By: Kristof G.
First on the menu, we had a trio of homegrown Montreal bands, starting with the crustiest of the lot, Dopethrone, in the Forest.
Old school punks with heavy influences, the slutch crew – some sort of frozen swamp sludge – maybe close to Iron Monkey and Eyehategod (the heavily inked frontwoman Julie Swan’s dark vibes seems to channel Mike IX Williams’), but their bluesy riffs are guaranteed to get you thirsty and dizzy.
Kudos to Julie, bassist Vyk, drummer Shaun and singer-guitarist Vince (and guest screamer Costa for Scum Fuck Blues). Well done, Bourbon crew. Couldn’t wish for a better opener for the day we bade farewell to Slayer.
Next, on the main Heavy stage, Despised Icon literally crushed the already big crowd, a tad after 2PM. You may already know that the pioneers of deathcore are one of Quebec’s biggest metal exports, with Cryptopsy and Voïvod. And for a good reason: they are heavier than thou (we’re speaking Meshuggah level heavyweight), and as tight and thick as the best tank on the market. Plus, their two singers – one screamer, one pig-squealer – are having a whole lot of contagious, headbangin’ fun, running around onstage.
In the Garden, Quebec’s best-kept secret, The Great Sabatini, delivered one damn fine performance, which could be described as Today is the Day meets Helmet in a dark alley, while (the) Melvins await. Null and Void (from 2012’s Matterhorn) is still one of this writer’s favorites. Live, that circular riff is so dangerously devastating. Could be the perfect soundtrack of any Bosch painting/exhibit or films like Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer and Eraserhead.
Right after, stoner rock juggernaut Fu Manchu took the Forest, for a road trip no one will forget. Solid rock, overflowing with huge riffs. Awesome stuff. While they were playing their great and oh so hefty cover of Blue Öyster Cult’s Godzilla, we sadly had to leave the well-oiled machine’s bangin’ set to catch Anthrax being inducted into the Hall of Heavy Metal History, some sort of online thing…
Then, we caught a bit of Metalachi’s set, which was kinda like walking in From Dusk till Dawn’s Titty Twister. It’s impossible not to smile when there’s corpse-painted mariachis covering metal classics, like some Iron Maiden and Slayer’s Raining Blood.
We had to miss the scary and theatrical performance of In This Moment, to catch the one show we were really looking forward that day: Corrosion of Conformity. The thing is, this writer hadn’t had a chance to see this line up live, with leader Pepper Keenan, who returned to the fold in 2014, after 8 years away (mostly spent with sludge supergroup Down). Expectations were high, and they were met big time.
Even if the four-piece only had a mere 40-minute set to do, the fans were regaled with a quartet of songs from timeless classic Deliverance (1994), including the mighty Albatross and single Clean my Wounds, as well as the old school Vote with a Bullet (from 1991’s Blind) and the title song from the equally powerful Wiseblood (1996).
Original members Woody Weatherman (Lead Guitar) and Mike Dean (Bass) have been at it since 1982 – minus a short 4-year break – and they were still having a blast playing all those 90s sludge classics.
That way-too-short-but-oh-so-awesome set, could break a whole lot of necks, from too much headbanging, no doubt.
Then, next on the Apocalypse stage was Clutch, Maryland’s pride and one of the US of A’s most reliable heavy rock outfits, with tales of sasquatch, x-ray vision, monsters and some Texas death. Of course, they played a whole bunch of songs off their latest record, Book of Bad Decisions (2018), including opener Ghoul Wrangler – their video is so much fun, with horrific FX and all.
They followed it with a crowd-pleaser, The Mob Goes Wild from 2004’s Blast Tyrant, which had lyrics like “Everybody moves to Canada and smoke a lot of pot”. We all knew we were in for a great ride. Smiling, bearded singer Neil Fallon proved once again how great and electric a frontman he is, by pacing the stage with the ease of a wild, happy wolverine. Almost 3 decades in, the foursome (Fallon, guitarist Tim Sult, drummer Jean-Paul Gaster, and bassist Dan Maines) managed to stay together, by touring constantly and releasing a whooping 12-album discography so far, which is quite a feat.
When you see them live, you understand why: authentic rockers still having a blast onstage after all these years. And even if their set didn’t include any songs from their first five albums, nobody complained. Pure rock was fiercely played and that’s what mattered.
Fulfilled with the one-two punch of COC and Clutch, Guitar God Slash was up next on the main stage. Strangely, we had been informed earlier that day, that his management had allowed a smaller number of medias to shoot his show from the pit; even if the guitarist is a huge horror film lover, Rue Morgue wasn’t on the list. However, he wasn’t playing any Guns n’ Roses songs except for Nightrain, so…
While one can understand it wasn’t a GNR show, it is still quite frustrating to watch a Slash concert without hearing (almost) any GNR riffage and solos. Quite a drag actually, even if the man still had skills under his trademarked top hat. Should’ve chosen death metal old-schoolers Demolition Hammer, who were performing at the same time on a smaller stage.
Another one-two punch followed, a thrash metal one this time. Half of the Big Four were in town, and old school metal fans were excited. While Anthrax (the classic line up, except for Lead Guitarist Jon Donais, who joined the band in 2013) is always tight and fun live, their festival setlists are mostly composed of the same anthems, unfortunately.
It was actually their fourth time at the festival (2008, 2011, 2014). They surprised the crowd with their intro, which blended the beginning of Pantera’s Cowboys from Hell and Caught in a Mosh (Among the Living, 1987).
It was also great to see singer Joey Belladonna, guitarist Scott Ian, bassist Frank Bello and drummer Charlie Benante play a couple of rare cuts. [Click here to read our 2018 Sinister Seven interview with horror hound Ian]
We could bang our heads to Now It’s Dark off State of Euphoria (1988) and A.I.R. from Spreading the Disease (1985). Yes. However, next year, Persistence of Time will turn 30… fans would unquestionably love having the whole thing live… just sayin’.
Finally, Slayer, for a third and final time at the fest: in 2010, the original line-up of the band (Tom Araya, Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman, Dave Lombardo) played Seasons in the Abyss in its entirety, before headlining the 2014 one with Metallica.
Quite disheartening to see them folding, the one thrash metal act that has been the most consistent since their beginnings in 1981, in spite of line up changes.
Araya (throat, bass) and King (guitar) may have been playing with great drummer Paul Bostaph (ex-Forbidden) and solid guitarist Gary Holt – from fellow thrash veterans Exodus – for a while now (especially the former), but no Slayer fan can forget Lombardo’s incredible drumming and Hanneman’s (1964-2013, R.I.P.) riffs and crazy solos.
Hard to believe we won’t scream SLAAAAAAYEEEEER in a concert anymore. Goddamn.
That night, during their 90-minute set, Slayer went through most of their catalogue, ripping songs from Seasons (5 songs, no less!) and all the records that matter – Reign in Blood, South of Heaven, Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits, even Haunting the Chapel – and some most recent stuff as well.
20 songs, 20 ripping blasts of hellraising Slayer. Tens of thousands of screaming fans. And some crying ones, after seeing Araya wipe a tear before leaving the stage. It still hurts.
Slayer will reign (in blood) forever.
Photos by Kristof G.
P.S. Stay tuned to read exclusive Sinister Seven interviews here soon, with a trio of Municipal Waste dudes (drummer Dave Witte, guitarist Ryan Waste and singer Tony Foresta), as well as the leader of Ghost, Tobias Forge.