The Chronicles of Justin: Adventures on the Montreal Metal Scene

Despite the overwhelming stereotypes and stigmas associated with the genre, the Montreal Metal Army is surprisingly well behaved.

When you hear the term “metal” as a genre of music, an image or two immediately spring to mind: perhaps its the skinny, nerdy looking male in a baggy band t-shirt. Or maybe it’s a fringy, off-kilter fellow wearing too much black clothing covered in too many studs. While these most certainly do exist, the face remains that there is no shortage of soccer moms, yuppies, bros, and even children under legal German drinking ages at any given metal concert in Montreal.

But yes, some stereotypes are absolutely true.
But yes, some stereotypes are absolutely true.

My first foray into Montreal metal culture was a Scandinavian bordello at Club Soda featuring Dutch band Delain (I wondered why they sounded exactly like Within Temptation until a Wikipedia search later informed me that the band was 1/5 Within Temptation), opening for Finish power-metal band Sonata Arctica. Less power and more metal, I was somewhat less than impressed with Sonata Arctica’s performance and insisted that we leave after an hour. I was tired and had 60 pounds of university textbooks to take home that night. Note to future metal-concert-goers: don’t do what I did. Do as I say and not as I do…

The next concert attended by The Boyfriend and I was slightly more in line with my personal tastes; openers Amaranthe, a dutch “death/power metal” band, and headliners Within Temptation, AKA the-less-well-known-Evanescence.

Or the band that did this song:

(If you haven’t heard this song you live under a bigger rock than I do and that’s hella impressive because I am a fairly ignorant person.)


Within Temptation sucked in concert. Sorry rabid fans out there; it’s true. They were terrible. In fact, they weren’t just terrible: they were really terrible. I couldn’t hear anything. Also I’m pretty sure the singer, Sharon del Adel, was really sick. Or tired. Or both. Either way, they were not great. Amaranthe, on the other hand, was awesome. Solid performance, amazing vocals, pretty cool songs, happy campers all around.

Though I don't recall her looking like a spider.
Though I don’t recall Elize Ryd looking like a spider.

A greater cynic than I would remark on the similarities between Amaranthe and Within Temptation. And Evanescence, Delaine, Nightwish, and a slew of other metal bands (symphonic, gothic, or what have you) who are into the whole “beauty and the beast” shtick. The truth is yes, they kind of sound the same but that’s what happens when you combine raging guitar riffs with classically-trained sopranos. And let’s be honest, there are only so many ways to wear leather straps, tulle, and platform boots.

But in all fairness to the musicians of the metal persuasion, there is a vast and varied genre-ification of all things metal and some bands just…stand out.

One person in particular in fact. Devin Townsend, the Metal Alien himself.

I said Alien and I meant it.
“Greetings humans, I am Ziltoid…the omniscient. I have come from far across the omniverse. You shall fetch me your universes ultimate cup of coffee… Black! You have five Earth minutes, Make it perfect!”

From the dark reaches of the omniverse, Ziltoid has come for your subjugation.

And your coffee.

It was a fantastic show.

The truth is, I am not a huge fan of metal. Contrary-wise, The Boyfriend is what one might call a “Metal Head”; a curly-haired, fist-pumping, head-banging metal head. And if he is able to get free tickets to a show, you can damn well be sure that we’ll be there. And, luckily for him, his favorite band, Kamelot, just happened to be playing in Montreal recently.

So obviously we went. Aaand it was amazing and I took photos and can’t find any of them but DragonForce opened for them and it was power metal which I actually kind of love and it was so great and energizing and they did a cover of Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash which was kind of ridiculous but ultimately awesome and listening to power metal is actually like writing a run-on sentence and oh god it was so great. Kamelot is probably the male equivalent of Nightwish but holy crap what an amazing concert. Melodic songs with just the right amount of aggressive undertones. And, naturally, the Montreal Metal Army responded in kind:

That fist pumping though.

Once I had had my fill of shows in well known establishments, it seemed that the next step in my Metal-ducation was to take a trip down into the Underground Metal Scene.

Now I know what you’re all picturing. Stop right there. No, stop, stoo-

Goddamnit Hair Metal. No one invited you.
Goddamnit Hair Metal. No one invited you.

Here’s what it actually looked like:

Slightly more accurate depiction of the concert-goers at Montreal's Alize Bar
Slightly more accurate depiction of the concert-goers at Montreal’s Alize Bar.

So yes, there was quite the spectacular display of hair, mustaches, facial/other bodily piercings, tattoos, and articles of clothing that were more holes than fabric. But more than that, there were soccer moms and girls wearing Urban Outfitters and Lululemon headbanging along with the most hardcore of Metal fans to a wall of sheer noise.

And I’m sorry, Chronicles of Israfel, that’s what you sounded like. I’m don’t know what the sound guy was thinking when he decided that cramming five fully grown men (and one very small singer) onto this tiny tiny stage with two drum kits and a keyboard was a good idea. Did you intend for the audience to be able to hear you?

Evidently not.

Despite the shitty sound engineering, this show in a sketchy bar in a sketchy area of Montreal just wasn’t quite as sketchy as the uninitiated believe. I mean sure, between The Boyfriend and I we just didn’t have enough hair or tattoos, but we, two straight-edge nerds, blended right in. Except for that one guy who recognized me from a blind date a couple years back.

There’s something incredibly universal about the metal genre. True, I do remain unconvinced of its virtues as extolled by The Boyfriend and other metal heads. Call me old fashioned, but walls of sound does not a pleasant concert experience make. But while you might be bombarded by a cacophony of cymbal crashes and bad synth, many of these musicians are amazingly talented and simply fall prey to bad sound engineering or poorly-timed concerts. Then again, if I had to perform at L’Alize Bar, I’d probably have a hard time hearing anything too. So maybe it wasn’t Chronicles of Israfel’s fault.

But you’d think that a band like Within Temptation performing at Metropolis would be able to get their shit together.

Apparently not.





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