Wacken is an open air festival held in Schleswig-Holstein , Germany that has been going on now for twenty four years. It has become one of the largest European metal fests to date bringing in bands from Europe, North America, and Australia. The fest lasts three days and is in August. The Wacken Battle contest began in 2004 and has been going strong since. Wacken Battle Canada is being held in Toronto, ON, Montreal, QC, Calgary, AB, Edmonton, AB, and Vancouver, BC.
Some of Montreal’s best chosen thrash bands challenged each other tonight for Round Two. What an amazing night it was. The judges of the evening were Glen Robinson, the famous producer known for working with bands such as Gwar and Ramones, Jason Dascal hosting “Sounds of Steel” on CKUT’s 90.3fm, Andrew Weiler the metal director of CJLO 1690 am, and Myriam Francoeur of CAMUZ.
When Chemical Way walked on stage, they were wearing Hawaiian shirts and leis, cracking the crowd up. This was such a strong performance, and I am lost for words as to how to even begin to describe how fucking amazing this was. When Chemical Way played their first track, they threw beach balls into the crowd and it became one big beach party. I then heard some loud high-pitched, amazing screaming vocals and who was it? It was Scott Renaud, hidden in the back behind his drums. I am always impressed when a dude can sing and play as well as this guy played. I think I was almost drooling from how powerful this guy was— probably one of the best drummers I have seen in a while. His kicks and smashes were so tight and fast I couldn’t even keep up with the rest of the band’s talent. I think I may have skipped a heart beat here and there because this performance was so overwhelmingly good. BullRoyce playing his loud 80s thrashin’ guitar solos which were so well played his fingers had minds of their own. All the guys in the band sang back up or lead with Scott and it did, in fact, become one big thrashin’ beach party. Listen to their single “Frost Fright” here: https://chemicalway.bandcamp.com/. The band clearly is influenced by bands like Slayer, and the judges mentioned that in their comments, but one thing that surprised me was they didn’t really mention how mad the drumming was besides “Do you ever get tired?” I wanted to hear some more technical comments from the pros. Oh well.
Trying to catch my breath a little later, Warsenal came on stage. After dealing with some minor technical issues with the drums, they began. I caught these guys at the third En Route Vers Heavy and they have not disappointed me yet. They are a simple three-piece band that brings back the traditional 80s thrash influences like Metallica, Slayer, and Motörhead, along with some groovy modern riffs. Compared to the previous set I saw them play at this time, bassist Francis Labine really stood out to me. He was crisp, clear, and played some pretty intense solos that just made a perfect fit for the band. They played “Let me Out” and my personal fave, “Die on Stage.” I enjoyed every moment of it. The judges’ comments were extremely flattering, I am sure, to the band. Some comments included “Even though you have Slayer influence, you still managed to turn it into your own sound” and Glen said “Your fingers were speaking to me!” At this point, it almost was clear that the judges had made up their minds. This competition was very tough, I felt sorry for them.
Next band up was Kruhl. KRUUUHHHLLLLLL. Sorry I had to type that. This band considers themselves to be a power/thrash metal band but I heard differently. Oh, those wonderful genre tags. I heard some doom and death metal on top of some thrash. I felt vocalist (and check this name out…) Gonzalo R. Quintana Zunino (what a beautiful name!) has a voice suited more for the doom metal sound. The band did play fast and hard at times and I just couldn’t feel it. Gonzalo was expressing some serious emotion and energy during his performance and I really felt it from him, but the rest of the band was pretty stiff. They played really well overall and it’s no wonder they were even in the contest to begin with, but I wanted more soul and feel in this performance. I got pretty excited when Gonzalo said “we’re going in with some real deep shit now….” because they actually began playing a melodic doom-y sounding track. Sadly, I could not hear the title of it. It fit so well at this point but then it progressed into thrash. This was my highlight of their performance. The judges mentioned similar things to this in saying Gonzalo had the most energy overall and they played well.
Last but definitely not least was the almighty MUTANK. Four guys took the stage with their tank of gasoline. Drink up! They opened with “M.E.C.H. Metal,” a super fast-paced thrash metal track with some Motörhead influence. I don’t know how this happened, but all of a sudden the place filled up and the crowd immediately went to the front of the stage. “Alright guys let’s go! Scream Mutank! Mutank! Mutank!” said bassist/vocalist Steve (Steve-Out) Reynolds, “Lame but do it anyway.” Ahmed (on meds) Saad on drums was an absolute monster and held the band together well.
Their casual “I don’t give a shit” attitude really worked and it generally works overall for any band. Don’t try so hard! These guys haven’t even been together for an entire year yet and already released their EP “M.E.C.H. Metal” and are up for this contest? Amazing how far they’ve come. I saw them play by fluke back in February, opening for Trainwreck Architect and I knew then and I know now they will go far. Guitarist, Steven (Steve-In) Breen, drank from their Gasoline tank, and then passed it around in the audience. I have no idea what the actual beverage was but people were digging it. “This guy is cool, whatever he is saying…” said Reynolds before starting “W.A.R.”. This particular track shows off each band member’s talent – you’ll hear Reynolds’ groovy bass solo, with the opening drum kicks, then Liam “Whiskey” Hinchey’s guitar solo along with Breen going nuts on his guitar. I am overwhelmed just typing this. Breen’s opening solo mixed with Saad’s drum kicks brought out a hardcore thrash pit. People in the crowd were loving this! Even Eric our photographer jumped in there and helped out a body surfer during “Heavy Hand of the Doomsday Clock.”
Overall, this performance was memorable I had to get up there in front of the stage. I didn’t even need to take notes for this one because normally my memory is shitty, but it was that good it definitely stuck in my head. The judges were speechless and named the performance as “Intense” and they were “Killing Machines.”
Guess who won Round 2? MUTANK. For a band so new, this is pretty awesome news. Congratulations guys. I think you have earned a shit load of new fans and groupies.