Last night was an interesting one where I got to check out some bands I had never seen before. It was a metal show, but even amongst the bands the branches of metal where diverse. The show took place at L’Astral, which is part of the Place des Festivals venues. It’s become a popular venue since its opening in 2009, is well designed with sound and stage in mind, and can fit up to 600 people when it’s full.
The show had an early start and kicked-off at 19h00 sharp! I got there just seconds after Sicosis dove into their first track. This was their first tour for the group haling from Sin City itself, Las Vegas, Nevada. They are a four-piece with two guitars, bass, and drums. Their classic metal sound and feel had a stage presence to match. The crowd was somewhat sparse at this point, but it did not discourage them at all and they played like pros. A few track titles I was able to catch were “Isolated Salvation” and “Requiem of the World,” which is the title track from their new album and possibly my favourite of the set. Front man Ernie did his best to get the crowd up n’ atom, and was successful with those on the floor and close to the stage.
Next up and also from the United States was Mindmaze coming out of Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was the first time playing a Canadian tour date for this five-piece featuring guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and vocals. One of the first things I noticed when they started was the unusual way the keyboardist played. The board was at about a sixty degree forward angle from him, making it almost as if he was playing a keytar, and he did it very well. They have a progressive metal sound to them and lead vocalist Sarah Teets can really carry a note, although at times it seems like she’s holding something back. They played the lead single “Abandon” from their new album Resolve, and by this point the crowd was starting to thicken up and become more responsive. They played “Mask of Lies” from their first album, and it might have been my favourite of the set. The last track they played was “This Holy War,” and I felt it was a fairly epic track to go out with.
At the half mark it could be said that we were entering the Euro part of the evening. From Stavanger Norway came Sirenia, making a one member at a time entrance. The band was formed in 2001 by Morten Veland, who performs guitar and vocals, and since then he has put out eight studio albums. They were a four-piece on stage, featuring the aforementioned founder as well as Emmanuelle Zoldan (a French mezzo-soprano singer), Jonathan A. Perez on drums, and Jan Erik Soltvedt on guitars. With them in spirit and on pre-recorded tracks were their studio choir. Just like the previous bands, it was their first time on a Canadian tour; Mr. Veland mentioned they had been waiting years for it to happen. It seems like their fans had been waiting too, and they were not disappointed. They played tracks from a range of their albums including “Dim Days of Dolor,” “My Destiny Coming to Pass” (which was maybe my favourite due to the nice amalgamation of vocals and instruments and the overlaying choir), “Treasure N’ Treason,” “Meridian” from the first album “The End of It All,” and “My Minds Eye.” They did play an encore, but I wasn’t able to catch the name of the track. They were very impressive live and I’ll certainly be checking out their albums.
Headlining and coming from the furthest away was Arkona from Moscow Russia. This is their fifteenth anniversary tour, and Montreal was their fourth stop. The band was formed in 2002 by Maria “Masha Scream” Arkhipova, and has come out with seven studio albums since then. Other members are Sergei “Lazar” on guitar, Ruslan “Kniaz” on bass, Andrey Ischenko on drums, and Vladimir “Volk” on flute and bagpipes; their sound is that of Slavic pagan and folk metal. According to their Wikipedia page, “Their lyrics are heavily influenced by Russian folklore and Slavic mythology, and their music incorporates several traditional Russian musical instruments. The name of the band “Arkona” refers to the last pagan Slavic city-castle.” They were impressive right off the bat, and at this point the crowd was all in. I unfortunately had trouble catching track names, but I can tell you that all of the musicians were phenomenal. Gritty and clean vocals, hard blast beats, intricate guitar playing, and incredible wind instruments all combined to give them a unique sound, even within the folk-metal genre. I understood at that point why so many fans were hyped for the show, and I found myself thinking how awesome it would be to see them play outside with my feet in the dirt, holding a drinking horn.
Written by Joey Beaudin
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson