Hitting town one day after Halloween, the arrival of The North American Extinction Tour in Montreal could not have been more timely. Featuring a terrifyingly stacked line-up of bands that covered the entire gamut of sonic brutality, the tour was the perfect opportunity for local metalheads to extend their spooky Samhain celebrations.
I made a post-work mad dash to Foufs in order to make the early bird 6:30pm set time for opening act APES. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these fellas numerous times over the last few years, and each occasion has seen this Quebec City-based five-piece further sharpen their grind-inflected dark hardcore assault. Singer Alexandre Goulet opted to bring his tortured growl directly to the people, performing the entire set on the floor in front of the stage and smack dab in the middle of the already sizable crowd. Focusing on songs from from latest record Lightless, APES’ set leaned into the more visceral and cacophonous material from their discography, making for both a powerful performance and a superb portent of what was to come.
New York’s Artificial Brain were next to take the stage. As a fan of their most recent record, I was looking forward to seeing how the band’s impossibly dense and complex brand of technical death metal would translate to a live performance. Any doubts I may have had were quickly put to rest when the band launched into “Floating In Delirium.” Anchored by an incredibly talented rhythm section featuring drummer Keith Abrami and bassist Samuel Smith, the song felt warm and organic throughout, even when guitarists Dan Garguilo and Oleg Zalman were liquifying our collective face meat with truly Byzantine lead work. This style of angular, highly technical DM has a tendency to feel a bit stiff in live settings, but Artificial Brain’s set felt imbued with a real sense of fun. Lead singer Will Smith busted out some truly funky dance moves, all while bringing his signature guttural death growl to tunes like “Static Shattering” and “Absorbing Black Ignition.”
Artificial Brain’s sound is most easily compared to legendary Quebec Death Metal outfit Gorguts. And because the universe is a truly bizarre and wonderful place, Gorguts frontman Luc Lemay casually strolled past me and took a spot near the back of the room just as I was putting that particular comparison into my notes.
I made my way closer to the front of the room while Maryland’s Full of Hell were getting ready to throw down. Full disclosure: I am an unapologetic, nerdy mega-fan of this experimental grind-noise-powerviolence outfit, so please take the following review with a grain of salt. The set began with a tidal wave of static and feedback supplied by lead singer Dylan Walker’s effects board and the additional, unnamed keyboardist, as drummer Dave Bland launched into a dizzying, frenetic solo. Just as this intro piece crescendoed, the voice of Werner Herzog came over the speakers, delivering the nihilistic quote that opens Full of Hell’s latest record Trumpeting Ecstacy.
Playing a set that consisted of mostly newer material, Full of Hell were as caustic and oppressive as ever. On top of a gut-wrenching vocal performance, Walker’s on-stage contortions provide a physical manifestation of the existential horror at the core of Full of Hell’s music. On top of all that really heady, “peering into the void” stuff, songs like “Barb and Sap” and “Crawling Back to God” demonstrate the band’s ability to write some fucking banger riffs and the cheeky cover of Napalm Death‘s classic blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “You suffer” shows they are not above having a bit of fun.
Speaking of fun, Boston’s Revocation represented a rather abrupt shift in the evening’s emotional tone, turning frowns upside down with their astonishingly catchy blend of party thrash and technical death metal. After blasting through “Teratogenesis” and “Communion,” lead singer and guitarist David Davidson told the crowd how happy the band was to be back at Foufounes, explaining that earlier in their career the audiences at the venue were some of the most receptive. As if to say thanks, Revocation proceeded to blanket the audience in unadulteratedly joyful, razor-sharp shredding for the next forty minutes. Both Davison and second guitarist Dan Garguilo (pulling double duty on this tour) possess truly absurd chops, but none of their wizardry ever feels esoteric. Their lead lines on songs like “The Hive” and “Empire of The Obscene” simply drive the greater sonic narrative. Having been alerted to his presence, Davidson gave a shoutout to Luc Lemay before the band kicked out a few tunes from their latest LP Great Is Our Sin.
As smoke billowed across the stage, the sizable audience began to buzz with anticipation, which spilled over into exaltation as Cattle Decapitation lead singer Travis Ryan appeared on stage to thunderous applause, launching into “The Carbon Stampede.” The only way I can describe Cattle Decapitation’s sound is to compare it to an avalanche or a monolithic, unavoidable storm. Drummer David McGraw combines jazz-like intricacy with warp-speed grindcore blasting in a way that evokes the expert levels of Tetris that don’t seem possible unless you’re a cyborg. Riff after riff blew by at ludicrous speed, never giving the listener time to catch their footing, a sense of urgency promulgated by Ryan’s signature vocal attack. The band was firing on all cylinders and seemed to be in great spirits, despite Ryan castigating a fan for jumping on stage and getting a bit too chummy during new song “Prophets of Loss.” After playing classic tune “Forced Gender Reassignment,” Ryan apologized if he seemed a bit stiff, explaining that he’d fucked up his leg somehow simply by walking, joking that being 43 years old sucked. The crowd made up for any deficit in energy, real or imagined, by going fucking bonkers for songs like “Apex Blasphemy,” “Kingdom of Tyrants,” and closer “Your Disposal.”
As fans took one final spin around the merch booths to fill up their loot bags, the mile-wide grins plastered across everyone’s faces made it clear that this stop of The North American Extinction Tour had been a treat for all involved.
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Stacy Basque
*edited by Kate Erickson