Finnish metal has long held sway in the city of Montreal. We eat it up with the vigor of a crack-laced poutine after a fat joint. So, when we’re graced by performances by our pale brethren from across the sea, we tend to mobilize in force. Thankfully the pull of St Patrick’s day binge drinking couldn’t dissuade concert-goers from attending the glorious return of Helsinki natives Amorphis after a lengthy nine-year absence from our gravy- and cheese-laced city. Finns rarely emerge from their caves without good company, so they also brought with them fellow Casper-like complexion enthusiasts Swallow The Sun for good measure. Montreal was also well represented with performances by HolloW and Hands of Despair to round out the event put on by Extensive Enterprise.
I recently got exposed to Hands Of Despair a few months ago at a local show, and I truly believe they are going to make waves in the local and international scene sooner than later. The band have a beautiful blend of progressive and black metal that few have ventured into in Montreal, and could carve a very nice niche for themselves. Their flawless mixing of those elements make a wonderful listening experience that keep the audience’s attention flowing through a wide array of dynamics. HOD are not lacking in raw talent, having recruited some notable players in the Montreal scene, namely ex Augury and Talamyus drummer Etienne Galo, and Hollow singer Jeff Mott. All members exude incredible talent in their craft, which culminates in their excellent writing and performance. If you’re into old Opeth and Anathema, this is a band you need to check out.
I’m not a stranger to HolloW, Montreal’s foremost symphonic black metal outfit. They have been a particular local favourite of mine for quite some time. I’ve seen them on many occasions, and it’s unfortunate to say that this was one of their more underwhelming performances, but only for external circumstances and not of their own accord. The band were forced to play as a three piece due to the absence of their bassist “Snow.” Their sound felt thin due to this, however the symphonic backing tracks did help fill the sound out enough that the lack of low end was not overwhelming. Even with guitar technical difficulties from the onset, the band ripped through old and new material in the vein of old Dimmu Borgir or Dissection and did the best they could given the situation, delighting the crowd and proving a great addition to the evening. All respect must be given to (Jeff) Mott for pulling double duties flawlessly that night with both HOD and HolloW.
Swallow The Sun has unfortunately been under my radar for far too long, beyond knowing the name. I’m embarrassed to say they were always that band I didn’t mind missing because I didn’t know them (which is a terrible attitude), so I was please to rectify this grave injustice. They were more than a pleasure to experience. Falling more into the doom and atmospheric spectrum, STS exude a powerful aura through their music which is both crushing and beautiful. There were aspects that reminded me of the slower elements of Insomnium, which I greatly appreciated, but always keeping to a mid-slow tempo. After this performance I will make every effort to catch them live again as penance for my past transgressions.
Few bands can boast the longevity that Amorphis has, with almost thirty years and twelve albums under their belt. Their longevity is apparent in the variety of fans from all spectrums of the metal scene present at their show. The floor was full and eager when the band took the stage and kicked things off “Under The Red Cloud” and “Sacrifice” from their newest record Under The Red Cloud. An undeniable quality of Amorphis is their preternatural skill for crafting melody both in their riffs and vocals, making so many of their songs unnaturally easy to remember on CD and in the live setting.
Everyone in attendance seemed just as familiar with their older material from seminal records like Tales From The Thousand Lakes and Elegy as any of their newer outings. The vibe was of constant anticipation, excitement, and participation throughout the set, to the point where is seems incredible that the band had not been here for almost a decade. They closed out the show fluidly juxtaposing old and new with “Death Of A King” and “Black Winter Day,” displaying both their consistency and growth over the years, and leaving everyone simultaneously satisfied and eager for more.
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited Kate Erickson