I will be straight to the point with all of you: I am not the biggest metal fan you will ever meet. It is a genre that I liked a good deal in high school and have always respected, but I have never been too hard-core about it. A lot of my enjoyment of it has to do with how a band uses its vocalist. I mean, grunts or larynx-shredding screams are spine tingling when used sparingly, but when that is all you do, unless you are supremely talented at it, it can come off as if you were too lazy to actually write a melody.
So, what the hell was I doing reviewing a three-and-a-half hour metal marathon, headlined by the almighty Black Tusk, you ask? Well for one, working for Bucketlist Music Reviews opens your mind to all musical genres, and gives you the chance to practice total objectivity. But the real reason is because, like all of you, I love music. It doesn’t really matter that I will never quite make it as a metal-head, or that when I grow my hair out, I end up looking like a grungy Michael Bolton. Good music is good music, and for the most part that’s exactly what I heard on Wednesday night.
I first walked into Foufounes Electriques to the blended sounds of hardcore and thrash, courtesy of Montreal’s own Dealer. Their energy was contagious, and even though their sound was intended to blow out ear drums, there was something laid back about the chemistry between band members. The overall persona of lead singer Corey G. instantly reminded me of comedian Mitch Hedberg; needless to say, they sold me right away. I also really liked the stylistically different vocal stylings of Corey and lead guitarist Ricky CT. Each of them seemed to seamlessly represent the genres that they intended to blend.
In terms of audience number and participation, the biggest band of the night was actually newcomers Dizastra. I don’t know if it’s because they brought a shit ton of people with them, but I like to think it’s the professional air they had about themselves. They were tight as fuck with a serious ability to shred. If frontman Matt Conti hadn’t told me they had only been playing together a year, I wouldn’t have believed it. I will admit I wasn’t always a fan of the vocals, but they used their patented growls wisely, and the twin guitar work was mesmerizing, so who am I to complain?
The audience seemed to dissipate after Dizastra, which really is a shame because they missed what I thought was the best band of the night. That is not a diss towards headliners Black Tusk, but Holy Grail destroyed all my stupid metal hang-ups, and probably gave me a wicked case of whiplash. It did depress me to no end that their crowd was small, because this is a band that deserves to be packing stadiums. Lead singer James-Paul Luna’s operatic approach and emotional performance would do Bruce Dickinson proud, and the twin guitars of Eli Santana and Alex Lee are worthy of Judas Priest. Make no mistake, this is not a regressive band. They have their influences, but their wise decision to insert heavier instrumentation sets them apart from any of those classic acts. As they rushed into the ultra-catchy “No More Heroes,” I was surprised that there weren’t more people singing along. I didn’t even know it, and I was singing my ass off. If you have a chance, check these guys out as soon as humanly possible. Even if you don’t like metal, you will like them.
Next came Black Tusk, and simply introducing them this way would be a disservice to their intensity as a band. They don’t just grab your attention, they grab any sort of reservation you may have, beat them into a bloody pulp, and leave you wanting more, like a masochist in need of a fix. I will admit that a band like Holy Grail is more to my musical tastes, but Black Tusk were so transfixing that for their entire set, it really didn’t seem to matter. They never stopped between songs, so as an experience it was akin to an endless series of free falls. I couldn’t even tell you every song that they played, but I can tell you that they destroyed every single one of them. My personal favourite was “Desolation of Endless Times,” but again there was not a weak number in the lot.
Upon doing my research for this show, I was saddened to learn about the death of their former bassist Jonathan Athon, and that their latest album, Pillars of Ash, was his last work with the band. With that in mind, I felt that there was a sense of purpose to everything they played, and how they played it. Each band member had a turn to scream themselves hoarse, in turn paying the perfect tribute to their fallen comrade. That being said, the MVP of the performance, and really the entire night, was drummer James May. The guy was so fucking loud that he pretty much drowned out every other sound in the venue. He looked like a man so possessed that I was actually terrified that he would rip through the skin of his snare and toms, as he completely nailed fill after fill. I swear, I could have just watched only him play the entire time!
As I slumped out of the bar, happily exhausted, with ringing already in my ears, I couldn’t help but wonder if I will ever become the consummate metal lover, or just a long lost friend? Would we ever be destined to truly find each other? Honestly, I’d like to think so. At the very least, I had one hell of a night, and like every great fling, that is all you can really ask for.
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Randy Smith Captura Camera
*edited by Kate Erickson