Montreal’s heavy metal festival is upon us! On Saturday August 6th and Sunday August 7th, over 35 bands covering a multitude of sub-genres of heavy music will descend upon Parc Jean-Drapeau to the dismay of the people of St-Lambert. The festival has undergone some significant changes this year, with a move to a smaller adjacent site and a return to the 2 day format. Gone also are the punk bands that shared the stages with their metal cousins. I really liked these additions that Evenko offered the last 2 years, but one has to admit it was quite divisive and may not have worked as well as hoped.
This year’s scheduled got hit by a few cancellations along the way too. Sweden’s Ghost had to pull out of the festival, as well as Biohazard, Trivium and Repulsion, but Pop Evil, Skeletonwitch and Hatebreed (who visited Montreal not too long ago) were added to the lineup to fill in the gaps. And for a festival that’s always been North American-centric, it seems like this year’s edition has a better representation of European acts.
Here are ten bands we want to see at Heavy Montreal.
If you look up “Symphonic metal” in any decent dictionary, you’ll see a picture of these Finnish veterans. (Go ahead, check it out if you don’t believe me.) Well established now with singer Floor Jansen, the band has now truly embraced its amalgam of metal and operatic vocals. Their sold out show in February at Metropolis was fantastic, and for the festival they’ll bring their full European stage show. This will be one of their last shows before they enter a new album cycle to re-emerge in 2018.
This Danish band mixes hard rock with some Johnny Cash and a lot of Metallica. Yeah, that doesn’t sound great on paper but they’re awesome. Their show last year at the CEPSUM was excellent. Their latest album “Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie” isn’t their best, but a festival set should be more of a greatest hits type.
3- Alter Bridge
Alright. A few months back, even I would have laughed at the idea of putting these guys on this list. But Myles Kennedy rocks live, and their latest single “Show Me a Leader” is an excellent track that shows the singer did most of the writing on the Slash albums. They may not be Napalm Death-heavy, but it’ll be a fun time I’m sure.
4- Napalm Death
Speaking of Napalm Death, these veterans have been around since forever. Regular visitors to Montreal (they were here back in April), it’s a great opportunity to see them again or for the first time if you’ve missed them for the last 20 years.
5- Blind Guardian
Power metal seems ready made for the big festival outdoor stages, even though most bands can only fit a few songs in a 45 minute set. These German veterans are pioneers of the genre and the vocals of Hansi Kürsch will soar over the faithful at Parc Jean-Drapeau and beyond.
6-The Dillinger Escape Plan
This ‘mathcore’ band will defy musical analysis with their uber complex song structures and varying time signatures. Prepare to be amazed.
7- Fear Factory
Industrial metal at its best. Their visits have been less and less frequent over the years, and this is a good opportunity to see them on a big stage.
8- Zakk Wylde
Zakk has been playing Montreal for more than 25 years, first as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist, then with his band Black Label Society. But at this year’s Heavy Montreal, in addition to a BLS gig on Saturday, he’ll play a solo show on Sunday drawing from his two Book of Shadows albums. A rare opportunity to see this wild man’s mellow side.
These Swedes will invade the Molson Canadian stage with their camo pants, singing about war. But far from a pretentious melodrama, these guys are a hoot on stage, and display an energy that recalls the heyday of Iron Maiden. With big singalong choruses, they’ll keep the party going for sure.
These guys just get better and better with time. Their last concert at Metropolis was nothing short of majestic. The band is currently working on a new album, so maybe we’ll get a preview of new material? Even if we don’t, I expect Mastodon to be a highlight of this year’s Heavy Montreal.
And as an unofficial number 11 on this list, let’s not forget how fun it is to go from stage to stage and listen to a few songs of bands you don’t know or even bands you think you won’t like. Every year I leave Heavy Montreal with a few new artists on my radar, and that’s always good.
Rock hard, stay hydrated and have fun!