February has been a good month for power metal nerds here in Montreal. Just two weeks prior Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, and Delain graced us with bombast and backing tracks (you can read my review here), and now the legendary Helloween decided to make their glorious return to the city! Fresh off their Monster of Rock cruise appearance, the band lined up only seven select dates across the U.S and Canada (Montreal and Quebec city being the only Canadian dates) before going home. Joining the German metal masters here were locals Potion 13 and Them.
The honors of starting the night off were given to Potion 13, which can be a rather doleful task at times, but the Montreal quartet made the most of it. The room was hardly full at this point, yet singer Danielle made every effort to warm the crowd up by engaging the audience with sing-along sections, the best example being their second track “Fuck The World” which got people chanting rather effectively. It’s been years since the last time I saw Potion 13 live, and unfortunately I didn’t remember much of them, but I will say their brand of metallic rock is proficient and has it’s fair share of memorable moments. Unfortunately their set was only about twenty minutes long, but it was twenty minutes well received, and a good start to the show.
Prior to their set I asked a few people what they knew about THEM, and as it turned out, most were as well informed as I was- as in, not at all. I sort of just assumed they were a U.S band that bought into the tour, but the reality, as I found out later, wasn’t exactly that. According to a press release, THEM are actually a super group of sorts featuring Mike Lepond (Symphony X) and Kevin Talley (who’s been in almost every notable Montreal death metal band ever) among others. Personally, I didn’t notice Mike or Kevin on stage that night, but what I did see left it’s mark on me.
Reviewing THEM is a little tricky for me because there are two very separate elements I’m considering here: the musical side, and the theatrical side. THEM are a tight, concise, power metal band whose musicians played extremely well and gave an entertaining show. However, I felt the theatrics actually distracted me from the music and musicians, and I found myself spending most of the time trying to figure out what the heck was going on or cringing at the awkwardness of the acting. The set itself flowed very similarly to a GWAR show, with actors bringing props on and off the stage while playing out some horror narrative of a cursed child who get “exorcised” by the end. I’ll give credit where credit is due; taking on a project like this is no easy task. However, I felt the whole thing was executed with such a lack of finesse at times that it was embarrassing to watch. My opinion is subjective of course, and it seemed a good portion of the audience did in fact appreciate them. I just felt it hard to enjoy considering I’ve seen bands attempt the same thing with far greater success.
No self-respecting power metal fan isn’t at least vaguely aware of Helloween. These Germans have been synonymous with the genre pretty much since their inception in 1984, and tonight’s show proved without a shadow of a doubt that they haven’t lost step in the slightest. Their set list for the night spanned seven albums, and not one song felt like filler. It was high octane from start to finish.
The band came out swinging hard right from the beginning, blazing through classics “Eagles Fly Free” and “Dr Stein” from their seminal Keepers of the Seven Keys Part 2 album, brilliantly setting the pace for the night and fully captivating an audience who were more than familiar with the material. Next up was the title track to their newest album “My God Given Right,” which, to my surprise, had the entire audience singing right along with them with the same vigor as their older material. Their whole show felt like one long sing along, every chorus had at least two thirds of the audience belting out each syllable alongside singer Andi Deris, who was more than delighted to share his vocal duties. Andi made mention earlier in the set that he was experiencing some vocal strain, but you’d never have guessed by his stellar performance. Later they showed off their softer side by playing one of the only slow songs of the set, “Forever and One.” It was a classic, light, uplifting track to calm everyone down just before launching into a five-song medley that consisted of “Halloween,” “Sole Survivor,” “I Can,” “Are You Metal,” and finally “Keeper of the Seven Keys.” Ending the night in a spectacular fashion, they concluded their show with “I Want Out,” arguably one of their most popular songs and a track I’ve been waiting fifteen years to see performed live.
Side note : Is it just me or does guitarist Sasha Gerstner look like a metal John Mayer?
A huge thanks to Extensive Enterprises for the show and inviting us out. I hope Helloween doesn’t wait too long before returning, but in the meantime I have a lot of albums to go back and rediscover.
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Isa Hoyos Ishca Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson