It’s not often I get a chance to linger in Montreal, it seems. My first long ago trip to this addictive city was for leisurely pleasure, but usually I go for a specific reason. I arrive, I attend whatever I’m supposed to attend, squeeze in a visit with someone if I can, then head straight home. But this May I deliberately set aside some time after my main event to hang around, do some research and explore.
The research is still in progress, but my time in Montreal is worth reporting on nonetheless. Consider what follows to be an incomplete traveller’s guide of sorts. Or read it, perhaps, as a recommendation or two for music fans (and cat lovers) who have time to spend in Quebec’s largest city.
Le Musée du Rock’n’Roll
I discovered le Musée du Rock’n’Roll last summer in its mobile form. I was delighted to climb aboard the museum bus parked at Heavy Montreal – and decorated by Voivod‘s Away – and to get a chance to explore the rock, punk and metal exhibit inside. That’s also where I finally picked up my copy of L’évolution du métal québécois – Tome I: No speed limit (1964-1989) by Félix B. Desfossés and Ian Campbell (www.facebook.com/histoiremetalqc), which had been on my ‘to buy’ list for a while.
A few months later, le Musée hosted a stationary exhibition on heavy metal in Quebec, and I so wanted to attend but it just wasn’t in the cards. What I did get to check out, however, was the most recent exhibition on underground music in Montreal, mostly focused on the sixties and seventies. The connection to my heavier interests may have been somewhat tangential, but the exhibition was well worth my time.
Upon request (and for a small, completely voluntary donation), Musée founder/director Patrice Caron gave me a guided tour of the objects on display. The tour unfolded like an oral history with the objects acting more like prompts than absorbing our full attention. The version Caron treated me to focused on telling the story in English for a non-resident, and it was both informative and fascinating.
I took more pictures than those you see below, but the amateur snapshots really under-sell the experience, and the images are much less meaningful without the narration. Consider this selection to be just a taste, hopefully enough to intrigue you to check out le Musée for yourselves. This standing exhibition was only scheduled to the end of May, but there are most certainly more stories to come.
After my visit to le Musée I eventually made my way over to Avenue du Mont-Royal E for my first record store excursion of the trip. I did a little investigation online beforehand and was drawn to Freeson Rock thanks to a description that identified the store’s focus as heavy metal and progressive rock. It wasn’t hard to find, but I think it was the records on display in the storefront rather than the business sign that first announced that I’d reached my destination.
Inside, the shop is somewhere between bright and airy or sterile, which somehow seemed entirely appropriate for the progginess of it all. If I wasn’t already delighted, the Haken on the sound system would have seduced me. And, in fact, Haken’s latest, Affinity, was one of my purchases there. After two visits I ended up with a heavy stack of vinyl: the Haken record, Ihsahn’s Arktis, the Judas Priest maxi-single you see pictured here, Tiamat’s Wildhoney, a live recording of The Gathering’s recent anniversary celebrations, a double LP of Voivod’s Negatron and Phobos albums, and a handful of 45s. (And possibly others – I might be forgetting something.)
I saved my visit to Soundcentral for the following day. Again I was drawn in by the online descriptions of the store as having a particularly good metal selection, including a separate section for stoner, sludge and doom. Walking in you’re immediately met with a familiar-feeling and comforting ‘indie record store’ vibe, and the attention paid to metal and punk is obvious right away. Other genres are well-represented as well, but Soundcentral seems to cater particularly to niche sounds.
Here I was as entranced by the space and the decor as I was with the music on offer. The owner was kind enough to talk about the store’s history while I was there and to answer some additional questions – keep an eye out for that conversation to show up here in some form before too long.
History + photography
If you’re not aware of Wayne Archibald‘s historical and current heavy metal photography, you should be. I had the good fortune to meet him last summer and was able to chat with him again on this visit to Montreal. We talked metal history – magazines and fan zines, tape trading, shows, demos, label deals and more, in addition to photography. And I am now the proud owner of a poster-size print of a very young Voivod, a signed Archibald original that now hangs on my home office wall.
Events + venues
Soundcentral and Freeson Rock both displayed event posters and flyers advertising the wealth of live heavy music on offer while I was in Montreal. I almost ended up attending www.pouzzafest.com by accident (though I knew it was going on), as I happened to walk past Katacombes and the outdoor stage while bands were performing. I could hear the music from blocks away, even before the waves of black and khaki and ripped clothing came into sight.
Accidental encounters also gave me a chance to meet and chat with metalhead / Concordia professor Vivek Venkatesh and to learn a little more about his current and upcoming endeavours. Which has also led to me planning my next trip to Montreal. If you can, check out these events coming up at the beginning of July and August. (And stay tuned to Hellbound this week for p/review of the Blekkmetal documentary.)
Saturday, July 2
Ivar Bjørnson’s (Enslaved) Dark Psych Ambient Project w/ special guest Softcoresoft, plus a panel with Ivar and Grutle from Enslaved, hosted by Simon Giard (Le Bourreau Metallique)
15$ – tickets available online at lepointdevente.com/billets/grimposium-bardspec
Blekkmetal – Canadian Premier
Sunday, July 3
VA114 cinema, Concordia University, 1395 René-Lévesque Ouest
Blekkmetal – a documentary about the one-off 2015 festival celebrating the origins of Norwegian black metal.
Screening and panel with Enslaved.
FREE to the public / GRATUIT au public général
Also announced: additional panel with Kevin Tierney (producer – Bon Cop, Bad Cop), Aisling Chin-Yee (Fluent Films) and David Hall (director – Blekkmetal) on prospects and challenges in creating and distributing independent cinema.
Doomed to Death: An Academic Symposium
The Intersection of Psychoanalysis, Media Studies and Tourism Management in Extreme Metal
Thursday, August 4
Concordia University, 1610 Rue Sainte-Catherine
Daniel Butler, MA – Disfigurement as a Vital Process in an Era of Fabricated Bodies
Mark Kleppel, MSc – Unveiling Extreme Metal Festival Producers: The Emergence of Narrative Identities
Jason Netherton, MA – The Entreprecariat: Recording Artists in Extreme Metal Music Protp Markets
and Discussant Lee Mellor, BA
Doomed to Death: Death by Metal
Thursday, August 4
VA114 cinema, Concordia University, 1395 René-Lévesque Ouest
Bilingual panel with Jason Netherton and Mark Kloeppel (Misery Index), Michael Berberian (Season of Mist), and Michelle Ayoub (Broken Board Montreal).
Death metal vocal workshop with Marie-Hélène Landry (Obsolete Mankind) and Sébastien Croteau (Necrotic Mutation).
Free / gratuit – $5 suggested donation
Doomed To Death: Misery Index / Vastum / Vengeful / Cardinal Wyrm
Friday, August 5
Grimposium along with Heavy Montreal and Broken Board presents:
Misery Index (US) – Deathgrind veterans
Vastum (US) – first show on Canadian soil! – Death metal
Vengeful (CA) – Death metal
Cardinal Wyrm (US) – Doom/Heavy metal
25$ – tickets available at https://lepointdevente.com/billets/doomedtodeath
Plus: free Panel with Repulsion (US) interviewed by Albert Mudrian (Decibel Magazine) and Jason Netherton (Misery Index, author of Extremity Retained) at 16h30.
Montreal side trip: le Café des Chats
And because no trip is complete without cats…