In April, the Montreal City Council officially dubbed it a “heavy metal city”. The whole thing seems to be City Councillor Craig Sauvé’s idea – or at the very least, it was Sauvé who brought this to the Council’s attention.

Sauvé’s motion basically says that Quebecois heavy metal – with Montreal at its center – is globally acknowledged for its quality and the liveliness of its local scene. 

As this year’s Heavy Montreal (formerly known as Heavy MTL) approaches, this whole Heavy Metal City™ thing got me thinking. First of all, what the heck does that even mean?

Well… As mentioned in Sauvé’s motion, Montreal has a very rich history of metal. So many great bands got their starts in our beloved city – or around it at least. Sauvé mentions Cryptopsy, Necrotic Mutation, and Despised Icon, but those are but a few examples. Voivod wasn’t included in that list because it’s technically from Jonquière, even though they are very active in the city to this day. On top of these more classic bands, you also got groups like Mountain Dust and The Great Sabatini, which keep the scene always fresh.

But you don’t get to be a Heavy Metal City™ by just producing good bands. You’ve also got to have a pumped up audience to get trashing. And oh boy do Montreal crowds trash. I’ve been to quite a few shows here and it’s always a treat. Sure, you pay to see the bands perform your favourite songs, but the true joy comes from experiencing it together with a bunch of long haired, black t-shirt wearing, sweaty people headbanging and jumping up and down. 

And also Metallica’s James Hetfield has said (among a thousand other people) that Montreal is his favourite city to play. Sure, he may say that a lot, but to say that about the place where you suffered serious burns on stage and then Axl Rose still got the headlines, that’s some serious love of our audiences.

That being said I’m just a young boy, so feel free to doubt my experience and expertise on this matter. But…Montreal was the home to North America’s first international heavy metal festival, aptly named World War III. 

I wasn’t even alive in 1985. But talking to Hellbound in 2010, “Toronto scene mainstay” Dave Busch was “blown away by such an incredible lineup.” You had Quebec’s Voivod, California’s Possessed, Florida’s Nasty Savage, Switzerland’s Celtic Frost, and Germany’s Destruction. 

And although the vibrancy of Montreal’s local scene is in a league of its own, it is this global, international side of things that makes me think that Montreal truly deserves this new-ish title. What was started in 1985 lives on today via Heavy Montreal.

I’ve been self-proclaiming as a Montrealer for only seven years, but I’ve been to every Heavy Montreal since 2012. And while I hate the commute to and from Parc Jean-Drapeau, I still end up at Heavy Montreal because they keep attracting great metal bands from all over the world.

Montreal doesn’t really need its City Council to officially dub it a Heavy Metal City™ to be one. The metalheads of this city already knew that. But there are still some benefits to this acknowledgment. 

Metal remains the so-called “black sheep” of music genres. It’s loud, in-your-face, and VioLEnt (whatever that means.) People have no trouble embracing genres like jazz or indie pop. Getting that official recognition might make it easier for the nay-sayers to get over themselves. 

One such nay-sayer was councillor Marvin Rotrand who was concerned that heavy metal is too ViOlEnt. I mean yes, but it’s not like a musical genre can be inherently evil. If anything, it’s like a pitbull. It might end up being bad at the hands of bad people. But like, let me enjoy my metal, I don’t do anything bad with it. Get over yourself. Listen to some Black Album Metallica and embrace this beautiful genre, like the city did.

Heavy Montreal 2019 is July 27-28 at Parc Jean-Drapeau. A preview of some of the acts to check out this year is coming soon

heavy mtl signOne of the heaviest music festivals in North America happened last weekend. Mike Gwilliam and Dawn McSweeney offer their impressions of some of the acts they caught on Saturday’s edition of Heavy MTL.

Mike Gwilliam: Heavy MTL is, in my opinion, one of the best heavy metal festivals in North America and possibly the best in Canada. People from all over the world attend and with good reason. The two-day lineups have been rock solid since the festival’s birth in 2008. While this year’s line-up was criticized by many as being inferior to the previous year’s (System of a Down, Manson, Slipknot, Deftones, Killswitch Engage) the festival has stated on its Facebook page that it simply tries to get the heaviest music it can without sticking to a single genre or sub-genre of the grand entity known simply as Heavy Metal. And with that said, it didn’t disappoint.

Credo: If you see someone down, help them up.


Dawn McSweeney: All I remember is our group deciding in unison that they sucked.

MG: If you’re a fan of Disturbed, you should like Device. I had seen Disturbed live before, but David Draiman, for some reason, just lacks energy here. Sad considering he can be a very powerful and clean vocalist.


DM: These guys rocked. Great crowd interaction, charisma, energy, toe tapping goodness. I plan to hear more of these guys on purpose.

MG: I was bored during this. I got more hell out of Gwar. This was more like heck.


DM: I hate it when people get a chance in the spotlight only to prove the cliché. I was disappointed that the one chick on stage on Saturday was off key, crummy, and singing about how she “gets off on you getting on off me.” Ick. People started chanting for GWAR.

MG: I love female vocalists in bands. Doesn’t matter if it’s In This Moment, Arch Enemy or Hanzel Und Gretyl. I love female vocalists. Halestorm impressed me. Lzzy Hale’s legs were more exciting than Obey the Brave.



DM: Holy shit. I was looking forward to the spectacle, and I underestimated what I was in for. Costumes, staged assassinations, bloodbath and uh, other simulated fluids. With all that, they could’ve easily let the music fall by the wayside, but they didn’t. Theatrical, talented, worth it. I’d see them again.

MG: This was great live. Had a lot of fun watching them. I don’t think you could ever be a fan of metal and dislike watching Hitler get torn to shreds followed by Jesus being crucified with “blood” squirting all over people up front. Awesome stuff. Would love to see the reaction these guys would get if they were to bring out an Osama Bin Laden, George Bush, Justin Bieber, Prophet Muhammad or Pauline Marois in future performances. Great music too.


DM: Chill, melodic metal. Who knew.


DM: I was hoping they’d be fun and funny, and they were neither. Plus, they sucked musically. Oh, and they think it’s funny to call stuff gay, and they did a song about screwing 17 chicks in a row. And they did about 5 pointless minutes on their love of pussy. Fun fact: our group seemed oddly divided along GWAR/Steel Panther lines. I’m a GWAR girl.

MG: This was probably the most hilarious band I’ve ever seen. Steel Panther is not meant to be taken seriously. That’s why they have a song called Asian Hooker. And they even ask the audience “who likes Asian hookers?” They made fun of themselves and audience members. Talking about how big the metal scene is and then saying “look, there’s even a black guy in the audience.” You don’t go to a metal show expecting political correctness. Death to all but metal.


DM: My vote for tightest, most professional show of the day. It truly felt like Their Show rather than a short set in a mega show. I was so impressed, I Googled them on the spot, realized it’s Zakk Wylde’s band. I remained impressed, but stopped being surprised.

MG: Didn’t care for them. Went to get food. Some girl in line ordered 5 hotdogs and stuffed them into her purse. Hero.


DM: I remember them playing; they left no impression.

MG: Love Swedish metal. These guys were great. Would see them again. At The Gates were probably the most impressive band I heard at Heavy MTL. Their hard rock sound was a much needed change from the heavier droning sounds from earlier in the afternoon.


newstead heavy mtl

DM: Fronted by Jason Newsted, ex-Metallica bassist, I really dug this one. Best bass, and sexiest metal of the day. I want to hear more.


DM: What a nice bunch of dudes! They genuinely thanked the crowd for being there, acknowledging that they were playing against Danzig, and they seemed legit flattered at the turnout they got. Great energy and showmanship.


MG: What’s with these scene-core like bands who are only slightly better than Brokencyde? I’d honestly would have loved Heavy MTL to just give Steel Panther more time or someone else instead of this group. The fact they got as long as they did was silly. The sound didn’t seem right either. If these guys are bad on CD then they’re even worse live.



DM: With 42 bands playing over the weekend, and some notable folks including Ozzy’s old guitarist, it seems pretty pompous to be the one band who needed press to sign an additional photo waiver. But Megadeth did it because, well, Dave Mustaine thinks he’s special. I hoped his arrogance wouldn’t affect the performance, but between songs they played movie clips that referenced the band. It was tacky and uninspired. I was disappointed. My Official Music Man, who’s seen them 11 times now, rates this in their bottom 3 performances.

MG: I’m not a Megadeth fan, but I thought this was a good performance and should have headlined over Avenged Sevenfold. I was amused when they took shots at Avenged’s basstech. Overall, they were good. Surprised they didn’t close with “Symphony of Destruction,” but good set, good energy, and a good show.


DM: Best thing I can say about them is that their guitarist rocks and deserves a better band. The young ’uns and the girls seem to love ’em. We couldn’t bear it and bounced early.

* Photos by Jerry Gabriel and Dawn McSweeney, for more, check out the Facebook Album