11/05/04 and 11/06/04 - TROIS-RIVIERES METALFEST IV
The fourth annual Trois-Rivieres Metalfest went down in true timeless heavy metal fashion on the weekend of November 5th, 2004 at Le Maquisart. I'm an idiot for not going more often to Trois-Rivieres because it's a beautiful place with gorgeous young ladies, fresh air, and clean streets. Of course at 9pm Friday were some groups of working class adult men stumbling around on Des Forges drunk very early in the evening, but that's just the festive mood of downtown Trois-Rivieres. The bars were packed. A two day onslaught of the finest Canadian metal available was about to commence. Many of the best bands from the festival are on GALY RECORDS(http://www.galyrecords.com), a superb Montreal label growing in the international metal scene, and with good reason. They are Canada's answer to Willowtip Records in the US. The label also provided great compilation CDS to all attendees. Go check out the site and the webstore, then buy one of everything, NOW. Friday, November 5th The Payback (http://thepayback.qchc.com/) started off the show right on time around 7pm to an eager crowd already pretty dense in numbers for a band that surely a good part of the audience had never heard of. Well if any Quebec hardcore band currently has a chance of breaking out into the metal scene and the USA, it's The Payback, whose mostly metal-inspired downtuned riffs and mature gruff vocals adequately disguise these young kids as a determined, angry veteran unit on record. Live however their youth shines through, in a good way. They were enthusiastic about starting the show and used their short time slot well, playing all of the songs from their 2004 demo in addition to a new song Fill The Void, which although sounds like almost a direct rip from a couple of Santa Sangre songs (a big influence in Quebec), was well-executed. They had nothing to hide and weren't afraid to start the show, the crowd enjoyed them more than crowds usually enjoy a first opener, and the show was on with a hardcore band leading the way. Augury (http://www.augurymetal.com/) was next, and having recently released their superb debut album Concealed, these musical veterans were definitely one of the key bands of interest for metalheads seeking the cutting edge in extremity. They were shuffled into the evening too early and with too short a set time, but this is a band who rely solely on technical playing and other-wordly conceptual themes as opposed to image, so the band spoke very loudly no matter what time they played, and people took notice. Their setlist came from the new CD exclusively and was executed with the kind of precision you expect from musicians this good, the drummer Etienne Gallo who also plays in Neuraxis. The band showed off their modern take on Norwegian black metal with relentless fast playing, punishing grooves, and harmonies everywhere. The crowd loved them and I was very impressed. Magister Dixit (http://magisterdixit.cjb.net/), a skilled and epic black metal band played next, and with a blood-stained performance impressed the crowd already beaten into submission by Augury. They just released their new album Infernal Martyrism, which is a huge improvement over their first album Andar and the Curse of Azagath released four years ago. Musically comparable to Old Man's Child, but now without keyboards, Magister Dixit pulled off the convincing black metal act very well, with the music standing out above all else. Great stuff, the crowd did too. A Perfect Murder (http://www.xaperfectmurderx.net), the standout hardcore band on the bill, played next and really loosened up the crowd after the intense headbanging that honored the previous two bands. Mid-paced riffs and grooves seriously got the majority of the crowd into the performance, which is one of their last before three members leave the band to form a new one, Aced and Eights (http://acesandeights.qchc.com). Tonight however all members were unified and feeling the passion of their music, getting into their songs as much as the audience. They played songs mostly off their recent album Unbroken and a couple from Cease To Suffer, along with the Black Sabbath intro from their EP of covers. It surprised everyone including the band how much of a response they got. They rocked the house. Unexpect (http://www.unexpect.com/) brought the crowd back into metal mode with a flawless performance of tracks from last year's adventurous We, Invaders EP and even more varied new songs from their upcoming album on The End Records. A Galy Records protege, the seven-member Unexpect have been raising eyebrows everywhere with their unique take on black metal with operatic passages, international folk music tinges, prog metal parts, and interesting violin textures, all of which were pulled off perfectly live. Metal crowds are intelligent and they know a unique yet groundbreaking band when they see one, and Unexpect drew such a reaction. A great use of time and space in their music really sets them apart from older, more experienced bands in the genre, and is probably what will help them break new ground in scenes around the world. The crowd really loved these guys and gal. Misery Index (http://www.miseryindex.com), already marvels of the extreme metal scene, were second to last on the evening's bill, the only American band playing on either day, and certainly the biggest draw of the evening just ahead of Quo Vadis. Three-piece bands like Misery Index and Pig Destroyer are beginning to prove that like Motorhead, you can have a live sound with three members that devastates nine member bands on a consistent basis. Sparky Voyles' incessant grind, death, and hardcore riffs are what communicate the band's devastating attack most effectively, although they were slightly drowned out by the live mix of the rhythm section's rumble. Regardless, the band was tighter than the hijab on a muslim woman, and incessant headbanging ensued from the stage to the crowd. Their new drummer pulled off everything as on the original recordings, and every blast beat, breakdown, and speed verse devastated the pit. They played songs mostly off the Retaliate album, one song from the new and excellent Dissent EP, and a couple of others from their splits. Headlining the first night were the untouchable Quo Vadis (http://www.quovadis.qc.ca/), a Montreal melodic technical death group with already nearly four solid albums under their belt. Only a band this potent could be entitled to enlist bass legend Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Death, Testament) to perform on their new and superb long-awaited album Defiant Imagination. Having added new lead guitarist William Seghers, the band is set to become an international metal killing machine hopefully sooner than later. Fans of this difficult to reproduce style, in the vein of early Death, Cynic, and Atheist, need to embrace Quo Vadis as comparable to the aformentioned groups because their musical ability and sheer power is certainly comparable to them, from the mindblowing drums out to the vocals. Every detail was brought out in true form tonight, as they played numerous tracks from the new album and Day Into Night. The entire crowd was moved by the epic melodies integrated with the death and thrash structures. An essential climax to a show that really saw the crowd appreciate each band with no exceptions. Saturday, November 6th Opening the second night rather unceremoniously was Mythosis (http://www.mythosis.com/), a young band apparently rising in popularity to some degree, for reasons that need to be explained to me. All that I heard was a lame sound musically imitative of very basic Meshuggah and Lamb Of God, but actually closer to nu-metal bands like Static-X and Drowning Pool. The whiny, emotional vocals gave me my only headache of the entire weekend. Furthermore they had a keyboardist with dreadlocks, makeup, and a Blood For Blood shirt; an observation which still bewilders me. The crowd showed some respectful appreciation, mostly out of pity, in my opinion. There are many bands who would have been better suited for this opening slot. On a positive note, it definitely made the next band's job much easier. Torn Within (http://www.tornwithin.com/), another young band, are definitely influenced by melodic thrash and death metal but play a uniquely mid-paced and very interesting brand of metal that comes across as traditional in many respects. Their new album Allied with Bitterness was largely represented in their setlist, and the excellent Wild Studio-recorded album did extremely well in the live setting, impressing the crowd song after song. This is their debut album, nearly six years after their formation, a very wise move because now the band is known by their solid live performance and highly-memorable album rather than being nagged about embarassing old material. The honest and powerful vocals sound much like Chuck Schuldiner, and many of the slower melodic riffs are evocative of Symbolic-era Death. Their solid grooves got the crowd moving, and the death breaks incited a small pit. Definitely a band for people in the hardcore and metal scene to keep an eye on. Very catchy and very well-written stuff that came across perfectly live. If we refer to hardcore in the truest sense of the word, then GFK (http://www.gfkhardcore.com/) embodies it. They have already been to Europe and put out four albums, and are still a young band, but definitely not without convictions or a unique sound. Their live set began with a recorded interlude from Bowling For Columbine where a father is discussing how his son was shot in the face by one of the gunmen. Harsh. Then soon kicked in to a relentless set of blazing hardcore with traces of technical metal. Songs from their great new album If Liberty Isnâ€™t Given, It Should Be Taken and In Defiance Of Politics were played to a crowd that really loved it and didnâ€™t mind the assault of political messages either. Oddly enough they were the most left-of-center hardcore band in the festival but received one of the best reactions. Very passionate and apparently gaining some serious popularity in the international scene. Anhkrehg (http://www.anhkrehg.com/) were up next, possibly the most violent black metal band in the festival, and playing to a crowd who were very eager to see them. They've been a band for around ten years, releasing multiple albums, but their new album Against You All on Galy Records easily eclipses their earlier work, and it is that material which was showcased most eagerly at the show. A potent combination of classic black metal and death metal, Anhkrehg dress in wartime metal theme live just as war dominates their lyrical themes. They laid waste to the stage and the crowd, who showed some real appreciation for these maniacs. If any of the bands were not mentally sane, it was this band. Great stuff. Quebec's favorite deathgrind sons Despised Icon (http://www.despisedicon.com/) arrived onstage to many cheers from their friends and fans in the audience. Despite having released their pounding debut album Consumed By Your Poison a mere two years ago, only one track was played from it, the band choosing instead to perform newly-written material to be included on their upcoming Relapse split release and next album, which will be released on a major metal label...but I can't tell you which one. Their dual-vocalist attack never lets up, and their new drummer is technically precise to the degree that drummers have to be in an increasingly competitive tech metal scene. Their new material incorporates more breakdowns and grooves but still retains the classic Despised Icon sound. The band was thankful to the crowd and the crowd responded with glee. Ghoulunatics (http://www.ghoulunatics.com) played second to last and their rock, punk, hardcore approach meant they had to put on a really good show to compete with the technical brutality that many of the bands had beaten the crowd into submission with prior. And they did. Well-known for their energetic live shows, Ghoulunatics played a number of songs from their recent album Sabacthany, and also some from their classic Carving Into You and King Of The Undead albums. A Quebec favorite whose well-produced albums still don't do justice to their live performances, the crowd was quickly able to change pace for their anthemic rock metal, which many fans in the pit were loyally singing along to. They have an old fashioned early 90's sound which brings back memories of the simpler hard music of those days. I really enjoyed their performance and so did most of the crowd. Singer Pat Mireault recently performed some classic thrash songs with Black Cloud, the one-off Quebec-based all-star thrash metal tribute band consisting of ex-Voivod bassist Jean-Yves ThÃ©riault (a.k.a. Blacky), ex-Obliveon guitarist Pierre RÃ©millard, Martyr guitarist Daniel Mongrain, Cryptopsy drummer Flo Mounier, and B.A.R.F. frontman Marc Vaillancourt. MP3 files of the entire show, including Slayer, Exodus, Kreator, Venom, and Possessed classics are available here: [www.voivodfan.com] Event headliners and world-famous grind, technical, death metal monsters Cryptopsy (http://www.cryptopsy.net) took the stage last with the venue packed to full capacity. The anticipation was huge and the crowd was chanting the band's name continuously until cheers overcame them with the band arriving onstage. Lord Worm was soft-spoken and evil-glared, ready to slay the audience with his uncontrollable vocals as he had just recently re-begun to do, having pleased audiences nationwide in Canada with the recently completed tour. Each of the members were smiling as the band clearly appreciated the overwhelming response. The sound was incredibly clear and also easily the loudest that it had been all night. Their performance was literally deafening. They played their second album None So Vile in its entirety, evoking a headbanging response from every person in attendance from front to back. Soonafter followed a mindblowing drum solo by the unimitable Flo Mounier, lasting close to 10 minutes and dropping jaws aplenty. Incredible. The band then played one song each from Blasphemy Made Flesh, Whisper Supremacy, and ...And Then You'll Beg, all pulled off flawlessly. They closed the set with Back To The Worms and Lord Worm eating worms while also feeding some to eager worm-eaters in the front row. A memorable hour-plus set of Cryptopsy finished off a very well organized Metalfest IV that showcased lots of new and veteran talent, not to mention a good portion of the Galy Records active roster. I expect to see many more hardcore kids in attendance next year, especially since most of the popular so-called hardcore bands today are actually metal bands. The bar for quality is set much higher in the metal scene which made for a top-notch show well worth the money. See you next year!