Montreal metalcore act Fayne have had quite the journey. Formed by a group of childhood friends in the early 2000s, the band put out a a pair of EPs in 2004 and 2006, played a bunch of shows, sharing the stage with big name acts like Underoath and Alexisonfir
Before we get to the music, I have to say I was pretty stoked to be catching a show at a venue I’d never been to before. La Vitrola is one of those great Montreal spots that you may miss just walking by, but this second floor venue is spacious, contains a bar (always a plus), and has rather good sound for a local venue.
The first band to take the stage was Dreams of an Absolution from Sainte-Thérèse. This relatively young group kick out a Sumerian Records-style of djent-influenced metalcore with a signature focus on the very, very, very low end thump. The band opened with a weighty instrumental track before lead singer Mathieu Fafard took the stage. Fafard was clearly amped to be in front of the crowd and did an excellent job of getting the audience fired up. This intensity carried through into his vocal performance; Fafard was able hit and maintain the deep, guttural growl necessary for this particular style throughout the performance despite bouncing around the stage like a man possessed. The tunes were satisfying and occasionally veered outside the djent/metalcore playbook. There were some tightness issues early in the performance, most notably during transitions, but the guys seemed to loosen up and shake off the opening band jitters by mid set. One of their last tunes dropped the tempo into sludge territory in the opening riff; a cool space for this style of band to explore outside of breakdowns. Here’s hoping Dreams of an Absolution retain this spirit of experimentation with future material.
Next up were Atsuko Chiba. Anyone familiar was Atsuko Chiba’s music, a mostly instrumental, highly layered blend of experimental prog and atmospheric psychedelic, might be scratching their head wondering what has them sharing a bill with metalcore bands. However their inclusion couldn’t have been more welcome, acting as a great balance to the evening’s other, heavier acts. Atsuko Chiba’s music is as beautifully arranged as it is masterfully performed; guitarists/keyboardists Kevin McDonald and Karim Lakhdar lay down intricate, complex melodies that seem to effortlessly blend together from track to track. The band also projects a film on a back drop as they perform and the imagery, filmed in a grainy black and white featuring a lone masked figure, fits perfectly with the band’s ethereal, haunting sound, enhancing the overall experience. The attention to detail Atsuko Chiba pay to sound quality really pays off; I was a little wary at the amount of time the group took to set up and sound check, but I was amazed at how sharp the group sounded in a space that resembled a highschool gymnasium. In short, if you are a fan of “De-loused in the Comatorium”-era Mars Volta and Pelican, get your ass to an Atsuko Chiba show.
Closing out the night were headliners Fayne, and boy oh boy, were these dudes stoked to play. Lead screamer/singer Joe Espinosa spent most of the night at the side of the stage jumping up and down like a lunatic while watching the other bands play. When the band hit their first note, it was like a goddamn bomb had gone off. The fairly sizable crowd pushed to the front and commenced with the moshing of the pitting.
Fayne’s sound hearkens back to an earlier era of metalcore, one which incorporates the two-step mid-tempo verses and chug breakdowns typical of early 2000s Bridge 9 -style acts like Death Before Dishonor and Bury Your Dead with more melodic elements and clean vocal sections. I am typically not a fan of clean vocals, as they have a tendency to come off saccharine and insincere when used in heavy music, but Espinosa has the vocal chops to make the cleans sound interesting and I’d compare his clean vocal timbre to Glassjaw’s Daryl Palumbo, albeit a bit less wacky and deranged in delivery.
Tracks such as “Concord”, a cut from the new EP, really demonstrate the band’s polished musicianship. Lead guitarist Alex Gonzalez’s high note arpeggio runs add a complexity that really hooks the ear and compliment second guitarist Nick Fazioli’s meaty riffs. The drum and bass work, handled by Carlo De Iuliis and Chris Kasp respectively, is as crisp and tight as it is ball-tinglingly heavy. It is easy for this style of metalcore to lapse into a predictable pattern of “fast heavy part, fast clean part, fast heavy part, HOLY FUCK HIKE UP YOUR BASKETBALL SHORTS IT’S BREAKDOWN TIME”, and while Fayne certainly dip into this formula, they incorporate enough variety in their songwriting to keep things fresh and interesting throughout (genre fans, fear not; the breakdowns are certainly still there).
It’s always great to watch a band that understands the importance of keeping the crowd involved and moving for a full set. Espinosa spent the majority of Fayne’s performance in the audience and the appreciative crowd clambered towards him to sing along at every opportunity, some even taking the stage to provide backing vocals for particular songs (most notably Camalus lead singer, Bucketlist alum, and all around swell fellow Jason Greenberg). The mosh pit’s intensity crested during Fayne’s final song of the evening, a clear benchmark of a successful performance I would have loved to see a bit more pit-ninjitsu though, I’m a stickler for windmills and cartwheels).
Returning to a project after so many years away must come with a certain level of uncertainty, but this evening’s performance will undoubtedly provide Fayne with validation that getting back on the horse was the right call.