A truth: metalheads like to look badass. Whether it’s an epic, multi-patch battle vest, a lumberjack-meets-Gandalf face sweater, or a tattoo of a skull that itself has a tattoo of a skull, the genre’s customary raiment is meant to project an air of otherworldy might, evoking a battle-hardened warrior fresh from the killing fields. But if you were to reach into the inside pocket of that battle vest, there is a good chance that you’d find a bag of 20-sided die, a copy of something by Tolkien or Herbert, and the director’s cut version of Episode IV. This leads us to a second truth: metal is an inherently nerdy genre custom-built to be loved by geeks. That may sound pejorative, but I assure you that this statement is meant to extol virtues that I feel are unique to the genre of music I love the most. I would contend that few music scenes allow for as much unbridled, un-edited, 100% geeky expressions of enjoyment as metal. This unreserved passion was on full display at Montreal’s Corona Theatre last week when Children of Bodom came to play along with an impressive line up of supporting acts.
Sadly, I arrived at Corona Theatre just as Ontario progressive metal band Oni were playing their last few tracks. The group’s unique take on progressive metal balanced the juttery, Djent slam of Meshuggah with whimsical flights of intricate, almost uplifting melody reminiscent of Protest the Hero, but without feeling shmaltzy and overwrought. I’m also a sucker for bizarre instrumentation, and Oni’s aformentioned melodic flourishes are powered by synth player Johnny deAngelis’ Xylo-Synth. Yes, that’s right, it’s a xylophone jacked into a synthesizer. There is a metal band that uses a xylophone and it’s good. Breathe that in for a minute.
I made my way closer to the stage for California extreme shredders Exmortus‘ upcoming set. The band’s latest full-length, Ride Forth, is easily one of my favourite records of the year, so I couldn’t wait to see if they were able to pull off the album’s insane technicality in a live setting. As soon as the first few notes rang out, I knew we were in for a treat. The music was executed expertly, but more importantly, Ex Mortus’ live energy was completely infectious. Guitarist David Rivera was in constant motion, running back and forth across the stage, stopping only to plant a foot on a monitor, windmill his hair, and pump up the crowd for chant-along anthems like “For The Horde” and “Death to Tyrants,” all while busting out a dizzying array of finger-mutilating axe work. At one point, Rivera and singer-guitarist Conan Gonzalez came together in a complicated stunt embrace in order to solo on each other’s guitars. The growing crowd undoubtedly fed off of the band’s energy, moshing their way through a good portion of the set.
To call Abbath Doom Oculta a heavy metal icon seems grossly inadequate. As the bassist and lead singer of legendary Norwegian black metal band Immortal, Abbath’s icy, gurgling vocals and signature hourglass corpse paint cemented him as one of second wave black metal’s most recognizable figures. After band mates King ov Hell and Creature took the stage, Oculta made a grand entrance to blaring trumpets and a roaring audience. The eponymous band’s set consisted of a mix of Immortal covers and original tunes, such as “Fenrir Hunts” and “Winterbane.” While the group’s music is certainly rooted in black metal, many of the songs contained rock and thrash metal elements that gave the music a satisfying swagger which perfectly fit with Abbath’s on-stage persona. An unabashed KISS fan, Abbath’s bravado undoubtedly channeled Gene Simmons in his prime, replete with high kicks, tongue-centric mugging for the photo pit, and pausing mid-song for a series of Invisible Orange poses. Regardless if this style of metal is your thing or not, you cannot help but be entertained by Abbath’s engrossing, energetic live show.
While grabbing my customary between-set beer, the lamest fist fight in human history erupted in front of the venue’s bar. I abhor this type of shitty, pointless violence, especially when it lacks any entertainment value. Seriously, it was as if two overgrown toddlers were having an “I’m at Walmart and mom won’t by me Pokemon”-style meltdown in the same space and just happened to be hitting each other. I can only imagine the circumstances that drove the situation to blows. Gary, just admit you took Steve’s Dragon Ball Z box set without asking and apologize.
Anyway…on to our headliners! Arguably one of the most well-known acts to come out of the Finnish metal scene, Children of Bodom have been pumping out intricate, synth-laced melodic death metal since the early 90s and are currently touring their ninth studio album, I Worship Chaos. The band kicked off their performance with high-energy rager “Needled 24/7” from 2003’s Hate Crew Deathroll. Lead singer and guitarist Alexi Laiho was in fine form, forcefully belting out lyrics while delivering a series of breakneck guitar solos. The band’s set traversed across their extensive discography, providing fans with a great mix of new material and classics, including my all-time favorite COB song “Lake Bodom.” While a few of COB’s cringe-worthy, mid-paced rock ballad numbers reared their regrettable heads throughout the night, the band mostly kept things in the proper gear; galloping fast and chock-full of satisfying lead line trade-offs between Laiho and keyboardist Janne Wirman. The audience was at a fever pitch throughout the set, enthusiastically chanting along to almost every song.
After ending the main set with “Children of Decadence,” Bodom quickly heeded the audience’s cry for more and performed a two-song encore that included a touching rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.” It is my sincere hope that Gary and Steve chose that exact moment to reconcile their differences, have a solid cry-hug, and make plans to build Magic: The Gathering decks the following weekend. The unifying power of metal, my friends. Powerful stuff.
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson