Heavy MTL 2011

Heavy MTL is an annual heavy metal festival held in Montreal, QC.  This year we shot photos during both days of the festival.

DAY 1:

First up at Heavy MTL 2011: Dead and Divine, a metalcore band hailing from Burlington, and Parc Jean-Drapeau transitions from mild crowd sounds, Budweiser hawking, conversation to full on aural assault, with Dead and Divine delivering nicely crafted songs that move deceptively between deep, growling vocals and almost soulful pleading. Check out some pictures from the show by clicking through the photo below:

Next up: Knoxville’s Straight Line Stitch on the smaller Budweiser stage. Straight Line Stitch (thankfully) spares us the need to identify any niche metal genres by covering a lot of musical territory. You could easily walk by the stage and get the impression that Straight Line Stitch is a pop band, with Alexis Brown crooning “Don’t be afraid of the dark” in the song Taste of Ashes, but the quick transition to blood curdling metal vocals will instantly change your mind–forget being worried about the dark: “Stand! Stand! Stand up and fight!”, with Alexis projecting so much power that you expect electricity to dance along her limbs. The guitar, bass, and drum work are top notch and the band is super tight. And pray for Alexis’s vertebrae when she goes into full on head banging mode–we expected sonic booms from her braids! Love this band! Check out their stuff and click through the image below for the entire gallery:

Hungering for thrash, we caught Death Angel, an old school thrash metal band, on the Jagermeister stage. Death Angel has had a large number of personnel changes since they were formed in 1982, with the current lineup being Rob Cavestany (an original member), Mark Osegueda, Ted Aguilar, Will Carroll, and Damien Sisson. When they broke up in 1991, it seemed like we had lost them forever, but they reformed in 2001 and have been playing since then, with the current lineup releasing their latest album, Relentless Retribution, in 2010. At Heavy MTL 2011, there could be no doubt: one of the foundational thrash metal bands still stands tall. Check out Mark Osegueda’s bangin’ dreads when you click through the image for more photos:

Suicide Silence, an extreme metal band from Riverside, CA, followed on the Scene HEAVY stage with one of the most absolutely mad shows of the festival, as Mitch Lucker’s throat-scraping vocals (like Marilyn Manson desperately in need of anger management) are backed by solid, alternating walls of guitar wizardry/blast beats and grinding bass lines. At one point during the set Mitch threatened (jokingly) to stop the show unless the crowd surfers made the bouncers work for their living. There was immediate compliance, as the show must go on. Click through the image to see the rest of the Suicide Silence photos:

Next: Massachusetts metalcore band Unearth on the Jagermeister stage. Unearth has been on the metal scene since 1998 and have released five studio albums so far. Thrilling guitar, stupid fast drumming, and your head starts banging itself. Who could want more? Well, if they want to play Eyes of Black one more time, that’d be OK. More pictures: Click click click.

Machine Head is an American heavy metal band from San Francisco, formed in 1992. Adam Duce (bass) and Robb Flynn (lead vocals) remain from the original lineup, with Phil Demmel (lead guitar) and Dave McClain (drums) having joined in 2002 and 1995, respectively. Their set lasted about 45 minutes and included one song from their upcoming album, Unto the Locust (which will be released in September of this year), a song about human leeches–or rather locusts.   This is essentially genre-busting metal, which is our preference anyway, especially in light of recent tendencies to constantly create new metal genres (not quite as bad as naming skateboard tricks, but it’s getting there:  540 kickflip to grindcore death-a-billy thrash).  Screw that.    Check out the pics and make sure you’re there next time, with ER-20’s in…errr…ear:


Unfortunately we couldn’t catch Trivium–with a three song limit in the pit (1 for Motorhead, 0 for KISS), there’s only so much running we can do.  We did briefly catch Grimskunk, a local band formed in 1988 that could just as easily be in a world music festival as a heavy metal one (not a bad thing).  They sing in French, Spanish, Greek, Arabic, English and Greek and call their style “world punk”.  Fine with us.

Scandinavian “melodic” death metal group In Flames followed on the Scene HEAVY stage, with artery-busting intensity on vocals and twin guitar pyro:

NecronomicoN was one of the representative black/death metal bands at Heavy MTL, with maniacally fast, technical guitar and drum work.  Visually, NecronomicoN is spectacular, with Rob “The Witch” on guitar and Armaros on bass head banging two foot long locks.  In a few of our shots, it looks like there’s actual neck separation, but since they walked off stage under their own power after the show, must’ve been an optical illusion.  Look for yourself:

After NecronomicoN we rushed back to the HEAVY stage to catch Godsmack, a band that’s refreshingly easy to categorize: this is a hard rock band.  That’s hardly a slight–it’s pounding, wanker-free rock and roll.  Lemmy’s introduction for Motorhead could also be easily applied here.  When Motorhead started, Lemmy removed the cigarette from his mouth and said, “Hi.  We’re Motorhead.  We play rock and roll.”  Godsmack:  Loved every minute of it and one of the best shows at the Fest–don’t let anyone tell you otherwise:

Final act on the main stages of Day 1:  Disturbed.  Another dose of hard rock in the old school sense of the word, with David Draiman pacing the Jagermeister stage brashly like a tiger–no nonsense and you’d be hard pressed to believe he doesn’t own this place.  A great way to end the day and a band you’ve surely heard of,  given the amazing success they’ve had.  The word is that they will be on “indefinite hiatus” starting in 2012, so we’ll see what happens.  In the meantime, photos:

We did slip away from Disturbed to catch Cryptopsy (thanks, Man Formerly Known as Broccoli, for the tip!) on the Budweiser stage.  Wow.  This is one band that takes death metal seriously–simply off the chart intensity and we didn’t see any other death metal bands at the festival actually eat worms!  Serious, serious, hardcore death metal.  Check out the worm photos by clicking through and if your taste is death metal in the extreme, you’ve found it:

And verily did Day 1 of Heavy MTL come to an end and yay, there was much groaning (and smiling of course), having hefted 20 lbs of camera equipment around for about 10 hours.  A shower a and a few hours of sleep before Day 2.

DAY 2:

First up:  Endast, a local Montreal hardcore metal band with Big James Arsenian (the man has stage presence!) on vocals,
Chris Arsenian and Pepe Poliquin on guitar, Blair Youngblut on drums, and Ryan Miller on bass.  These guys are the real stuff and according to their website have played over 1100 gigs.  Check ’em out!

Lazarus A.D. was originally called Lazarus when they formed in 2005, but changed their name to Lazarus A.D. shortly thereafter.  The switch was likely to differentiate themselves [legally?] from Lazarus, the softer rock band from the 1970s, but make no mistake, there’s no way you could confuse these bands.  Lazarus of the 1970s:  “Concerning Lions”.  Lazarus A.D.: “Forged in Blood”.  We’ll take the latter.  Check ’em out:

One could have a Straight Line Stitch moment if you catch Times of Grace at the right moment–pop vocal lines, but wait:  metalcore emerges, with Jesse Leach nearly spitting blood to emphasize his point:  “There is a strength in numbers…we struggle…we suffer…but we will live forever!”  This is a great band that we hadn’t previously encountered, but they’ve made the list.

Back to the smaller Budweiser stage to catch Anonymus, a band from Quebec that was formed in 1989.  Playing straight-ahead, crazy fast thrash metal, Anonymus was a major crowd favorite, filling the area in front of the remote Budweiser stage.  Crowd surfing was in full effect, with security guards protecting the wimpy photographers (us!) from full on carnage!

We’re not kidding:

Anonymus performing at Heavy MTL 2011 in Montreal, QC. (Golden G. Richard III)


Anonymus performing at Heavy MTL 2011 in Montreal, QC. (Golden G. Richard III)

Back to the big stages:  Girlschool!  Confession:  Hadn’t thought about them in a long time.  Hadn’t even noticed they were on the schedule, for some reason.  That made the total surprise even more epic!  This is seriously old school rock and roll–Girlschool formed in 1978 and three of the original members remain.  A little old schoolin’ never hurt anybody (particularly the kids at the concert who weren’t born in 1988, much less 1978).  Take that, kiddies!

Immediate transition to Annihilator on the adjacent sister stage at Heavy MTL.  Annihilator is probably the most successful Canadian metal band, dating back to 1984.  Dave Padden is now on vocals, sporting skateboarder threads and delivering hardcore at a rate and intensity that would cause most vocal cords to burst into flames.  On a related note, we’d like to point out that the Facebook group inviting Dave Padden to die has only four Likes as we write this.   Jeff Waters, widely seen as one of the best metal guitar players ever was eventually joined by Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom (who was set to play his own set in about an hour!).   As if the intensity could get any more frantic, Alexi Laiho, one of the fastest guitarists in the world according to some measures, upped the thrill factor even more and the crowd went crazy (so did we).  Absolutely one of the best performance at Heavy MTL and a do-not-miss if the band comes anywhere near you!  Check ’em out:

Alexi Laiho during the Annihilator set:

Annihilator performing at Heavy MTL 2011 in Montreal, QC. (Golden G. Richard III)

Christian metalcore/death metal hybrid As I Lay Dying was next, with some our prettiest heavy metal posing of the festival:

And then it was time for Alexi Laiho to come back for his own set, as Children of Bodom took the stage.  There’s always debate over which metal style Children of Bodom fall into, as if there really has to be an answer.  There are clearly classical metal riffs in this stuff, combined with absolutely insane speed on drums, guitar, and vocals.  Get over it.  This isn’t manufactured fame–Children of Bodom simply shred and are the essence of what one would hope to find at Heavy MTL.  Our only question:  When are you guys coming to New Orleans?  Check out some shots from the show:

And do you think the crowd was into this band?

Children of Bodom performing at Heavy MTL 2011 in Montreal, QC. (Golden G. Richard III)

Morbid Angel, a death metal band from Tampa, FL, has been around for a long time, forming in 1984.  Lots of personnel changes since then and a long recording hiatus.  We loved their performance at Heavy MTL and we doubt we’re alone.  Alternating between slowed down, powerful grinds to almost wacky speed, with intelligible death metal-styled vocals, this is good stuff.   Listen to the fast guitar work a bit into the song Fall from Grace, for example, and you won’t be tempted to pick up a guitar late in life.  Wow.   If you’re looking for controversy, however, check out their latest album, Illud Divinum Insanus, which has seriously polarized fans and critics, as Morbid Angel strays a bit from death metal into industrial and techno-flavored stuff.

Yeah, we’re old.  So what?  After Motorhead, Anthrax was a clear winner for best of show.  We knew that beforehand and they did nothing to change our minds.  This is seriously old school thrash metal, hugely influential for all that would follow.  And these guys love to play–check out the photos!  With personnel changes so complicated a graph is provided in the Wikipedia article, everyone has their favorite Anthrax era.  Find yours, buy some CDs, and get your bang on while you’re cooking, cleaning, or whatever the hell.  Just don’t try to sit still.  Anthrax:  we love you!

One of the most talked about bands before and after Heavy MTL was Opeth, a Swedish band incorporating elements of heavy metal, folk, jazz, blues, rock, and acoustic segments.  Mikael Åkerfeldt reportedly considers Sad Wings of Destiny, by Judas Priest, to be the best metal album ever and although one’s opinion is invariably tainted with knowledge like that, it seems straightforward to see the influences in Opeth’s music.  Whether Opeth is ultimately your style or not, it’s definitely worth a listen, because they really expand the scope of heavy metal.

Our second to last act of Heavy MTL:  Motorhead.  Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way:  Motorhead was our favorite band coming in, Lemmy delivered exactly what we expected, and Motorhead was our favorite band going out.  We blew the Lemmy punchline earlier, but it’s worth repeating:  Lemmy walks on stage, smoke trailing from a cigarette.  He says “Hi.  We’re Motorhead.  We play rock and roll.”  Then he immediately stares up into his always-too-high microphone and proceeds to shred Heavy MTL for a solid hour.  In the words of Machete, “Lemmy don’t firework”.  There were no theatrics (although we don’t mind a good show), just fucking loud rock and roll.  God, we love Motorhead.  From a photographic standpoint, Motorhead looks as consistent as they sound–and have sounded–basically forever.  So there aren’t going to be any head banging photos of Lemmy, no Chinese splits and acrobatic jumps a la David Lee Roth.  We had only one song in the pit to shoot Motorhead, we’re grateful for it, and it was plenty.  Lemmy just looks like Lemmy playing rock and roll, no matter how many shots you take, and we enjoyed the show with the fans after the first song.   Long live Motorhead.

Final show of Heavy MTL for us (we skipped KISS–sorry):  Gorguts, an extreme death metal band that has created some of the most amazingly fast, technical metal ever.  Frankly, pretty hard to listen to sitting on the couch, but an outstanding band to catch live and visually amazing.  This was by far the hardest band to shoot at Heavy MTL, since it was fairly late and the stage lighting created both an absolutely stunning environment and photographic hell.  Check it out:

If you’d like to see all of our published photos of Heavy MTL in a single gallery, just click here.

And there it is.  See you next year in Montreal for Heavy MTL 2012!

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