We all know how the saying goes: April showers bring a plethora of sludge and doom bands to the cold and windy and still-fucking-snowing-in-April streets of Montreal. The second annual Apriliis festival put on by Broken Chord shows signs of being one of the few of its kind in the city as it shines a light on sludge, doom, post-rock, dark-ambient, and other genres in that spectrum. Tucked away up on St. Laurent in the Bermuda Triangle of venues (Casa del Popolo, La Vitrola and La Sala Rossa), people showed up early and stayed out late to catch acts such as Indian Handcrafts, the Great Sabatini, Sunrot, AIAUASCA, and Aulnes. There was even a guy with a doom-Theremin.
Day one was held at Casa Del Popolo and featured the heaviest bands of the weekend. It was surprising to see the room full at 7:30 pm on a Thursday, but everyone showed up on time to catch the one-man show that was Sol Miracula. Armed with a laptop, some pedals and a Theremin, the dark-ambient guru waved his hand to summon sounds similar to the cries of the great Tibetan whales. It was a very slow and drawn out performance that lulled you into a gut-busting Zhen. Aulnes from Sherbrook came on next and stood before four full stacks of amps. The wall of sound was deafening in that tiny room as Aulnes took the show and drove it up to the walls. The lights blew out for most of their set, which honestly made it pretty scary. Not the place for a bad trip. Marécages from Quebec City followed up with more ferocious riffs as they hailed the Sabbath. Big fuzz coming through a Rickenbacker and Ampeg cabs, guitar ripping through Orange stacks. Doom only.
Although being smashed with high-intensity sludge, the crowd seemed pretty dialled back throughout the night. Maybe they were too stoned by the music, and/or possibly drugs. Totally unintentionally bridge, but AIAUASCA landed the final blows of the night as they fought the capacity of the fuse box. Running one guitar through FOUR STACKS OF HEAVY AMPLIFICATION, the guitar/drum duo blew the fuse to their sound not once, not twice, not four times, not five times, but three times throughout the show. This forced a stop every time to go fix the blown fuse. Finally settling on two amps, they powered through a wicked set of extremely paced out melodies and horror mongering riffs. Cut, that’s a wrap on Day 1.
Daze 2 and 3 were held down the street at la Vitrola, a bigger venue, and like the ability of a snake, the crowd grew to optimize the capacity of the space. The shows at la Vitrola were not as aggressive at the first lineup. Instead, the festival branched out in the direction of post-rock, ambient, cinematic; while still keeping a firm grip of the guttural sounds of sludge and post-hardcore. There was even an afternoon show at Soundcentral to feed the day trippers.
The Vitrola shows really brought out some big acts. The first to really stand out was Féroces from France. They brought a dialled-in sound and clinical performance. Their sounds were intense and sounded like heavy scores written for movies. Féroces is an independent band that is working hard to play all over the world. Big props to them. Another killer band from a ways away was Sunrot. From the city that brought you Jersey Shore, Sunrot brought the exact opposite to the stage. They took some jumper cables and shoved them where the sun don’t shine to get the crowd as riled as they would get. They were one of the only bands with a lead vocalist and used that to their full advantage. Vocalist, only traceable as Lex, got off the stage, into the crowd, upon the amps, into the ceiling. As they say in New Jersey, it was a mad crazy time.
The Great Sabatini did well to represent Montreal, drawing a big crowd and bringing a party vibe to the otherwise very dark atmosphere. They were followed up by Indian Handcrafts from Toronto who closed the night, and the festival. Last time Indian Handcrafts were in town they opened for the Melvins. They were my favourite band of the festival as they brought some retro doom rock to a crowd that was barely hanging on. Be sure to catch them next time they roll through town.
Broken Chord did a great job with assembling this lineup and supporting independent bands from all over the world. It’s a great scene that they’ve helped build here in Montreal for a seriously underground genre. Their next Montreal show will host stoner doom lords Pale Mare from Toronto Friday, May 10th, with local support from desert rock trio MOOCH and post-metal band Discrvst. Check the link.
Written by Ben Cornel
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy