So there you have it: Even Satan retires.Even Mephistopheles wants Freedom 55. Hey, hit the links, reruns of Family Feud. BarcaLounger, riding mower in a tatty robe, hanging at the mall lecturing the young ’uns. After 38 years as the ne plus nega of death metal, as the darkest and devilest of major metal bands, Slayer is calling it a day and heading into that bad night.The band is bowing out on a worldwide farewell tour that will roll until Nov. 30 (and probably beyond), and headline Sunday, July 28 at the 10th edition of Heavy Montréal, their last Quebec performance. There will be cheers and tears south of heaven, memories of a legacy of carmine performances, and questions why (of which more later). But perhaps it’s just time. For when you gaze too long into the Slayer, the Slayer gazes into thee.And what better place than Heavy Montréal, the Summer Pandaemonium by the River. Or as it’s also known by the South Shore locals who loathe it, the F*** St-Lambert Festival. Two days, four-stage shopping for all your metal needs. From Anthrax to Watain, they’ll muzzleload the amps, fans will man the stage barricades and Jägermeister pitstops, and they’ll all pull the shades on the sweet sunshine of Île Ste-Hélène and invoke Samhain in midsummer.Because while it’s all about the Slayer, it’s not all about the Slayer. Above all, Heavy Montréal is a lesson in the breadth of metal.
Gary Holt and Tom Araya of Slayer perform during the second day of the 2014 Heavy Montréal festival. Slayer is back this year.
Tim Snow /
Co-headliners Ghost will pop the bulbs on their necro-Broadway pop-metal. Playing their only summer fest show in North America, Saturday night’s headliners are divisive — is it a cunning black metal/pop crossover that delivers onstage, or just pope-shtick with production values? — but undeniably marquee.The fest is a two-day tour of what’s happening from the major leagues out into the styx. You get two of the Big 4 (Slayer, Anthrax). There are the Lifers, such as 37-year vets Corrosion of Conformity. Where else can you find Memphis Christian metal band Skillet — who it’s presumed will have their stage crosses rightside up — on a bill with bad Swedes Watain — who won’t.
Ghost in 2013.
Buda Mendes /
Amy Lee’s Evanescence will reweave their gauze-goth hard rock for the lovelorn. Fire up your inhalation devices for Cali stonehengers Fu Manchu, and buckle up for Cattle Decapitation, the extreme end of death, who deliver the unexpected, using offence to prod response: they’re actually an animal welfare protest band. Proficiency experts will head for tech-death Rivers of Nihil and Toronto’s unquantifiable Devin Townshend.Out in the woods, gambol with indefensible personal fave Nekrogoblikon, who have mascot John Goblikon onstage and truly do celebrate goblinhood. In a more mainstream register, there’s whatever’s left of the parted-out Quiet Riot, version umpteen (judgment reserved), and the ever-popular (and somehow always disappointing) Godsmack, doing their post-Layne Staley medley.Comic reliefTellingly, there’s more room for comic relief here than at any other music festival. In the gag-glam vulgarity of Steel Panther, whose guitarist Russ Parrish once introduced “one of the best drummers in … our band” and whose singer Michael Starr proudly declares “I am not a chubby Bret Michaels … I am a skinny Vince Neil.” In the same yuks register, Metalachi hail from Mexico / East L.A., sing in Spanish and play a crossbreed that should by now be self-explanatory. Less Les Paul, more guitarrón. Galactic Empire? Star Wars geeks, get front and centre.
Maurizio Iacono of Kataklysm.
Dario Ayala /
Locally, celebrate Montreal stalwarts Kataklysm, noise/sludge band Great Sabatini, and truly promising Sergio Leone-stoners Mountain Dust. You’ll get the odd miscast punk or hardcore band like Terror, but they’ll still be welcomed and patronized, as this fest is known for its catholic (ahem) taste range.There is also actual rock star Slash (who’d have blown the roof off the 2017 GNR show at Jean-Drapeau had there been one) with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. Can’t go wrong.In its 10th edition, Heavy Montréal is as established as any other genre cluster in the city’s cultural constellation. Like metal itself, it continually finds a way to shake off the leprosy and persist. For that, Heavy can look back to the 2014 edition breakthrough, when headliner Metallica blasted it into the global metalfest datebook, spearheading an event with blockbuster attendance of 75,000 over two days — something Nick Farkas, Evenko vice-president of concerts and events, described then as Heavy Montréal’s “Eminem moment,” or the flashpoint when something local/regional becomes international/destinational. Now, amid the tens of thousands at Parc Jean-Drapeau on the sultriest weekend of the year, you’ll hear francos and anglos, but also Yankees and Southerners, Calis and Texans, and Euros from everywhere they do or don’t stage a massive metal gathering.
Petra Schönberger/Future Image/
And there is the mood, and the mode.Both are embodied in the crowd. Tribalists from every genre, sub- and micro-genre. Blackened death kids in corpse paint and glamsters with enough Aqua Net to atomize the remaining ozone. Stoners, bikers, movingly awkward zitfacers. Dads with earmuffed toddler daughters on their shoulders, pregnant people in black F-U T-shirts in 30-degree sunshine. Bottle-blonds in black leather hot pants and five-inch heels crunching on gravel holding hands with beer-bellied dudes in leather vests heading for The Faceless. And the Forest. Osheaga also has its Forest area, but at Heavy Montréal, that zone exhales an illicit thrill. Come on in, it’s bad in here. This is where the truly unpaid demonstrate their complete allegiance to their dark master. And I mean the ones onstage.A codified celebrationFrom circle pits to walls of death, there is a codified celebration of a kind of violence here, or at least brute physicality. And yet in all the years covering every stage from noon to tomb time, I’ve not seen a single real fist fight. And it’s not like these people don’t drink.Slayer was a different issue. Stepping back into their (our) history, the second time I saw them, in the Verdun Auditorium, a kid lurched out of the mosh pit, heading for me and my journalist notepad (rookie mistake). He wanted to register a comment, but all I could register was a front tooth, or half of it, broken off at a perfect 45-degree angle. Oh, and all the blood on his mouth and face.I was concerned. After he crowed about how great he felt, he dove back into the melee. That was all you needed to know about Slayer, and when I interviewed guitarist Kerry King years later, he concurred, calling it “a brotherhood of insanity down there.”Which leads one to wonder: why would Slayer hang up the goat horns? When you’re still the thrash/diablo superweights, the band once aptly nicknamed “the Rolling Stones of death metal,” why? Singer-bassist Tom Araya is only 58. Fifty-eight. That’s the new 29 in rock band years.Well, in the 50th year since the unbirthing of metal by Black Sabbath, maybe it’s just fatigue. They have taken their beating over the years, physically, with Araya’s headbanging, and otherwise. In one of the great horror-coincidences of all time, Slayer had the misfortune of releasing their ninth album, God Hates Us All, in September 2001. As in, on Sept. 11, 2001. Timing really is everything.Perhaps the subject matter just took its toll — all the serial killers, genocide, war, hell, torture, Nazism and the Big Guy. Most likely, King realized that, 33 years after you recorded Reign in Blood, routinely cited as a genre masterpiece, and six years after his co-founding guitar partner Jeff Hanneman died of cirrhosis, Slayer has served its sentence. There’s nothing to prove and no incisors left to snap off.So. Slayer bows. Whither the metal? With no real mainstream presence on radio, in movies, TV or magazines, and only in perfervid cult/niche websites, how is this supposed to survive?A bright star“No presence” is really the point, and this weekend is the object lesson. For 48 hours and all the months of anticipation that led up to them, none of it matters. With that absence from the mainstream, the live gathering is the Proof of Life. Every gathering in the global constellation of gatherings, in which Heavy Montréal is now a bright star.It would be foolish to argue that metal is un- or apolitical. There are plenty of examples of politicized songs or albums — I mean, even cross faded Ozzy’s Sabbath sophomore album leads with War Pigs. But that’s not the same as the pull in other genres toward defined positions or even candidates. No, metal is anti-establishmentarian, nonspecifically rebellious and conveniently slotting into either end of the political spectrum, explaining why it has the broadest of them — from Gojira and Napalm Death on the putative left to you-don’t-wanna-know on the putative right.Is metal eternal? There are two tests. How old is it? At least as old as the fellow who coined the term “Heavy Metal.” Ozzy? Dio? Nah. It was another junkie, appropriately, who wrote “With their diseases and orgasm drugs and their sexless parasite life forms — Heavy Metal People of Uranus wrapped in cool blue mist of vaporized bank notes — And the Insect People of Minraud with metal music.” I mean, did William S. Burroughs nail it, or what?And how young is it? Will Mosh Pit Girl be there? The festival can only hope. If so, MPG, feel free to report your status, and your reviews to the email below.***Five to seeGiven it’s assumed you’ve paid to see the heavyweight headliners Slayer and Ghost, here are five on the undercard where you can wear your best none-more-black.Watain, Saturday, 8:40 p.m., Forest StageSo how down, demonic and dirty do you wanna get? Banned from Singapore for their theistic Satanism, infamous after 2014 Brooklyn Bazaar that had fans barfing after being showered with pig’s blood, these Swedes take their ritualistic gore and Grand Guignol seriously — or as seriously as you can take commercially touring a satanic metal message rather than actually sitting in your pentagramular basement sacrificing the caprine. Led by Erik Danielsson, Watain is perhaps the darkest band on the bill, and in that Forest notch after the gloaming, their candelabrae, altars, pyro, upended crosses, animal bone displays and lurid red lighting will have maximum metallian effect.Skálmöld, Sunday, 2:40 p.m., Forest StageThere are always enough Scandinavian miscreants and meanies here to serve up a slaytanic smorgasbord. Let’s go with this Icelandic Norse-volk-metal band, who were actually hailed by their “most-metal” President Guðni Jóhannesson for “helping to maintain our literary and cultural heritage.” Take that, Metallica! There’s an epic transport to their Viking sound, which can be orchestral, melodic, rifftastic and almost goofy, but Björgvin Sigurðsson’s song Mara is genuinely special.
Amy Lee of Evanescence.
Jean Levac, CanWest News Service /
The Ottawa Citizen
Evanescence, Saturday, 8:25 p.m., Apocalypse StageGoth lite, gauzy orchestral, piano balladry, prog, hard and even a little electro, but Evanescence was really where they all intersected with Billboard’s pop chart, driven by Amy Lee’s soaring powerhouse vocals. And disguising your Christian values in those goth robes is a clever alchemic trick.Mountain Dust, Sunday, 1 p.m., Apocalypse StageDespised Icon is worth it for drummer Alex Pelletier drumming alone, and Steel Panther is surprisingly reliable for laffs, but Montreal’s Mountain Dust band sounds like a Next Big Thing just two albums out of the gates. It may fall in the Stoner camp (and they do love to camp), but from bluesy to psyche to Sergio Leone, they have a ridiculously weighty, mature sound and ambience filling out the heaviness. Groove like boulders down Mount Royal, the right kind of overreach, and massively passionate vocals that have absorbed a handful of singers just to roar it back in their faces. Going places.Nekrogoblikon, Saturday, 3:15 p.m., Garden StageA green goblin? In the sunshine? See you there!AT A GLANCEHeavy Montréal takes place Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28 at Parc Jean-Drapeau. For complete information, see heavymontreal.com.Markjlepage@yahoo.comCorrection: An earlier version of this article gave the incorrect date for Slayer’s headline appearance; they perform at Heavy Montréal on Sunday. Steel Panther guitarist Russ Parrish was misidentified. And Metal Church is no longer on the festival’s lineup. The Montreal Gazette regrets the errors.