Sometimes the unimaginable happens. Extra-terrestrial life is discovered. Proof of God is found in the smallest particle. Wiley Coyote catches the Roadrunner. Fouf’s opens up on time. Last Friday night (not the Katy Perry song, but probably the nicest evening of the year so far) the door was already open when I showed up just past 7:00pm to see Canada’s favourite early 80s thrash metal band, Anvil.
There weren’t a whole lot of people there to enjoy this once in a lifetime occurrence. The room was relatively empty when Powered by Death took the stage. They had a rough start, but they pulled it together admirably. It’s never easy to play with a drum set on the side of the stage parallel to the rest of the band, as was the case for all three local opening acts, with Anvil’s set sitting untouched upon the riser. There was something in the way they were mixed that wasn’t doing them any favours either. During the beginning of the set, the guitar kept cutting out. This was of course fixed, but the sound was still tinny through the remainder of the show. They played some solid thrash with a few creative breakdowns, but it was also hard to make out a lot of what the singer was saying, with one notable lyrical exception being, “sit down and shut the fuck up!”
Mad Parish’s power metal set was a little better, but still awkward. With a whopping three guitarists (“What would Iron Maiden do?”), they barely fit on Foufounes’ modest stage. The extra six-string padding also all but drowned out lead singer Josh McConnell, who was quite soft spoken to begin with. They certainly looked the part, dressed in jeans and leather and pulling power stances like nobody’s business, and the guitar and vocal harmonies were definitely very nice, but ultimately this band seems to be lacking an identity of its own, choosing to view the 80s as more of a rule book than a set of guidelines.
Then WarCall took that stage and made it their bitch. This three-piece hardcore metal outfit ripped through an invigorating set of songs during this set, which celebrated guitarist Mat’s birthday. By this point the crowd was a decent if not overwhelming size, and the mood switched from mildly engaged to fully entranced. Frontman and bassist Gord (like Seal…I guess) roared like Rob Flynn, and drummer Phil (which is short for either Philip or Philadelphia) provided simple but mobile rhythms from behind a camo-laden drum set. Not only does this year mark ten years of the band being together, but they also plan on releasing a record this autumn, and they blessed us with the heavy as hell new track “Mission Commando.” Definitely a release to look forward to.
Anvil were just so loveable, like big, goofy, hippie-metal teddy bears. Neither frontman and guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow nor bassist Chris Robertson (who definitely prefers his now four-year run with the band to his previous occupation as a truck driver) stopped smiling at any point during the evening. Lips started the set off with some tasty riffage from the floor, surrounded by the cheering and camera-ready crowd. Then they got down to business with “666.” The majority of the crowd were older men, but this didn’t seem to bother anyone. At one point Lips remarked, “Metal knows no age! Growing old? No choice. Growing up? Never!” Wise words indeed from one of thrash metal’s original axemen.
The boys seemed genuinely surprised at how excited the Montreal crowd was to have them there, stating, “You’ve made more noise in three minutes than we heard in the United States in three weeks!” A couple of groovy bass solos helped showcase Robertson as a worthy addition to the band, and his on-stage demeanor was just too quirky for words. He spent most of his time rocking back and forth like some cartoon bobble head, occasionally holding out his bass in gun position with a comically mean face. Original drummer and founding member Robb Reiner (not to be confused with the Robb Reiner they made fun of on South Park) was nothing short of a machine. This man is where the ferocity and viciousness of thrash metal drumming comes from. His speed and precision are second to none, and from the stage it was nothing short of thunderous. The band made a touching tribute to Lemmy with the track “Free as the Wind,” and they balanced out their crowd-pleasing set with quite a few classics like “Metal on Metal” and “Ooh Baby,” as well as more recent tunes like “Badass Rock and Roll” and “Die for a Lie” from their most recent record, Anvil is Anvil. The place may not have been packed, but the energy in the room was definitely electric, and the performance was well worth the price of admission.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson