Pocichu Dumá Lovecký Zámek Zvlčilého Grófa, all from the album Nordkarpatenland, released in 2017 by Slovakian Black Metal horde Malokarpatan.

As you can see, Annick has already been involved in very distinct projects and bands in her career so far, and if you include in that mix her work as a graphic designer, then the list of bands and styles grows considerably. Having obtained a degree in Graphic Design before moving to Montreal with her then boyfriend (and now husband) François Patry, she mentioned in an interview that she actually earns a living as a freelance graphic designer, and as the co-owner of the aforementioned Temple of Mystery Records since 2016 she said she designs absolutely everything for the label’s releases. Furthermore, Annick said she has trouble listening to an album if the artwork is ugly, tasteless or uninspired, as in her opinion metal and graphic design have always been in symbiosis for her. Apart from the album design for Cauchemar’s Tenebrario and the artwork for their Chapelle Ardente album, you can also find Annick’s lines, colors and designs in the albums by tons of excellent underground bands like Anatomia, Venin, Night Demon, Metal Grave, Diabolic Force, Chevalier and Disforterror, just to name a few. For example, how not to enjoy the artwork she provided for the 2013 album Necheshirion, by Canadian Black Metal act Gevurah? When you listen to the music, it matches perfectly with the cryptic art by Annick, proving her point that the cover art is and will always be a crucial part of a metal album.

Despite being a talented musician and graphic designer, let’s say the metal community got to know Annick a lot better mainly due to her book entitled “Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook”, which she signed as Annick “The Morbid Chef” Giroux, featuring a varied menu of over a hundred recipes from thirty countries, including Yorkshire Pudding from England, Beer Pizza Crust from Germany, Spaghetti Barracuda from Italy, Fårikål from Norway, Country Lamb Exohiko from Greece, Churrasco from Brazil, and Mushroom Steak à la Jack Daniel’s from the United States, among numerous other appetizer, breakfast, lunch, dinner, vegetarian, seafood, dessert and drink recipes, all with contributions by worldwide famous musicians from metal bands like Accept, Gwar, Tankard, Anthrax, Electric Wizard, Rotting Christ, Sepultura, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Doro, U.D.O., Obituary, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Uriah Heep, Kreator, Nuclear Assault, and a lot of underground acts. In the beginning, Hellbent for Cooking was just a section of the 6th edition of her Morbid Tales fanzine released in 2009, containing only around 20 recipes. However, the idea (originally conceived in 2007) for a metal cookbook by Annick became a reality when her editor Ian Christe picked up the 2009 fanzine and asked her if she was interested in having all recipes published as a book. Then for the pro-looking color cookbook itself that was released by Bazillion Points her deadline was only six months, and she took it seriously by dedicating herself entirely to research, writing, cooking, photographing and laying out the recipe pages. Our dauntless singer, bassist and chef said she contacted about 400 bands in total, and that she could never imagine that bands like Sepultura or Mayhem would actually respond to her. She even ended up discovering new bands during her research period, as for example a Death/Thrash Metal band from Pakistan named Dusk. Moreover, as an avid reader, Annick recommends apart from her own book a few other interesting Bazillion Points publications like Swedish Death Metal, by Daniel Ekeroth, Murder in the Front Row, by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew, and and Only Death Is Real, by Tom Gabriel Fischer with Martin Eric Ain.

It was after her trip to different parts of the world, especially when she was in Europe and was able to enjoy many underground metal fests, that she returned to Montreal with the idea of organizing a festival of her own, naming it Wings of Metal. She said that as there was no such thing as an underground metal festival mixing styles in Canada, her idea was to do it in the European spirit with a lot of bands from overseas, focusing on the quality of sound and experience, and although the festival only lasted for four editions she’s still proud of her accomplishment. Known as somewhat of an archaeologist of obscure Canadian metal, Annick said that in her opinion Canadian metal often has a touch of something eccentric, mentioning renowned bands like Rush and Voivod as being uniquely bizarre, while other like Slaughter and Exciter are extremely violent, also mentioning that Montreal hosted the first ever international metal festival in North America, named World War III Festival, in 1985, featuring Voivod, Destruction, Celtic Frost, Possessed and Nasty Savage. In addition, when asked about the apparent division between Anglo-Canadians and French-Canadians in Montreal, Annick said she was not even aware of which local Anglophone bands were around, since they have their own shows and separate venues. However, she said that there’s no animosity between those two fronts, it’s just that people tend to stay in their own neighborhoods and feel more comfortable listening to music in their first languages. Well, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re an Anglo-Canadian, a French-Canadian or a complete foreigner to Montreal, whenever visiting the city try to stay updated about all metal concerts going on because, you know, you might be able to witness nightmares in the form of old school Doom Metal spearheaded by our multi-talented Annick Giroux.

Annick Giroux’s Official Instagram
Cauchemar’s Official Facebook page
Cauchemar’s Official BandCamp

“Canadian metal often has a touch of something eccentric. Being so far removed from the traditional music centres like New York City, Chicago, and LA made Canadian bands want to work even harder in developing something exceptional that could bring attention to them.” – Annick Giroux

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Concert Review – Boonsdale Fest 2018 & Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018)

After a year of silence, Wacken Metal Battle Canada returned in full force in a unique partnership with Boonsdale Fest to decide which underground band would raise the flag of Canadian metal high on “The Holy Land” of heavy music.

INTRODUCTION: BOONSDALE FEST AND WACKEN METAL BATTLE CANADA UNITED

There’s nothing better than a night of ass-kicking heavy music in the always fun month of June in the city of Toronto, and to make things even better how about uniting at The Opera House the 2nd annual Boonsdale Fest, organized by Boonsdale Records and featuring the bands MokomokaiOperus and Borealis, with the 2018 edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada, where the Best from the West Hammerdrone battled the Best from the East Centuries of Decay for a place alongside the greatest names in the history heavy music at Wacken Open Air later this year. As there was no Wacken Metal Battle Canada in 2017 (each year Wacken allocates 28 slots at W.O.A. for the Metal Battle winners from 28 different countries, and due to the increasing number of countries some are asked to pause for a year to give the chance to others to participate, which was what happened to Canada last year), this year several Canadian independent and underground bands were more than eager to participate in the competition again, with qualifying rounds happening all over the country starting January 12,  until Calgary’s Hammerdrone and Toronto’s Centuries of Decay reached the desired final round in Toronto this Saturday.

In 2016, Wacken Metal Battle Canada crowned Death/Thrash Metal band Profaner as champions, who then by the way advanced to be 2nd place at the international Metal Battle at W.O.A. that same year, so who would be granted the chance to represent Canada at the biggest metal festival in the world in 2018? Well, it’s time to rumble to the heavy music by Centuries of Decay, Hammerdrone, Mokomokai, Operus and Borealis, and wait for guest judges Gustavo Valderrama (Navaja Music, Electric Flow), Tim Henderson (Bravewords.com), Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions, Alan Cross’ A Journal of Musical Things), Chris Gonda (PureGrainAudio.com), Charlie Felix (Sound & Noise, Live Talent), Oscar Rangel (Operus, Ex-Annihilator), Wojtek Sokolowski (Operus) and Luc Lainé (CFLX 95,5 FM) to decide which band would rule them all!

CENTURIES OF DECAY

Centuries of Decay @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Precisely at 9pm Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal act Centuries of Decay hit the stage at The Opera House showing why they were chosen Eastern Canadian Metal Battle champions, led by the deep and very melodic growls by vocalist and guitarist Devin Doucette. Formed in 2014, the quartet released in 2017 their debut self-titled album, available for a listen (and obviously for purchase) at their own BandCamp page, and that album was basically what the metalheads at the venue had the pleasure to witness them playing live. With songs getting close to or even breaking the 10-minute mark, something unimaginable for any artist or band from most non-metal styles that are in pursuit of stardom, Centuries of Decay inspired everyone in the crowd to bang their heads nonstop and feel embraced by their atmospheric music, generating a very nice and interesting feeling in all of us. That’s how exciting progressive and atmospheric heavy music can be, and if these are just the initial steps in the promising career of Centuries of Decay, I can’t wait to see what those four metallers will bring next.

Band members
Devin Doucette – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob McAllister – lead guitar, backing vocals
Matt Hems – bass
Derrick Doucette – drums

HAMMERDRONE

Hammerdrone @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

After a quick bathroom/beer break, it was time for the winners of the West Hammerdrone to make a lot of noise and crush us with their unrelenting Melodic Death Metal, opening their performance with the violent Dark Harvest, the title-track from their 2017 opus Dark Harvest, which you can buy directly from their BandCamp page, a concept album inspired by the real life but obscure tale of the Scottish terrorist organization the Dark Harvest Commando. Frontman Grahma Harris was on fire during the entire concert, growling and roaring (and also making faces) like a beast, while his bandmates Rick Cardellini (lead guitars), Curtis Beardy (rhythm guitars), Teran Wyer (bass) and Vince Cardellini (drums) delivered a well-balanced fusion of the more harmonious lines from Melodic Death Metal with the sheer heaviness and aggressiveness of old school Death Metal. As a matter of fact, you can download for free a live EP by Hammerdrone titled Rituals of Battle from their BandCamp page, just to give you an idea of how awesome their music sounds live. And after Hammerdrone’s concert was over, I knew the judges were going to have a very difficult time deciding who should be crowned the 2018 champions. Well, at least they had a few more excellent concerts to go until then.

Band members
Graham Harris – vocals
Rick Cardellini – lead guitars
Curtis Beardy – rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Teran Wyer – bass, vocals
Vince Cardellini – drums

MOKOMOKAI

Mokomokai @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

When Peterborough-based four-piece band Mokomokai began blasting their electrifying blend of old school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, I guess we could say it was the “official” start of Boonsdale Fest, and let me tell you it looked like their Rock N’ Roll party had no time to end. Formed in 2011, and having a distinct name inspired by the preserved heads of Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the quartet formed by John Ellis on vocals and guitar, Bobby Deuce on the guitar, Jeremy Pastic on bass and J J Tartaglia on drums put everyone at the venue to dance with their flammable music, playing songs from their 2017 album The Poison Whiptail, like the excellent Heavy Metal Sky, as well as a cover version for the classic The Wizard, by Black Sabbath (check out the original version HERE), taken from their 1970 masterpiece Black Sabbath, with John even playing the song’s traditional harmonica. After such high level of adrenaline, I have only one thing to say about Mokomokai: if they visit your hometown, don’t miss the chance to see them kicking some serious ass live.

Band members
John Ellis – vocals, guitar
Bobby Deuce – lead & rhythm guitar
Jeremy Pastic – bass
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

OPERUS

Operus @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Perhaps the performance by the following band of the night, Toronto-based Epic Symphonic Metal squad Operus, was the most peculiar of the entire event due to all the unique elements found during their concert (and one of them was definitely not on purpose). Formed in 2005, this six-piece act put on an extremely entertaining and atmospheric show still promoting their 2017 album Cenotaph, featuring Oscar Rangel (ex-Annihilator) on the guitar, cellist Robin Howe adding an extra touch of epicness to the band’s music, masked-frontman David Michael Moote with his passionate and theatrical performance, J.J. Tartaglia back on drums to play a completely different style from Mokomokai, and an injured bassist Wojtek Sokolowski who twisted his ankle right at the beginning of the show, but who refused to stop and managed to play their full set before going to ER (and that’s what I call a true metalhead!). That’s another band I highly recommend you go watch live if they’re scheduled to play at a venue near you, and you can find their latest album available on different platforms such as iTunes if epic and symphonic music is your cup of tea.

Band members
David Michael Moote – lead vocals
Rob Holden – guitar
Oscar Rangel – guitar, backing vocals, growls
Robin Howe – cello, backing vocals
Wojtek Sokolowski – bass, backing vocals
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

BOREALIS

Borealis @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Last but not least, the festival ended with another very progressive and melodic band named Borealis, formed in 2005 in the Ontarian city of Orangeville, who also delivered a solid and delightful performance playing songs from all of their five full-length albums, such as Revelation, from their 2015 album Purgatory, and The Awakening, from their brand new opus The Offering, released earlier this year. Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Matt Marinelli (who had his bottle of water wisely placed on his mic stand looking like he was going to deliver some “wah wah’s” with his guitar when he was actually just thirsty as hell), guitarist Ken Fobert, bassist Trevor McBride, keyboardist Sean Werlick and drummer Sean Dowell, Borealis did not disappoint their fans, filling all empty spaces in the air with their classy Melodic and Power Metal and keeping everyone pumped up even with the clock getting close to 2am. That’s another band I highly recommend you go check them live as well as go after their discography, because it’s not only top-tier metal music, but the overall production of their albums is also outstanding.

Band members
Matt Marinelli – vocals, guitars
Ken Fobert – guitars
Trevor McBride – bass
Sean Werlick – keyboards
Sean Dowell – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

Centuries of Decay – 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

…Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal squad CENTURIES OF DECAY! It was indeed an amazing concert, and I’m sure they will proudly carry the flag of Canadian metal high during their journey through the holy land of Wacken. Actually, I really wish Wacken Metal Battle Canada could send two bands to the festival, because Hammerdrone were just as demolishing and professional as the Metal Battle winners. At least now more people will get to know Hammerdrone and all other bands of the night, which in the end is the ultimate goal of the Metal Battle and of festivals like Boonsdale Fest, keeping the fire of metal alive by always presenting to us fans new incredible bands from the underground scene. For instance, there was this old school, diehard metalhead (drinking beer at an insane speed of “two tall boys every five minutes”, but who was still able to walk, talk and headbang as if he was having just water) who asked me right after Operus if there was still more to come, and when I said there was still one more band he showed a huge and honest smile and said “this is great, eh?”, and if independent bands can still extract that type of reaction from a veteran like that guy, well, that’s another proof that metal music will never die. Now let’s wait until next year to see which new name will represent Canada at W.O.A. 2019, and if you already have your tickets for the festival this year, don’t forget to go say “hi” and raise your horns to the guys from Centuries of Decay.