Heavy Montreal Recap by Dillon Collins
It has taken several weeks to relieve the hangover that was Heavy Montreal.
Simply put, it’s the best display of heavy metal throughout the course of a single weekend in Canada. There’s little debate about that after attending on multiple occasions, and having witnessed the event evolve – through headliners Metallica packing the place in 2014, to a more punk-oriented hybrid in 2015 to now – it is safe to comment that parent company evenko and the amazing group of organizers and staff have things down to a science.
All in all, it was my fourth experience at the festival, and perhaps my favourite, for a host of reasons that would extend anything I could write in this article.
Now that my head has stopped spinning and I’m slightly healed of the whiplash caused by too much head-banging, and perhaps too many adult beverages, here are my major takeaways from Heavy Montreal 2018.
1. Genre Diversity Rules
I’m sure this can be said about countless metal festivals globally, but Heavy Montreal has always struck me as a particularly diverse hodgepodge of metal in all its forms.
Take a look at the lineup. The mainstage kicked off with doom masters Pallbearer on day one, before transitioning to more classic fair like Sword and Lee Aaron, while death metal masters Jungle Rot melted faces a stage away.
You have what yesteryear fans would call emo in Asking Alexandria, I Prevail and Underoath, alongside the Summer Slaughter touring carnival of pulverizing riffs featuring Between the Buried and Me, Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, etc.
If that’s not enough, they even threw in some hip hop/rap stylings this year with Hollywood Undead, and legitimate ace rapper Tech N9ne. And guess what? It worked!
Throw in some serious heavyweights and fan favourites like Rob Zombie (whose current stage show needs to be seen to be believed), Marilyn Manson, Sleep, Trivium and the mighty Emperor, and rising properties like Baroness, Khemmis, Power Trip and Red Fang, and you have a recipe for a heavy, salty time.
2. Gojira Should Have Closed the Festival
Sorry Limp Bizkit, but despite your best and zaniest efforts, French metal titans Gojira were the unsung heroes and headliners of the closing night of the ninth Heavy Montreal.
And on paper, it seemed like a winner, given the context. Finding a proper headliner to replace Avenged Sevenfold on a weeks notice was unenviable, to say the least.
And sure, Durst and company hauled out the hits, and dusted off some fan-friendly covers (including a thumbs-up worthy rendition of “Killing In The Name”), and a failed attempt at fan interaction with a particularly uninspired metalhead, but the majority of your diehard festival faithful knew that the genre hybrid that blew minds in 2016 with Magma were the real deal and totally deserving of the rub that came with closing the show.
With a set featuring pyro, smoke and literal flying whales (or dolphins?) in blowup form, Gojira aggressively and with unabashed confidence rolled out hit after hit in an hour long set that cemented them as bonafide headliners the world over.
They’re ready, they’ve earned it, and despite the name value of the nu-metal staples in Bizkit, Gojira deserved to close out Heavy Montreal.
3. Alestorm Are The Most Fun Band In Metal
I’ve seen Alestorm twice now. Once in 2014, weeks before they released Sunset of the Golden Age – where they damn near stole the day from a side stage from the likes of Slayer, Twisted Sister and Lamb of God – and now again in 2018.
Four years does a lot to ripen appreciation for an act and their wares. Riding high on the momentum of 2017’s No Grave But The Sea, Alestorm’s set was at times hard, consistently silly, booze soaked pandemonium.
Frontman Christopher Bowes, who doubled down over the weekend, appearing with his side-project Gloryhammer, is perhaps one of the more endearing and likable vocalists in the genre at the moment. Witty, fucking hilarious even, and routinely tasked with riling the crowd into a frenzy, Bowes seemingly takes great enjoyment in making the bands’ patented brand of pirate metal as relatable as possible, despite the nonsensical lyrics and subject matter.
“Fucked With An Anchor”? Talk about a closer and an anthem for drunken shenanigans anywhere in the world. And who can forget that rubber ducky!
4. Punk’s Mosh Too
The day preceding the kickoff to Heavy Montreal, punk ruled the roost at Parc Jean-Drapeau, with 77 Montreal wheeling out its sophomore lineup.
Headlined by Rise Against and boasting a lineup that included AFI, Sick of it All, L7, Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, The Interrupeters and the amazingly wicked Suicidal Tendencies, 77 is a perfect precursor to Heavy – that is if you don’t consider punk and metal to be arch rivals who mix worse than fire and gasoline.
By the way we see it, there’s room for both. Punks can mosh, drink and party just as hard as their metal cousins, and 77, and the fine folks in Montreal, are proof of that fact.
5. The People, Baby
Perhaps my favourite part of the entire metal festival experience is the people. Metal fans wear their passion on their sleeves, quite literally in some cases.
Adorned with the most outlandish and epic collection of metal merch, tattoos, piercings, hats, and in some cases costumes (we see you sign guy and Deadpool), metal fans at music festivals are, cliched as it is, the lifeblood.
Their passion of patronage, from the party that kicks off at noon and runs until the closing set, is palpable. They’re not just there for a fad or to live out some taboo. Metal fans love, eat, sleep and breathe their music.
Heavy Montreal, and its wildly colourful and lovable cast of characters, enhance the experience ten-fold. Go for the tunes, the beer, the merch. Stay, and come back, for the people.
We love you Montreal. Stay Heavy. We’ll see you next year in the pit!
Photos By Dan Smith Photography
MHF Magazine/Dillon Collins