August 19, 2014

One of the world’s largest heavy metal festivals in recent years has been Heavy Montréal.   Formerly known as Heavy MTL since beginning in 2008, in 2014 the festival was renamed Heavy Montréal, bringing over fifty bands to unleash moshing, walls of death, and crowd surfing to the beautiful French-Canadian city of Montreal, Quebec the weekend of August 9th and 10th.    Traditionally held at Parc Jean-Drapeau on the island called Ile Ste-Hélènea off of downtown, the setting has become a comfortable place for Canadians and world travelers discovering Montreal for the first time.  With 75,000 tickets sold for the two days, it is safe to say this was going to be an event for the ages.

Arriving bright and early to Parc Jean-Drapeau Saturday August 9th, the first band to kick off the musical adventure at 1:10 PM was Babymetal from Tokyo, Japan. Formed in 2010, BABYMETAL brought their quirkiness to the Heavy Stage with the crowd packed with followers dressed in typical anime outfits as well as holding up everyone’s favorite Pokémon pal, Pikachu. Lead singer Suzuka Nakamoto (aka: Su-metal) led everyone into a wall of death, which the fans happily pulled off.  Their self-titled debut album is out now.

Bringing classic thrash metal to the Molson Canadian Stage at 1:50PM was New Jersey’s own Overkill.  Led by the always comedic and energetic Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth, Overkill unleashed some great heavy tunes to get the blood flowing.  These metal warriors released their amazing seventeenth studio album White Devil Armory in July and show no signs of slowing down.

Around 2:30 PM, at the Heavy Stage, Californian punk rock band Pennywise was ready to go for a large group of fans that anxiously waited. While Overkill was playing at the neighboring stage, their fans began chanting “Bro Hymn” and were restless for Pennywise’s appearance. The pit was nuts and there was plenty of interaction between the band and their fans. Lead singer Jim Lindberg even got a hold of a photographer’s camera and began to take pictures with it.  Their newest album Yesterdays is out now.

Finland’s Apocalyptica began their performance at 3:15 PM upon arriving at the Molson Canadian Stage. The quartet blew away all those who did not know that cellos could be heavy, mixing energy and musicianship for a great speculate. The audience was pumped up to see the mix between metal and classical, especially during their rendition of Sepultura’s “Refuse/Resist”.  The band’s eighth studio album is coming sometime in 2015.

Moving along, Whitechapel performed on the other side of the venue on the Galaxie stage at 3:45 PM. Although it was a smaller stage compared to both Molson’s and Heavy’s stage, this sextet from Tennessee pumped their crowd up from beginning to end. The fans were calling out one song in particular, “I, Dementia”, which was eventually played, causing the crowd to go into a frenzy of bodies slamming into each other.  This band is looking toward the future and taking no prisoners with their dominating new album Our Endless War.

With the day wearing on, the Celtic punk band from Massachusetts, Dropkick Murphys, took to the Molson Canadian Stage at 4:45 PM to a crowd of people that were revved up in excitement. Every song ignited the audience to sing along and their popular 2006 track “I’m Shipping Out To Boston” provoked the largest response.  With mosh pits and crowding surfing, there were plenty of male fans in kilts participating in the fun. As with Apocalyptica and their cellos, the bagpipes in Dropkick Murphys surprised the predominantly metal crowd that had not heard the band prior and perhaps opened their minds to something new.

Bringing on more thrash metal history, Anthrax arrived at the Molson Canadian Stage at 6:15 PM to pandemonium.  Possessing New York attitude, vocalist Joey Belladonna was full of energy, running around the stage and singing crowd favorites like “Among The Living”, “Caught In A Mosh”, “I Am The Law”, among others.  So lost in the set, fans even ran onto the stage, even if security grabbed them moments later to pull them off.   Those who have seen the band over the years would argue this was one of their best performances.

Closing out the Heavy Stage was Huntington Beach, CA’s The Offspring at 7:15 PM.  Celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their breakout album Smash, they performed the record in its entirety flawlessly. Fans of all ages sang along to songs from the album including classic tunes such “Gotta Get Away”, “Self Esteem”, and “Come Out and Play”.  Lead vocalist Dexter Holland put on an impressive performance on vocals as well as instrumentally, switching guitars throughout the set for the songs and kept up the ska/punk energy the band has been known for since their 1980’s beginnings.  Concluding with an encore that featured “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, The Offspring put on one diverse and inspired performance.

After seven plus hours of metal, punk, and hard rock, it was time for headlining thrash gods Metallica.  Making their only North American appearance of 2014, the band sweetened the deal, allowing fans to vote online which songs they wanted to hear during the set.  One can imagine this was a dream come true for life-long fans and 40,000 plus fans gathered to begin the journey into metal history at 8:30 PM on the Molson Canadian Stage.

With a buzz of adrenaline feeding off the massive crowd, Metallica started the fire with “Blackened”.  Proving the fans made the right selections in their voting process, Metallica played classics like “Master of Puppets”, “And Justice For All”, “Orion”, as well as the new single “Lords of Summer”. If any concern was had if it would be difficult to view the band with such a large turn out, two large screens on each side of the stage allowed everyone from all angles to view the action.  Showing they are still the metal masters, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo all showed their excitement to be at the festival.  Hetfield even made mention Metallica has only been to Canada a handful of times which made the event that much more historic.  Completing a set of over two hours in length, the encore of “Creeping Death”, “The Four Horsemen”, and “Seek & Destroy” closed the evening out with a bang.

There was no doubt that day one of Heavy Montréal shows this festival is here to stay and the record turnout is a crown accomplishment.  As everyone departed into the night to recharge and reminisce, they all knew there was still another day of metal to come early the next day.

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Check out coverage of Heavy Montréal day 2 here:

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