It was with a heavy heart that I walked through the doors of the Corona Theater last night. This show will mark the last production of a Montreal institution that has stood for decades. Stephane Mellul and BCI (Brave Concerts International) have been cultivating and preserving the metal scene in Montréal for as long as I can remember and longer, bringing the best metal acts from around the world and inspiring countless youth to “take the black” in the culture of heavy metal in all its forms.
I have been attending BCI shows since I was 15 or 16 years old; I’ve even worked off and on for the company as a loader and stage hand. As my own music career began to flourish it was BCI that gave my group our first major opening slot for Sodom and Finntroll in 2007, which proved to be a cornerstone in the edifice of what we would build as a band for the next eight years. So you could say I have a personal connection to the company.
The nights entertainment was provided mostly by bands who have shared a long-lasting connection with BCI: Ashes of Eden, Urban Aliens, and Necronomicon all have members who have worked closely with BCI over the years. Capped off by headliners Belphegor and Montreal legends Kataklysm, I couldn’t imagine a better line-up to pay homage to Steph and the legacy BCI will leave behind for many years to come.
Ashes Of Eden have been a fixture in Montreal metal for over a decade, and even though they don’t play as often anymore they still pack as hard of a punch as ever. The melodic death thrash band took the stage in fine form, and proved what experience can bring to the table. Playing a mixture of old and new songs, I found myself just as impressed with their older material. Great songs stand the test of time, while their newer songs hit every facet the band is known for. Drummer Dennis Pavia (also of Diecast) hits as precise as surgeon behind the kit, while brothers Dano and Armen Apekian dominated their trades up front with fierce energy along with new guitarist, George Lago. Vocalist Mike Rockford sounded as good as ever while working the eager crowd filling the hall.
Urban Aliens, another local fixture, were second up; they did not disappoint. Self-described as “porn core desh metal,” the French five-piece put on a stellar show for the full hall. The band’s music flowed nicely between death metal, punk, and rock vibes, and did a great job getting the crowd riled up. Now, my French isn’t great, but I know enough to understand the hilarious nature of most of their songs (think mostly partying and pornographic related affairs). Definitely a fun band to watch.
Montreal’s Blackened Death metal titans Necronomicon took the stage next. Fresh from their U.S tour with Vital Remains, the band was in perfect form. Necronomicon has only gotten better and better over the years, and their increased touring regiment has honed the band’s skill even further. The group furiously ripped through a set comprised of songs from almost (if not all) past albums, including “Rise of the Elder Ones,” “The Time is Now,” and “Through the Door Of Time.” Guitarist Rob “The Witch” and company put on a fantastic and eerie performance full of energy. The band are preparing their next album for Napalm Records and will be out next year.
Austria’s Belphegor have been gaining momentum in North America over the last few years, playing good tours and substantially raising their profile after every run. This tour with Kataklysm seems to be another significant step forward for them. As they unleash their musical blitzkrieg, to say Belphegor’s songs are unrelenting is an understatement. Drummer BloodHammer is a diabolical pleasure to watch and listen to live; to keep up with such a pace while maintaining his precision feels almost inhuman. I was also impressed with the addition of some stage props, light show, a makeshift skeletal podium, and smoke machines to their live show, which for me greatly added to the ambiance of their set. I toured with the band a few years ago, and at the time their show was far more bare-bones. Singer Helmut is as ominous as ever, presiding over the crowd while drenched in pig blood, howling and shredding his satanic masterpieces.
Between these sets, the staff of BCI took the stage to honor Stephane for his years of hard work. Stephane even took the opportunity (more likely he was coerced) to stage dive into the audience as a final goodbye of sorts.
Kataklysm are bigger than ever, and there’s no question as to why. The group continue to perform at the top of their game, and have never relented in their musicianship, performance, or song writing. From the first note, all in attendance were at attention and giving their all to welcome the hometown heroes back to cap off their North American tour. With tracks like “If I Was God… I’d Burn it All” and “The Black Sheep” got things rolling. Jean-Francois Dagenais (guitar) and Stephane Barbe (bass) put on a stellar show as always, giving more energy than I’ve seen from most bands coming out trying to make their mark. Drummer Oli Beaudoin gave a commanding performance behind the kit, and has unquestionably pushed the band forward musically with his superior abilities. Singer Maurizio Iacono was as commanding as always, able to whip a crowd into a frenzy at will. Classics such as “As I Slither” and “Ambassador of Pain” were met with raucous delight by the audience, among other heavy hitters “Push the Venom” and “Soul Destroyer.”
The night seemed to end all too soon, and as the spent crowd departed I felt the legacy of Stephane Mellul and BCI will not soon be forgotten; it certainly won’t be by me.
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Isa Hoyos Ishca Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson