Montreal’s Foufounes Electriques is a cornerstone of our rock and metal community. Despite the humble size of its showroom, it continues to host some of the biggest international names in the scene on a regular basis. Having said that, it is not without its faults. One of these is that no matter how they try, the staff and crew can never quite pull it together to have the doors to a show open when they say they’re going to be open. Case in point, this last Sunday’s edition of the Symphony X’s Underworld Tour was supposed to be open to the public as early as 6 PM, with the first band taking the stage at 7. Fashionably late as I always attempt to be, I arrived at 7:01 to be greeted with a massive lineup that curled around the bar’s entire first floor. Oh well, at least the cute bartender came around and offered drinks to those of us patiently waiting to go upstairs.
So it was that local instrumental act Unbeing took the stage at 7:45. They didn’t seem too bothered by the delay, and to the credit of the organizers the band was greeted by a solidly packed room for such an early set time. As usual, the performance was on point. Unbeing’s music runs the gamut from dizzying thrash riffs to calm, jazz-based interludes. Despite the lack of a singer, they managed to keep the crowd engaged with enthusiastic gestures and banter. Guitarist Sherif El-Maghraby incited the whole room to clap along with the intro of the oh-so-short but oh-so-beautiful “Autopsy” from their latest release Ceres, which he described as lasting only two minutes, just like most of the happy moments in his life. Aww. Wait, he was probably talking about sex. Dammit French, you’ve fooled me again. (El-Maghraby addressed the crowd in French while bassist Alexandre Murdoc D’Amour took a couple of seconds to speak English to us. Thanks Alex.)
It’s a tragedy that Heaven’s Cry have been around so long but have never reached that heights of full-on international recognition. They are something else man. Their music is like all the best parts of Dream Theater’s back catalogue with none of the stupid, cheesy bullshit you didn’t ask for and you don’t want. Songs like “Outcast” and “The Alchemist” struck like thunder through Fouf’s impressive sound system, aided by drummer Rene Lacharite, who literally sounds like thunder behind the kit. Guitarist Pierre St-Jean and bassist Sylvain Auclair are perfectly matched for vocal harmonies, with the former possessing a heavy metal growl akin to Dave Mustaine’s and the ladder providing a smoother, softer tone à la David Draiman. Auclair also stuck out like a sore thumb, being the only member of the band to attempt to dress up in a black vest, with his three teammates sporting the heavy-metal stereotype of a black band shirt and jeans. It was like history’s easiest round of where’s denim Waldo.
If you were to have casually walked in to see New Jersey prog superstars Symphony X’s set without any prior knowledge of the band, you may have had no idea who you were witnessing; there was no backdrop present, no slideshow projector, and no label on the bass drum. So really, aside from the packed room full of people young and old (and I do mean old; one of the men standing off to the side of the room was so small and tiny with hair as white as Christmas itself, he had to be at least 103) singing the songs, this could have been any local band. Of course, there’s also the raw star power that comes from years of doing what they do on stages of all sizes. Frontman Russel Allen manages to be a sex symbol and a masculine driving force all at once, using the microphone as often to imitate his cock as he uses it to sing. The two Micheals – guitarist Romeo and bassist Lepond – flanked either side of the stage during their orchestral overture as they heralded Allen’s arrival and launched into “Nevermore” from their latest release Underworld. Addressing the crowd directly, Allen drove home a point that he prefers to drink beer, have fun, and live in the moment, adding an even greater sense of intimacy to this already modest performance. At one point the band even welcomed a group of girls to the stage to rock out with them, and hey, if you have no decorations or props to advertise your band, girls are always the next best thing.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Randy Smith Captura Camera
*edited by Kate Erickson