The second preliminary round of Syncop8ed Noize’s Rockalypse went down last Saturday night at the Leonardo DaVinci Centre in the St-Leonard region of Montreal. Featuring a whopping nine bands, the lineup ranged from youthful pop-punk to brutal heavy metal. There was some good moments, some bad moments, and some head scratching moments but overall it was an entertaining evening.
First off, I have to say kudos to the organizers and the sound technicians because the whole night went like clockwork and the overall quality of both the sound and visual presentation, considering the nine stylistically different bands, were amazing. So, great job on that, guys.
Opening the evening was Montreal quartet, Rock & The Fire. They did a pretty decent job of starting the night off. It is a very difficult task to play in front of a half-empty room at 6:30pm so thumbs up to them for not letting that get in the way of delivering a solid, if somewhat unexceptional, performance. Also, bonus points to the members all wearing plaid shirts and blues jeans!
Next came NSE, another four-piece band who play a mix of grunge rock/heavy metal. Their sound is somewhere in between Pearl Jam and Godsmack though it sounds less mainstream. Lead singer, Enzo Coviello, had a cool, laid-back style on stage that worked well with their style of music but I felt that he did not connect with the audience in any meaningful manner and lacked any real stage presence. It was disappointing. One thing that is worth noting is that one of the band member’s little girl was in the audience and cheered for her father after every song with a very enthusiastic, “Let’s go, pappa!” This made the whole thing very cute and probably garnered them some points just for that.
Starstruck Avenue were a welcome jolt of energy. They really left a mark on the audience with their pop-punk sound (think Fall Out Boy/Good Charlotte) and captivating energy. These four young musicians had a rock solid foundation of music and a truly professional presentation that had no dull moments. It was wall to wall one of the best of the night. The whole thing made me forget I was at a competition because it felt more like a Starstruck Avenue concert. Great job fellas!
Another highlight of the night was local heavy metal outfit, Cromagnum. The band really looked and sounded like a seasoned act. They opened the set with an instrumental version of the theme music from The Terminator; it was very metal and very cool. With lead singer Max Rex’s impressive physical stature as well as his manly ‘salt and pepper’ coloured beard, the band looked like they had just come off a tour opening for Amon Amarth, or more likely, just finished chasing down hordes of orcs using their instruments as weapons. I’m inclined to believe the latter is one hundred percent accurate. Cromagnum’s sound is brutally heavy but, still had enough breathing room and groove to satisfy the non-metal audience goers. They were above most of the bands both musically and in terms of stage presence so, it came as no surprise to learn that they will be present in the next round of the competition. Also, special bonus points from me to the drummer, Bobby Girard, who was an absolute beast on the kit. Plus, he had an impressive handlebar moustache.
After the high of the last two bands came Slow Power Up who delivered what was sadly, the most apathetic and lifeless performance of the night. It boggles my mind when I go to see a music competition how some bands are able to think that standing still, staring at their instruments, and not speaking between songs are all elements of a ‘great show.’ This band was unfortunately guilty of all three of these musical crimes. Everything about them was off, from the lead singer’s blank stare and nasally vocals (not to mention a really horrible guitar tone), to the lead guitar player who stood way in the back and did not move or lift his eyes off of his guitar once. They were completely amateurish and not at the level needed to compete with the rest of the performances that evening.
Luckily, Mercury Blast were able to bring the energy up again and they delivered a very good performance that was one of the best that night. The band played a fun style of 80s hard rock that was a little generic but still enjoyable and well executed thanks to their strong musicianship (especially, the lead guitar player, Gabriel Olteanu, and the lead vocalist, Nick Purchio). All the musicians seemed to be having a great time on stage. They were moving around a lot and got the crowd into the performance easily. The only unfortunate detail was singer, Nick Purchio, who seemed to have forgotten to zip up the fly on his jeans which lead to some giggles from the younger female audience members. I personally think he may have done so on purpose in order to impose his machismo on the crowd and, if so, then it seemed to have worked as they were selected to move on to the next round.
Breaking News was the next band to compete and, after a little bit of a rocky start, I found that this three-piece had a nice sound that made up for the lack of showmanship. Their alternative rock sound was a lot tamer than most of the previous bands but it was a refreshing change of pace after the barrage of loud electric guitars. Though they were not the most energetic band, the had a “let the music do the talking” type approach and, luckily, the songs were well written and made up for the lack of stage presence. The lead singer had a very calm, almost humble aura about him and it worked with the style of music.
It was a completely different story when it came to one of the last two bands of the night, . Another four-piece pop/punk outfit that sounded like a band from an early 00s Warped Tour show, Third Refex was unfortunately quite juvenile in their attitude and the quality of the music suffered due to some poor stylistic choices. I can’t knock the band for trying as they had some good energy but the lead singer’s on stage banter and exchanges with some obvious friends in attendance made the whole thing feel like a high school talent show. The completely unnecessary guitar antics, courtesy of the lead guitarist, were not helping things either. It felt very out of place, considering the band’s style (songs about breakups and girl problems), to have some excessive shredding and whammy bar dive bombing going on at every possible occasion. His playing was not very interesting, and lacked any real phrasing and musicality which made it all feel like showboating when it should have been about musical expression.
Things did end on a high note. The Moon and Back was another one of the better bands to play that evening. With a style similar to the previous act, Breaking News was much stronger in terms of general songwriting and musicianship, especially where the vocals were concerned. Brandon Curtis has a great voice that cuts through the mix and serves the style well. He even looks a little like Tom Delonge’s little brother but with blond hair. I thought these guys had the right mix of charisma and style, and I was very surprised that they did not make it through to the next round.
Overall, it was a very entertaining evening thanks to some strong performances and great organization courtesy of Sincop8ed Noize.
Here are the bands that made it through :
The Rock & The Fire
Written by Ben Massicotte
Photography by Stacy Basque
*edited by Danielle Kenedy