On a rather brisk night in Montreal, Club Soda was host to a gathering of bands that have more fierceness in one riff than an assortment of cantankerous old men. After canceling two separate tours over the last year, it was refreshing to finally see an invigorated High On Fire back on the road. Joined by an impressive trio of younger bands, this was definitely one of the most rancorous, hellraising, metal-filled nights of the year.
Kicking off the show was Creeping Death, a death metal outfit infusing thrash metal with hardcore tendencies, and an excellent addition to the night full of powerful music. Endorsed by their Texan brethren, Power Trip, Creeping Death’s ferocious blend of thrash-infused death metal set the pace for the night by immediately ripping into “Revenge.” Particularly impressive was front-man Reese Alavi, virtually a headbanging machine with a commanding stage presence and menacing growls to match. Fresh off releasing their first full-length album earlier this year, they gave those in attendance a ruthless Bolt Thrower-inspired appetizer to a soiree full of heavy bruising metal.
If The Misfits and Bathory were to conceive a demonic child, Devil Master‘s music would likely be the twisted offspring. I don’t mean that as a slight to them, but rather an accurate depiction of their horror-punk style fusing black metal ideals. By far the most unique band on the bill, Devil Master assailed the audience with a punk-infused setlist full of rage at a blistering pace. With cobwebs adorning the stage, the band ripped through their set, essentially performing what sounded like the soundtrack to a clandestine meeting of psychedelic vampires preparing for a satanic ritual…in Japan. Suffice it to say, their mystical stage demeanor matched the intensity of their music, adding a nice distinct touch to the show. Full marks to the band as they kept my undivided attention and prompted me to dig deeper into their music after the show. An unexpected bonus was seeing Dodder, the band’s adept keyboardist, maintain a stoic appearance for the entire set, blankly staring at the audience while rocking it on the keyboard.
A little preamble before mentioning the next band: I tend to find myself conflicted with the new wave of thrash metal. For every solid group that makes an impact in the metal community, five retreads sully the genre. Luckily, Power Trip isn’t a rehash of established bands. In fact, I was thrilled to see them after their pulverizing performance at Heavy Montreal last year. Power Trip has been making huge waves in recent years by absolutely killing it live and matching the brutality exhibited in their music. Tearing straight into “Manifest Decimation,” the crowd erupted as if an atomic bomb exploded. As soon as the band hit the stage, the audience went apeshit, reminiscent of vintage thrash metal videos from the 80s. “Firing Squad” sent the crowd into an even bigger frenzy, beckoning users to stage dive and create a furor in the pit. Power Trip took a business-like approach to execute a setlist that would certainly upstage thrash metal titans and make most bands envious. The unadulterated aggression, frenetic beats, brutal riffage, and dynamic stage presence once again cemented the band’s status as one of the best in the genre at the moment. The new flag carrier for thrash metal is a live act that must be seen by metalheads of all types.
As if the first three hours of frantic metal wasn’t enough to satiate one’s appetite, it was finally time for High On Fire to hit the stage. Beginning their set with “Blood from Zion,” a hypnotic deluge of crunchy stoner metal, High On Fire captivated the masses from the get-go. With health issues preventing Matt Pike (vocalist/guitarist) from touring for a year after the release of their last album, Electic Messiah, it was finally time to hear new tracks in a live setting. After roaring through “Spewn From The Earth,” the fans in attendance were treated to “Steps of the Ziggurat / House of Enil,” a nine-minute epic performance of grandiose sludge metal. With a moderately extensive catalog, High On Fire did an exceptional job of blending older hits with new tracks, plucking at least one song from each of their eight albums. There was a precise equilibrium between high-speed heavy metal and slower-paced brutal riffs, presenting the audience a bit of a reprieve before bracing for more headbanging throughout the set. Keeping the show raging past 11PM, the “encore” was comprised of three back-to-back-to-back thrashers with “Fury Whip,” “Snakes for the Divine,” and “Electic Messiah.”
With a rejuvenated Matt Pike at the helm, High On Fire is virtually unstoppable at the moment, absolutely crushing it both in the studio and on the stage. Add three energetic and highly proficient bands to the mix, and the current iteration of this tour is an absolute must-see for anyone that can attend the remaining shows in the U.S
Written by Jonathan Berthold
Photography by Nicolas Racine
*edited by Mike Milito