As if she knew that kids weren’t ready to put their camouflage shorts away just yet, Mother Nature cranked the temperature and humidity up to “Haha, fuck you buddy” just in time for a night of blistering hardcore at Montreal’s Foufounes Electriques. For the past four years The Life & Death tour has been crisscrossing North America, torching audiences with stacked line ups offering a mix of scene veterans and fiery new talent. This year’s edition was no exception with legendary Toronto act No Warning taking the headlining spot and injecting Life & Death with so much CAN CON, CRTC executives spontaneously started solo hate moshing in their offices while binge watching Murdoch Mysteries.
A delay in the show’s start time saw the ground floor quickly fill up with eager fans, a clear sign that attendees were stoked to catch every act on the bill. Once the door to Fouf’s 2nd floor finally opened, I made a beeline to the stage to secure a quality vantage point for local openers GAZM. The band throws metal, punk, and hardcore into a washing machine, add two cups of Weirdo detergent, and sets it to spin cycle. The resulting melange is refreshing, wonderfully bizarre, and just plain fucking fun. Blowing through almost their entire discography, GAZM got the crowd moving with tracks like “Menace to Tha earth” and “Easy 2 See” while lead singer SD flailed and writhed across the stage. Kudos to the Extensive Enterprise team for such an inspired choice for local support. Hardcore shows need more of GAZM’s brand of strange.
Boston, MA’s Vein followed up all of that joviality by dragging everyone into a pitch black tar pit of murky, pummeling metallic hardcore. Gargantuan riffs were made all the more ferocious and caustic through abrupt tempo shifts and technical, precision playing from bassist Sean and drummer Matt Wood. The angular, avant-garde vibe on songs like “Terrors Realm” and “Heretic” evoke early 90s acts like Remembering Never, as well as fellow Bostonians Converge and Botch.
Twitching Tongues front man Colin Young channeled a demonic Ric Flair, taking the stage in a custom, floor-length black silk robe adorned with the band’s inverted double-cross logo and fabulous black feathers along both the collar and sleeves. A cackling, ominous voice burst over the PA introducing the band through a bizarre limerick just before Twitching Tongues launched into opening tune “Eyes Adjust.” While the band’s sludge-soaked hardcore was both powerful and catchy, and the guitar work from F. Sean Martin (Ex-Hatebreed) and Taylor Young (NAILS, also Colin’s brother) was gnarly, what makes Twitching Tongues music so compelling is Colin Young’s singing. Yes, actual singing! While Young can growl with the best of them, the majority of his performance involves using his considerable range to provide added bombast and emotional depth to songs like “Preacher Man” and “World War V.”
Long Island’s BackTrack are true Life & Death vets, having performed on the tour every year with the exception of 2016. If the first three acts represented hardcore going in new directions, BackTrack, true to their name, set the DeLorean for mid-90s New York and served up a super-sized helping of classic, swaggering, rapid-fire NYHC. The audience showed their appreciation for BackTrack’s revivalist performance by faithfully reenacting the classic Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon while the band blasted through songs like “Erase the Rat,” “Darker Half,” and the title track from their newest release Bad to My World.
Down to Nothing kept the old-school party popping, kicking off their set with “Along for The Ride,” the opening track from their 2007 LP The Most. This Virginian straight-edge outfit’s sound is decidedly rooted in classic or traditional hardcore, and can pummel with the best of them on tracks like the furious edge-breaking accusation “Brothers Turned Strangers.” The sustained harmonies from guitarists Alan Long and Matt Carr lend an anthemic element to the more wistful and introspective material like “Life on The James.”
With a throwback hip-hop beat booming from the speakers, Toronto’s No Warning took the stage to close out the evening. I don’t have enough space here to delve into No Warning’s fascinating history (drop that knowledge, Wikipedia!), but it was a real joy to see original members Ben Cook, Jordan Posner, and Matt DeLong play with such ferocity and intensity, clearly rejuvenated after a nearly decade-long hiatus that ended in 2013. The band began their set with a trio of songs from their classic and critically acclaimed 2002 record Ill Blood. Cook, ever the charismatic frontman, joked about the band’s long history; “The last time we played in Montreal, it was with the Cro Mags. I saw John Joseph take a shit in the alley way behind the bar. Now he’s the face of Lulu Lemon. 2017 is weird!” The set continued with a mix of old and new material, including “In the City,” a track from their upcoming full length Torture Culture. After dedicating “Day in The Life” to Dave and the EE crew for their work in the Montreal scene, No Warning played a few more tunes before ending on their most iconic tune “Ill Blood.”
While I’m loathe to give climate change kudos, the hot and sticky weather was oddly fitting for such an incredibly intense show that transformed the cavernous Foufounes show room into the best sweaty basement gig you can imagine. Looking forward to Life & Death 2018!
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson