Heavy Montreal 2019: Less Decibels, But More Powerful Than Ever

Heavy Montreal's 10th edition established the event as THE North American heavy metal festival

Slash (photo by Jean-Frederic Vachon)

Heavy Montreal wrapped up its 10th edition with another successful weekend of heavy music of all sorts, under beautiful weather that thankfully avoided the forecasted Sunday thunderstorms. The festival was back on its old location but benefiting greatly from the renovations of the past two years. Every aspect of the site was reworked, from adding toilets (real ones!) to using repeater towers to make sure the sound reaches the back of the site without having to drown out conversations in St-Lambert. Heavy Montreal has never run so smoothly, and the fan experience was truly excellent. With 4 stages, the YULEAT Garden providing gourmet food, Heavy Mania running wrestling matches, the 10th anniversary photo exposition, and many more activities, the only problem was trying to catch as much of the festival as possible.

With the event’s anniversary on my mind, I was struck by how this year’s edition could be seen as a coming of age of sort. And for a genre of music whose demise has been widely predicted for years, it certainly felt very much alive, with three different generations of fans coming together.

The timelessness of this music could be summarized easily by catching Quiet Riot’s set on Saturday afternoon. Here’s a band, itself on its second generation (only drummer Frankie Banali remains from the line up that blew up the charts), getting three generations of metal heads to sing along to ‘Cum On Feel the Noize’, their 1983 cover of a 1973 Slade song.

Quiet Riot (photo by Jean-Frederic Vachon)

We’ve seen bands climb up the line up with each Heavy Montreal appearance. We had Slayer saying farewell to their fans in spectacular fashion. We had bands making their first, but not last I’m sure, appearance at the festival. Anthrax, possibly the band with the most Heavy Montreal appearances, was inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal.

We’ve had Ghost assume its place as one of the new faces of metal, with a spectacular headlining set on Saturday. We had Slash with Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators fully assuming their status as a band with a set that only featured one Guns n’ Roses song. We had Galactic Empire and Metalachi showing us that it’s ok to have a little fun and mix genre. And we had bands whose names we may not have been familiar with, but who most likely left with new fans. I know a few who’ve suddenly crept into my Spotify playlists.

As one man trying to cover as much of the event as possible, I approached this year’s Heavy Montreal like a buffet: by trying to sample a bit of everything. Well, as much as possible. I made it a point to show up to a few performances where I didn’t know the band. Loved discovering Skillet, Clutch and Fu Manchu, bands that have been running for years but somehow escaped my radar. I had a blast with my new favourites Metalachi, who threw down a metal fiesta that concluded with a spectacularly frantic version of ‘Raining Blood’, approved by Slayer themselves. Ghost and Anthrax, two of my personal favourites, played great sets. Godsmack also rocked the main stage on Saturday. Atreyu surprised me by playing a heartfelt rendition of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Band Name” that the crowd totally got into. Evanescence was grandiose in its first performance in Montreal in 8 years.

The fans were great too, and kudos to all the people who helped me get my shots either by helping me have a better view or by warning me that the water cannon was headed our way while my eyes were glued to my camera. If you recognize yourself in this, thank you. You’ve made this article possible.

After ten editions, Heavy Montreal has come of age and can proudly claim its spot as THE heavy metal festival in North America. By my totally un-scientific measure of “oh shit, there’s a lot of people here”, it felt that attendance was higher than many past editions. I know of more than one first-timers who’ve left saying “I’ll be back for sure”; I can’t wait to see who next year’s event will bring.

About Jean-Frederic Vachon

Jean-Frederic Vachon is a pop culture aficionado who mainly writes about music, here on Montreal Rampage and at his site Diary of a Music Addict. But given the right subject, he also likes to cover comics, video games and hockey. Contact: Website | Facebook | Twitter | More Posts