Monday, 1 September 2014

Wings of Metal 2014 Review / August 29th and 30th @Katacombes, Montréal with The Skull, Holocaust, Blood Ceremony, Bölzer, Dream Death and more!

All live pictures by Wayne William Archibald unless credited otherwise.

Day 1


The first day of the festival could be summed up by the word “occult” but the atmosphere was far from being that way. It was very cordial, without pretension and musicians and fans alike were meldling in the great and cosy Katacombes on Saint-Laurent boulevard. Out of the six bands

Phobocosm are local death metal heroes so I was already widely familiar with their stuff as I've seen them live three times. I decided to save my strength for the rest of the weekend! They'll release their debut album in late September (Toronto and Montréal) if you like your death metal to be inspired by Immolation and Incantation!

Part 1: New York Menace

Occultation was then the first band on my schedule. I enjoyed their set back in 2012 with the superb lineup of Cauchemar, Borrowed Time, Metalian and Demontage (many members of these bands were in the attendance of this edition of Wings of Metal!) but I thought their debut album Three & Seven was a bit lackluster. Their upcoming one is quite excellent so I was expecting a good set from these guys. Their blend of occult doom mixed with some black elements (courtesy of their guitarist Ed Miller, leader of Negative Plane.) I really like their riffs and the prominent bass of this black clad blond sorceress but the vocals were really mediocre this time around, the singer had sound issues and she didn't sound good at all. Miller sang one of the songs and his clean vocals were excellent so I don't really know what happened, maybe it was simply a bad day? I really dig these guys no matter what and I was happy that they replaced the decent but nothing special Irish band Zom. Follow these guys and don't forget to check out their new album Silence in the Ancestral House when it will be released in October.

7,5 or 8 leather jackets out of 10

Natur were next with their awesome NWOBHM inspired heavy metal garnished with some doom metal here and there. I've seen their previous Montréal gig (with the mediocre Voor) and it was very cool to see them again and this time, it was the full fledged band and not session members (the singer/guitarist and bassist weren't there the last time). Tooth Log (session drummer for Occultation) played two sets in a row but he's a young dude who lifts so no problem there! Natur has awesome leads, energetic riffs and a good albeit simple vocal presence. They have an upcoming album scheduled for this year, I believe

8 “old metal” out of 10

Part 2: Kvlt Swiss Offering

Bölzer were probably one of the most expected band of the festival and with good reasons. The Swiss duo (guitarist/vocalist and a drummer) played more than one hour (so yeah, all their discography and some new stuff that was never played life before.) It's pretty awesome to see a band generating so much hype without a full length album out, it means that they must be doing a lot of things the right way. Their black/death metal sound (albeit with clear influences from European legends like their local heroes of Celtic Frost or Bathory) is mixed with well thought dissonant modern influences and this combination creates an unparalleled atmospheric wall of sound. I thought that the screeching feedback between the songs was beyond annoying but I guess it was part of their game. Even without a bass player, the duo is still quite impressive and I believe the release of their debut album will cement their status as one of the most important band of their generation. Great merch (I got the sparkling lime round patch with lightnings on it!), interesting personas, great music, Bölzer has everything to become big and their two sets at the latest Maryland Death Fest proved that.

8,5 pagan sunwheels tattoos out of 10
Pic by Yannick Marchand

Part 3: Trad doom (old and new)

Blood Ceremony were supposed to play the first edition of Wings of Metal last year but their singer Alia O'Brien got sick and they had to cancel. The Toronto band plays Montréal often but it's always a joy when I see them (third time already). This was probably the best set I've seen, they played a varied set encompassing their three full lengths (see the setlist) and I was more than happy that “Lord Summerisle” (sang by their bassist Lucas Gadke) was featured as it's my favorite track from their latest album The Eldritch Dark . Their fifty minutes or so set was like butter on bread, it was nice and the whole band was in great shape. Alia was moving a lot with her fringe decorated vest and her flute and keyboard skills are up through the roof.

8,5 magicians out of 10

The Skull were the headliners of this evening and they rocked hard. Composed of three ex members of the seminal American doom band Trouble, they're in my opinion the real deal since the original singer Eric Wagner is with them. Their performance was divided between two sets, the first being the whole Psalm 9 (“Assassin” was so good!) album and the second being other songs including some new ones from the upcoming debut of the band. While I like their dual guitar approach and their fast paced formula, their gig was a bit redundant from time to time but that's probably just me being a grump who likes slow stuff! Their two guitarists were really damn good, no need to have Franklin and Wartell since they released a sub-par album with Trouble last year. Wagner killed it. He was boozing a lot on and off the stage and its declination of Christian (but dark) lyrics was quite powerful even though he's halfway through his fifties!

Two great sets by some legendary musicians, it was an honor to see one of the doom metal forefathers play in my city.

8,5 lord is our saviour out of 10

Day 2

My anticipation for the second day was greater since it was the first time I was gonna see any of the seven bands featured on the bill. The show started early at 18:00 and I was there to see the first band! The gig was a bit more varied this time and it had diverse atmospheres that were appropriately combined.

Part 1: North American Venomesque & thrashy heavy/speed metal

Gatekrashör from Calgary, Alberta opened the gig and they rocked hard. They were perhaps the only band I decided not to check out before the festival as it's always fun to have some surprises. The traditional heavy metal melded with speed metal. They studied their shit thoroughly since you can definitely hear the fun silliness of Metalucifer, I mean they have nicknames like Steel Avenger and song titles like “Heavy Metal Rangers”. They only have one guitarist but he fucking shreds. Their singer is fucking awesome and has a bone necklace and belches between the songs, that's a perfect frontman in the purest Piledriver tradition and while his range is nothing impressive, he's rough, more than adequate and he's an awesome front man.

8 hevy metal 'rills out of 10

Bat (believe it or not, they're apparently the first and only band called Bat in the metal universe) were pretty cool. A speed metal band formed by the leader of Municipal Waste and the guitarist of the up and coming heavy metal band Volture, the power trio was impressive and their fast compositions were nice to hear. Their drummer (Felix Griffin, formerly of DRI) couldn't cross the border so they used Al Biddle (Chainbreaker, ex-Cauldron) as he was in town, he learned the songs in a day to my drum noob ears, he was still very tight! They played a Venom cover of “Live like an Angel (Die like a Devil)” for the few who wondered who was their main influence. These guys are there to play what they want, it's fast and fun like it should be.

7,5 bat signals out of 10

Part 2: Ethereal Doom Moment

The Canadian epic doom band Funeral Circle played my most anticipated gig of the festival, their doom inspired by the likes of Solstice and Solitude Aeternus is simply awesome. Jean-Pierre Abboud (singer of the excellent American heavy band Borrowed Time) is now their vocalist and he's by far the best one they ever had. He came on stage wearing this hooded monk robe and sang the first song with it before reappearing dressed with his Saint Vitus leather jacket! The two guitarists were great at creating interesting landscapes full of slow and faster riffs and intricate leads. Their leader recently moved to Montréal so it will be fun to have another local doom band than Cauchemar!

Read my review for their self titled full length: Click me!
9,5 black colossus out of 10
Photo by Carolina Vanegas
Part 3: Pittsburgh Crushing Kvlt Doom Duo

3.1: Death doooooooooom!
Up next were the American cult death/doom band Derkéta widely known to be one of the first and only all female death metal group but nowadays their drummer is a man! They were decent but Sharon (guitar, vocals) had a sore throat and her vocals were almost inaudible, this plagued the set for me unfortunately. They played a good mix of old and new stuff (including a new song called “Darkness Fades Life” and their slow to mid paced crushing demeanor was pleasing to see.

8 metal goddesses out of 10
Sharon Bascovsky, badass death metal lady

3.2: Thrash dooooooooooom!
Well known for their seminal 1987 album “Journey Into Mystery”, Dream Death reformed recently and released an excellent sophomore album. Their set was a good mix of two tracks from this album and the classics from their debut including “Black Edifice”, “Sealed in Blood” and “Dream Death”. Their Celtic Frost inspired melting pot of extreme metal is awesome and they sound more like the Swiss band than Triptykon ever will. It was also very cool to see Mike Smail play, he was the drummer on one of my favorite albums of all time (Cathedral's “Forest of Equilibrium”.) I had a great time with this bunch of veterans who still has the passion to play metal like when they were in the early twenties.

9 feasts of the living out of 10

Part 4: Old School Heavy!

3.1: The French speedsters of ADX
For their first time in North America, the classic French band played almost all of its excellent debut album “Exécution” starting the set with “Déesse du crime” and ending it with “Caligula”. It was pretty much the perfect location for them to play in the new world since they're a French speaking band, they even got offered a Québec flag with their logo on it and they were clearly touched by the gift. Their guitars were mixed a bit too softly but their sound was mostly fine, it was catchy and fun, their choruses were by far the most memorable of the festival. CALIGULA! CALIGULA!

8,5 cousins from the old continent out of 10
Thanks to my buddy Antoine Desgagnés for the setlist

3.2: The classic NWOBHM of Holocaust
The last band of the two day festival (before the after gig of Sunday that I didn't attend) was Holocaust from Scotland. I knew they were gonna play the whole The Nightcomers album (due to Annick Giroux's request) album beforehand but I was hoping from some songs from their underrated progressive years (especially some from Covenant or The Courage to Be) and while I only got (“Dance into the Vortex” from their The Sounds of Souls EP ) it was a great set and I understand they wanted to please the traditional fans first and foremost. “Death and Glory” still has one of the best riffs ever and “Heavy Metal Mania” is just so fun. John Mortimer dedicated the aforementioned prog song to the memory of Denis D'Amour of Voivod while Michel Langevin and Denis Bélanger were in the crowd. The guitar tone was spectacular and the rhythm section was optimal, they had one of the best sound I heard at the Katacombes, the vocals were crystal clear and the solos were masterful. A great way to end the two days of madness!

9 “I got heavy metal music in my blood” out of 10

It was a very great festival and possibly the apex of my metal summer. I already can't wait to see what Annick (singer of Cauchemar if you didn't know) will get for the third edition in 2015. My fingers are crossed for Slough Feg personally but I'm sure it won't disappoint.  I have nothing more to say, really... Oh perhaps, look at this useless chart I made because I'm a nerd! 

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