After a two year break, this past weekend saw Heavy Montreal return to one of Canada’s greatest cities, boasting a stacked lineup full of potential weekend-stealers – and a lot of poutine. A lot of stuff went down across the two days, and here are a few things we learned in the process…
Limp Bizkit are still metal's greatest party band
Avenged Sevenfold having to pull heir North American tour meant Heavy Montreal lost its Sunday night headliner at short notice. What could have been disastrous ended up offering up a big silver lining, as the festival secured Limp Bizkit’s first show in the city for well over a decade. It feels like Bizkit have been resting on their laurels for quite some time now – not helped by the fact they’ve released one new album in 15 years – but the fact is that when you’re packing as many anthems as they are, in front of a pissed-up festival crowd, it’ll have to go some way to not be a success.
And what a success it is. While the set loses steam at points – not helped by a bizarre, momentum-killing moment where a fan is invited up on stage to sing Eat You Alive, only to admit she doesn’t know the words – the first twenty minutes is straight fire. My Generation, Break Stuff and Rollin’ drop in quick succession, whipping Montreal into a frenzy as Wes Borland and Fred Durst throw themselves into the third row, two cartoon supervillains hell-bent on inciting further mayhem. The likes of Nookie, Hot Dog, My Way and a stage-shattering Take A Look Around all hit like a freight train, too, while the meandering side-steps – including brief drops of Avenged’s Unholy Confessions and Pantera classics Cowboys From Hell and Walk – are a nice nod of the cap to recent events. Festivals are supposed to be fun, and it just doesn’t get any more fun than this.
Marilyn Manson fans will stick around through anything
Manson’s set itself is a bit of a mixed affair. Slower, more methodical numbers like Say 10, The Dope Show and Sweet Dreams sound sinister, menacing and darkly seductive live, but the God Of Fuck just doesn’t quite keep up with faster classics like Irresponsible Hate Anthem and This Is The New Shit, and he looks more than a little distracted at times. The crowd don’t give a crap, mind: Manson still elicits a rapturous response for everything he does, and even a quick but absolutely brutal thunderstorm can’t stop his Spooky Kids from losing their minds during The Beautiful People. Even on off days, he still commands one of metal’s most dedicated cults.
Baroness are one of the best bands in the world right now
John Baizley’s troops have got better and better with each record, 2015’s Purple a truly life-affirming work of art. Live, too, they’ve become a band who can steal hearts and minds with so little as a flicker of lighting or a drop of melody. They rule the sunny Saturday afternoon at Heavy, the likes of Shock Me, March To The Sea and a stunning Chlorine & Wine bringing lumps to throats and tears to eyes right across the field. We need that next album ASAP.
Canada really loves Alestorm
Like, really. We’re not shitting you when we say that the Scottish pirate metallers draw one of the biggest crowds of the whole weekend on the Saturday, causing pandemonium in the pits and at least one, large, spontaneous sit-down rowing session. They also have a giant inflatable duck that somehow becomes dislodged from the stage and ends up going on an impromptu crowdsurf for the latter part of the set. It’s bizarre. It’s ridiculous. It also feels a little unfair that such shameless silliness draws a significantly bigger crowd than Baroness, but what can you do? Alestorm are a perfect festival band, and this is a perfect festival set. Plus, Captain Morgan’s Revenge is a big tune.
Gojira are ready to headline festivals
Be it through their flawlessly-played and crushingly heavy music or increasingly impressive light show and backing screens, Gojira are, unsurprisingly, perfect on the Sunday night. They’ve amassed so many great songs that their sets are starting to feel like greatest hits runs. The added emotional gutpunch of tracks like The Cell and L’Enfant Sauvage also means there’s so much more to this band than technical precision and machine gun-heavy, scrape-picked riffs, and it shows in the outpouring of adulation they receive in Montreal.
With a 13-song setlist, they only play a couple less tracks than the evening’s headliners in Limp Bizkit, making it feel like a test run for a full festival headline show on these shores one day soon (a spot which us Brits will be lucky enough to see at Bloodstock in just over a week’s time). Despite being one of metal’s most understated modern bands, Gojira look equipped to take over on the grand stage – and we are ready for them.
It's impossible not to be stoked for Trivium
After playing one of the best sets of their career at Brixton Academy on the Metal Hammer Tour in April, it’s heartwarming to see Trivium do the business across the Atlantic, too. For a band that has often struggled to see the same success in North America as on our shores, it’s clear Canada loves the Floridians just as much as the UK; a huge turnout arrives on the Sunday evening to see the four-piece rip through a crushing, career-spanning set. “This is the best show of this whole cycle so far,” roars Matt Heafy before the band finish with off a pummelling In Waves. A sentiment often dished out by bands to captive crowds, but today, the atmosphere both onstage and off it makes you believe every word.
Power Trip don't do bad shows
It’s official: the Texan thrashers have decided to use Always Be Absolutely Crushing Live as their calling card. They decimate the Forest Stage stage on the Sunday afternoon, managing to leave a lasting impression on a day stacked with killer heavyweight live bands. That’s no small achievement, and they are no small contenders: Power Trip are as legit as it gets, and the future continues to look bright for them.
Metal's future is brighter than ever
And on that note... Heavy Montreal was absolutely brimming with great young bands looking to make an impact, and not a single one of them disappointed. Be it Get The Shot’s rousing, metal-splattered hardcore bringing the pits to the Garden Stage; doomy duo Khemmis and Pallbearer both hypnotising crowds with their melody-tinged, lumbering riffs; or Perturbator causing synth-heavy pandemonium on the Sunday night, the future of heavy music is looking in great stead. We can’t wait to see all those bands and more come back to play bigger spots soon.
Emperor should come back to Canada more often
Bringing Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk in full, the black metal legends offer a mesmerising reminder of why they remain one of extreme music’s most important bands. Their first Canadian show in almost twenty years goes down a storm, and while Ihsahn et al may not be the showiest lads in the pack, when you’re offering music this vital, who cares? Canada adores them. Let’s hope it’s not so long before they decide to dust off the guitars once again.
More festivals need to have poutine
We’re not letting this one drop. Poutine for life. Poutine Ultras. Heavy Poutine 2018.
Heavy Montreal will be back in 2019. For info on next year’s festival, stay tuned to the official website.