What The Heck Is A Heavy Metal City?

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

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