I entered Corona Theatre early to get good balcony seats and really get a good view of the bands’ performances and equipment setups, and I was sure glad I did. There were three huge drumkits on stage; what a backline! Right off the bat I want to talk about the actual theater. The acoustics were amazingly clear compared to the last time I was there, and it had one of the best stage light to note synchronizations I have witnessed to date.
As the show began, the famous “ominous intro” trope (which I still love) played as all of the members of local talent The Unconscious Mind came on at once (Simon Cléroux (lead guitars/ backup vocals), Marc-Antoine St-Onge (bass), Louis Paul Gauvreau (Vocals), and Charles-André Brodeur). It started with a huge “Salut a vous Montreal!” which was met with complete cheering. Louis spoke in french for the whole set, which gave a feeling of Quebec authenticity to the scene. They only have one full-length so far, and decided to play a lot of new material that isn’t even out yet. A song they really nailed was “The Mirror of My Punishment” with impressive growls, tight basslines, and fantastic endurance drumming.To me, their sound sounds like Dark Tranquility and Carach Angren had an unholy offspring, especially the guitars. Simon managed to pull off majestic solos throughout their unique sounding progressive chaos. I actually played along side them almost a decade ago opening up for Nile, they have definitely matured since then. I’m looking forward to the second album!
Next up was Virginia’s technical melodic death metal outfit, Arsis. This band does not sound like any other band; they’re their own beast. I consider them progressive technical thrash metal. I thought it was refreshing to see them using tube amps for that raw sound instead of the more digital effects bands seeming use a lot these days. James Malone (guitarist/vocalist) hit every technical note while singing. I don’t know how he does it! Maybe he has two separate brains, because I’ve never seen anyone do guitar gymnastics while hitting every growl and shriek perfectly! I was in awe. Shawn Priest (drummer) is a precise “backbone” kind of drummer. He didn’t go all crazy and violent; he hit hard and precise, and his tom fills were perfect. The music is technical enough, so I enjoy Shawn’s approach to drumming. It’s fantastic!
Noah Martin (bassist) was heavily animated and looked like he belonged in a old-school thrash band with his white sneakers and denim vest. I really enjoyed his commitment and performance. The song that stood out most was “Anthem to the Recently Deceased” which was full of pinch harmonics, dizzying frenzies of riffs, and an 80s style heavy metal solo at the end. It was so eclectic. Guitarist Brandon Ellis played a Randy Rhodes style interlude that felt like an ode of some sort and tugged on my heartstrings. They played newer material which cause some infectious headbanging to happen, and ended with “Face of My Innocence.” I’m going to keep an eye out for future material.
Up next were Athenian symphonic death metal titans Septicflesh. They had huge “Codex Omega” banners to support the new album. Maybe it’s because I’m greek and have a similar mindset, but I feel like their look and style is heavily influenced by Hellraiser and its cenobites. I genuinely enjoyed the live set. I find that the album is a bit to polished with the orchestra, however live the orchestra isn’t as loud and present, which is a plus for me. Spiros Antoniou (vocalist/bassist) is an amazing showman. His bass had my favourite timbre: clanky as hell. He also didn’t always use the bass, swinging it to his back to concentrate on the vocals. Christos Antoniou (lead guitarist, orchestra composer, backing vocals) was statuesque, but for good reason: his riffs are heavy like Mount Olympus. Live guitarist Psychon was more animated and doing intense windmills. Their new drummer Kerim Lechner had big shoes to fill, and he filled them alright! I can tell it wasn’t Fotis on the kit, but he’s on par with him for sure. I must admit that I giggled when Spiros pronounced “Pyramid God” “Pie-ra-meed” God.” Ahhh, my people. A solid performance.
Lastly was the epic Finnish folk metal band, Ensiferum. All I can say was that the whole fourteen-song set was more of a fantastic interaction than a show. Donned in warpaint, Markus Toivonen (lead guitarist), Sami Hinkka (bassist, wearing a kilt) Petri Lindroos (vocals, guitars), and Janne Parviannen (drummer) are all frontmen. They all growled, sang, and ran around like no tomorrow (with wireless setups, thank goodness) and they treated the venue like family. Almost every song started with the crowd chanting “Oooooh” melodies of the song, clapping, and “HEYS.” I felt at time like a Celtic warrior, at times like I was viking celebrating during “Twilight Tavern,” at times like a wanderer in the desert (in, well, “Wanderer”). Their biggest highlight for me was “LAI LAI HEI” where they sang in Finnish and to my surprise, the crowd sang along. I was shocked and impressed all at once. They are a definite must-see live band, it’s a folkfest and a half!
Written by Peter Lountzis
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Kate Erickson