When I use “infamous” to describe this festival, I am not just slinging that word around. Commuted-to by countless outsiders and coveted by metalheads around the world, the Deathfest company has undoubtedly brought gold to Canada’s francophone fields. Sporting local underground acts like Tomb Mold and Outre-Tombe as well as legendary names like Demolition Hammer and Autopsy, any fan of extreme music not in attendance this past weekend should be shamed and banned from the metal club on Tuesdays at lunch.
I refrained from doing a write-up for Heavy Montreal this past summer, as I was only in attendance for the one of the two days and I didn’t make too much of an effort to check out every band. However, I’m glad to say that the case wasn’t the same for my experience at the first inaugural Quebec Deathfest. While I did take some breaks here and there, I was in attendance for most portions of the devilish ceremony. Let’s go through a rundown of the bands I saw, who I was most looking forward to, and who stole the show.
The festival’s first day was set-up as the “underground” day, with most bands being on the less popular side of the spectrum, other than the night’s headliner which was supposed to be Pestilence, but ended up being Immolation. Below are the bands I saw and what I thought of them.
Upon doing a quick tour of the two venues, the Katacombes and Foufounes Electriques, I settled in Foufounes because that’s where my friends were. The only two bands I really wanted to see were Tomb Mold and Skeletal Remains, who played at 8:45 and 9:35 respectively. As I arrived around 5:00, I had a lot of time to kill. Imperial Triumphant, a jazzy death metal project out of New York, was the band that my friends were waiting for, and I was sure lucky I ended up tagging along.
I was originally intrigued at the description I was given, which were that they were an innovative jazz-death-fusion, but not in a progressive sense to the likes of Atheist, another popular outfit of the sorts. The group comes on wearing black robes and golden masks, with the bassist on stage-right sporting a two-horned devil-like mask and the vocalist/guitarist on stage-left sporting a sun-like mask that looked kind of like what the Statue of Liberty lady wears; I wonder where that inspiration came from. Anyways, these guys delivered a devastating performance. These guys were just weird; they operated in a “new order”, “institution worship” type fashion, in the sense that they acted as if they were part of this religious body that somehow was intellectually superior to others. I don’t know what I’m talking about, check these guys out, they were great. They also did some odd slide stuff with a glass bottle on their guitars which immediately intrigued me and awarded them my infinite respect.
Following a quick nourishment of delicious Lebanese cuisine, I was off to see Tomb Mold at the Katacombes. I had previously seen them on their co-headlining tour with Of Feather and Bone, and obviously wanted more. The band were extremely tight and only played tracks off of their newest release; they also played two brand new songs, which will assumingly be included on their next full-length (I didn’t catch the new song names as the singer was announcing them in his death metal voice; classic metalhead problems). I didn’t get a good gauge over whether or not the new songs they played were any good, as its hard to be analytical and hear everything in a live setting. The band was energetic as ever, and the crowd was really into their performance which is a bit strange as Tomb Mold’s music doesn’t necessarily transition the best into a live setting in comparison to other bands. Good stuff from the Canadian boys!
Skeletal Remains followed after a quick jaunt across the block to a different bar. The group was unfortunately plagued by in-ear monitor mixing issues, as they kept asking for guitar and drum sounds to be raised on their monitors in between songs which kind of killed their flow. Furthermore, they messed up their show introduction, as there was supposed to be a tape that played prior to their performance but something went wrong at some point and they had to start over. I don’t quite know whether or not this was the group’s fault or whether it was the girl in the mixing booth’s, but she didn’t have any issues with prior bands, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Regardless, the group played a tight set with an emphasis on songs from their newest album, Devouring Mortality. So far we’re three-out-of-three!
Unfortunately, however, our trinity of success is thrown off by Bell Witch. For those out of the noose, (get it? Like “loop” but its morbid because the band plays funeral doom? Sorry!) Bell Witch plays in a very, very, very slow style which puts an emphasis on taking you over rather than throwing you around for a good time. It’s the type of music you play in the morning when you’re absorbing your morning coffee and still hate life. I don’t know who booked a funeral doom band to the bill, but the transition from the raw old-school death metal flair of Skeletal Remains to Bell Witch’s endless pit of blackness was too jarring for me. They played “Mirror Reaper”, or Mirror Reaper depending on which way you swing, which is the hour-long song off of their newest album of the same name. The crowd was bored, I was bored, I don’t know why they played at a “deathfest”. There was one chick in the crowd who had her arms up and was smiling and spinning, but I think she was just happy that beers were only $4.50. Don’t get me wrong, I highly respect the band for being able to play an hour-long song, and having the guts to get up there and put a whole crowd through that, but it wasn’t what most people were there for, to be honest.
Okay these are some long paragraphs and we’re only wrapping up the first day. Immolation followed suit, closing off the night in blistering fashion. They killed it, as everyone expected. I thought the lead singer was going to swallow the microphone with the way he was attacking it. I highly recommend!
The second and final day was the big headliner concert-type night. Some huge names were there on Saturday night at the MTELUS concert venue, but smaller bands played at both the Katacombes and Foufounes Electriques, including Skinless and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. However, I stayed for the larger bands because I really like all but one (being Unleashed), and that’s just because I’ve never heard of them before.
Exhorder warmed up the stage and the band’s bluesy-groove type style really worked as an opener, as something as heavy as Demolition Hammer would have been too crazy for 6:00. For those who are unaware, the band produced two fairly great albums in the early ‘90s and then called it quits, falling into obscurity as a result. However, with time and an ever-growing cult following, the band got together and they headline festivals now, I guess. We live in a great time as fans! They played really well from the perspective of someone who is familiar with their music, but anyone would enjoy their set as the group is very groovy.
Grave followed and introduced us to our first death metal outfit of the night. The group flew all the way from Sweden (Unleashed did too, more on them later) to play that night, so lots of respect to them! They were also celebrating their thirty year anniversary, so they played tracks they wrote in between 1988 and 1991, which basically means their first couple of EPs and albums. It quickly became evident that a lot of their old material is composed in a very similar fashion (it is old-school death metal after all), but luckily they only played an hour-long set so they didn’t get too repetitive. Great energy and an overall great performance!
Demolition Hammer followed, which is a group I have been wanting to see live for a while, both because their music rips and they’re an incredibly live band. The lead singer was lively as hell, and poked fun at himself for being an old man, claiming that he’s risking a heart attack being up on stage so the fans better risk getting heart attacks as well by being equally lively; luckily most of us were younger than him. As everyone expected, they performed really well. They also brought up Skeletal Remains, the band who played the night before, on stage to watch from the sidelines. I didn’t know why at first, until they played “Human Dissection”, and I remembered that the chorus to that track is “human dissection, skeletal remains!” and it dawned on me that their band name is a reference to that song. The four guys in Skeletal Remains were filming the performance and it was funny to see them fanboying over another band; it really puts things into perspective, they’re human too!
Unleashed followed as the second-last band of the night; they also came all the way from Sweden. I didn’t know of them prior, but I enjoyed their set all the same. Their music is however fairly repetitive, especially in terms of the vocal segments. They have a song called “The Longships are Coming” and I swear the number just consists of the lead singer saying that over and over again. They were still good, though, just a little repetitive in terms of vocal and song structures which really showed, especially since their set was longer.
Finally, Autopsy closed off the night, and it was well worth the wait. Chris Reifert, lead singer and drummer, is an absolute madman. Seeing him go absolutely crazy on the drums and still be able to sing better than most lead singers who don’t play an instrument at the same time was worth my attendance alone. I gained a lot of respect for the guy that night; I also just learned that he played drums on Death’s Scream Bloody Gore, what?! Autopsy killed it, and their gross form of death metal really transitioned well in a live setting.
All in all, I’d say that the first rendition of Quebec Deathfest was a success. Montreal obviously has the fanbase to host such a large event, as both the MTELUS and Foufounes Electriques were packed when I was in attendance. In similar fashion to the California and Maryland Deathfests, I really hope this one becomes a yearly thing!