‘Twas two nights before Christmas and all through L’Astral heavy metal was roaring as it was pretty frigging loud. Horns were held high and crowd surfers dared, as Jason Rockman’s Santa Claus costume made everyone cheer. Also, it was snowing pretty heavily, which made the huge turnout for All That Remains’ last stop in Canada this year all the more impressive. Dubbed the Ho Ho Heavy show, there was no shortage of holiday cheer inside the venue. Grown men were dressed as Christmas trees. There was even a donation bin for non-perishable food items.
Someone needs to tell me where Throw the Fight’s frontman James Clark comes from. By all accounts, the band hails from Minneapolis, yet the man’s accent is distinctly British. To confound matters more, he joked like one of us. Upon hearing that Montreal is always an awesome crowd, one attendee bravely shouted, “We don’t fuck around in Montreal!” Clark promptly retorted, “That’s what your mom said!” Aside from that, their set was cool. It started pretty much right on time and it hit all the notes that a metalcore set should hit in 2017. There were two singers, one being the aforementioned Clark and the other was bassist Kyle Glidden. Both proved capable of hitting that high register that the kids love as well as screaming. At one point, when it seemed like Clark may have been running out of breath, Glidden held him up admirably. The pit was also very violent for an opening act. So, you know, there’s that.
Between the sets, Montreal’s treasured bald radio god Jason Rockman addressed the crowd dressed in a full Santa suit, minus the beard. He joked around for a while in both English and in French (though he kept French as the dominant language and told us that if we didn’t understand it then we should have moved to Toronto long ago). He also gave away t-shirts and socks from his bag as well as concert tickets for a raffle that was being held.
The Agonist was in top shape. Frontwoman Vicky Psarakis climbed atop her monitor and immediately took control of the crowd. She relinquished it only briefly between songs to allow eerie samples to permeate the darkness. Though there were moments where her high register sounded like it may have been faltering, she more than made up for it with her powerful screams. She also fully took control of older melodies written by her predecessor, such as in “You’re Coming With Me,” and made them firmly her own. Around her, the rest of the band looked like they were having the time of their lives as they ripped through old tracks as well as newer ones like “The Hunt.” Danny Marino and Paco Jobin made every effort to stand face to face for twin guitar leads, and together with bassist Chris Kells they jumped, kicked, and bounced around so much that they must have been melting inside the heated room.
You’d be forgiven if you were to label All That Remains’ music as bro metal. There are more than enough riffs to rage to, but also enough soft emotion that your girlfriend can dig it as well. On this particular December evening, frontman and metalcore veteran Phil Labonte took the stage in his trademark baseball cap and a more than sleeveless shirt. He ditched the shirt after two songs. Labonte began the set sounding a little tired, but as the songs progressed and his voice warmed up, he ended sounding as vicious as he does on record.
For a headliner with as expansive a back catalogue as All That Remains, they played a surprisingly short set. Mike Martin, the band’s second drummer who is no less awesome than his predecessor, almost stole the show. He wasn’t as tight as on their recordings, but can this man nail a double bass fill. The set included a little something for everybody, as this band are wont to do. They’re open fans of everything non-metal, so their cover of Garth Brooks’ “Thunder Rolls” was not a surprise. They pulled it off well, with the outro featuring a particularly magical lead section over thundering toms. The song “What If I Was Nothing” was a gift from Labonte to the other bros: “You can whisper this song into your girlfriend’s ear if you want to get laid tonight” he gleefully suggested. They couldn’t top the sheer mesmerizing energy of The Agonist before them, but ending with the classics “This Calling” and “Two Weeks” left fans chanting for an encore they sadly wouldn’t receive.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy