The lighter side of Heavy & Heavy Mania

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Downsizing – it happens everywhere, even to music festivals. That was certainly the case with the 2016 edition of Heavy Montreal, the metal and hard rock festival in the Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Cut back to two days, a stripped-down HM chose to refocus almost solely on metal acts in a more intimate site August 6 and 7 – instead of the Friday-Sunday format it used in the past. Down also was attendance, roughly 35,000 this year from the 75,000 two years ago when Metallica and Slayer headlined the festival.

Headliners this year included Disturbed and Five Finger Death Punch. Solid acts, to be sure, but they lacked the, uh, punch of past shows. Gone were the punk groups from last year, such as NOFX, that provided some rousing diversity to the bone-crunching rage.

Herewith are a few metal-minded thoughts – not always friendly – on a few of this year’s HM acts.


Five Finger Death Punch – named for an apocryphal martial arts blow made famous in movies such as Kill Bill – feature a signature double bass drum kick to the abdomen that thuds through most of their repertoire. Meaty riffs, catchy hooks and an onslaught of furiousity have made FFDP a festival favourite south of the border.

Singer Ivan Moody’s handgun microphone stand furthers the macho image. The irony is that his lyrics belie the bone-crunching tunes. As with their opening song, “Lift Me Up,” the most common words in his lyrics are “I” and “me” and “my”. Usually combined with a complaint of someone doing him wrong.

It’s thin-skinned stuff, and in this set, only broken by a cover of Bad Company’s self-named 1970s hit. The quintet closed with “The Bleeding,” after a blistering version of their 2011 breakout hit, “Under and Over It.” “The Bleeding” may be what passes as a FFDP ballad… and an oddly downbeat choice to a set that many judged as lacklustre.

MONTREAL, QUE.: August 6, 2016-- Five Finger Death Punch perform during the first day of the 2016 Heavy Montreal festival at Parc Jean Drapeau on Saturday August 6, 2016. (Tim Snow / EVENKO MANDATORY CREDIT)

MONTREAL, QUE.: August 7, 2016-- Volbeat perform during the second day of the 2016 Heavy Montreal festival at Parc Jean Drapeau on Sunday August 7, 2016. (Tim Snow / EVENKO MANDATORY CREDIT)

Left:Five Finger Death Punch, Right: Jacques Cartier Bridge – Photos by Tim Snow


Volbeat are Denmark’s metal exports, though many would quibble with the metal label. These rockers are into Americana roots, from blues, country and folk – all influences can be turned into a hard-driving metal song with soulful undertones.

Michael Poulsen on guitar and vocals, possibly the only man at the festival without ass-length hair or a shaved head, has a rich voice with a wide range – and you can actually understand his lyrics! From the opener – the current radio hit “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown” – the Copenhagen foursome delivered a solid rock set.

For the last song, “Still Counting,” Poulsen invited the singer from Napalm Death to perform with him. Which may be funny, since the signature lyric in the piece goes, “Counting all the assholes in the room… Well I’m definitely not alone!” Good stuff.


Disturbed’s pyromaniac stage show raised the temperature on the Molson Canadian stage as singer David Draiman took his place at his customary pulpit to deliver his dark and moody sermons.

Saturday’s headliners, the Chicago quintet were the closest to superstar power at this year’s event. They were also the only band with crossover appeal, reaching beyond the hardcore metal fan.

Disturbed even delivered a melodic cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence,” only with an overlay of gothic menace. That was preceded by an almost note-for-note cover of Phil Collins’ “Land of Confusion,” which must have left the 20,000 or so fans in attendance more than a little confused.

MONTREAL, QUE.: August 7, 2016-- Disturbed perform during the second day of the 2016 Heavy Montreal festival at Parc Jean Drapeau on Sunday August 7, 2016. (Tim Snow / EVENKO MANDATORY CREDIT)

Disturbed, photo by  Tim Snow


This whip-fast metalcore group from Massachusetts lit up a furious set with a cover of the late Ronnie James Dio’s “Holy Diver.”


The only Montreal representative this year was this experimental group led by former Bionic frontman Johnson Cummins. Their set was heavy on mood, aural intensity and depth. Which explains songs that may have a beginning but work hard and long to find their end.

Bread and Circuses

Heavy Mania is Heavy Montreal’s version of bread and circuses. The Romans, who made this a fine art, employed food distribution, public baths, gladiators, exotic animals, chariot races, and sports competition as a political strategy to distract the population. Looking at Heavy Montreal, they have adopted part of that formula.

You had the theatrics of the heavy metal bands, some free food, lots of drink and, of course, the gladiators of Heavy Mania.

Talking to Montreal-born wrestler Shayne Hawke, one of the Heavy Mania organizers, he revealed to the Nation the secret of jumping off a 15-foot ladder onto another wrestler.

“Dude, I’m bleeding right now. You want the secret to jumping off a 15-foot ladder? You jump off a 15-foot ladder. That’s it. Nobody ever watches a stuntman and says they’re so fake. What we do is so physically taxing and demanding. We don’t have an off-season and it’s extremely dangerous. One slip-up and you’re paralyzed for life,” said Hawke.


“I personally believe calling wrestling fake and denouncing it as such is the equivalent in 2016 of reading a headline in a Facebook article and then having an opinion in the comment section. As in, you did not do your research. You did not bother to read the article. You are just saying this is stupid. Suicide Squad was great, but it was so fake. I saw some of those actors walking around after they were supposed to be dead.”

Hawke is passionate and so are the wrestlers with him. Many had scrapes and cuts, but were game for more. Like Stephanie, who’s been a wrestler for 10 years. She took a few years off to have children and returned to the ring a year and a half ago. Stephanie loved the scene at Heavy Mania.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “Everyone is great and it was fun. It’s a nice sunny day… perfect.”

Stephanie lost her matches this time around, however. “It’s okay, it’s part of the job. Next year I will win for sure,” she said.


Hawke added they attracted a larger crowd than last year.

“We had a great location this year. If you went to the bathroom, you saw Heavy Mania and that was awesome. If I’m going to take a leak and I saw a bunch of guys leaping off the top ropes, I’m going to check that out. We had someone jump off our entranceway onto a guy on a table. In one match we used 3,000 thumbtacks. One of the guys had a thumbtack in his forehead. One guy had a tack on his ass and didn’t know it. When he sat down it was really funny in a morbid way. It was funny to me. Wrestling and sadomasochism go hand-in-hand,” laughed Hawke.

What did Hawke consider the best thing about this year’s show? “At one point in the show it started raining and the crowd didn’t disperse. They were so interested in what was happening in the ring they said we’re going to get soaked but we’re cool with that. I thought that was pretty rad because the rain was cold and two they’re sticking around even though there’s cover about 10 feet away but they want to stay close to the action and they got poured on,” he said.


Co-organizer Spencer Adams said that was the worst part for him. “I hated it because I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off making sure people weren’t getting electrocuted and the equipment wasn’t getting fried,” said Adams.

Another part of the performance was the new wrestlers. Hawke and Adams run the IWS Training Centre wrestling school on Montreal’s West Island. “Some of the dudes were having their first match ever this weekend. Some had three months experience, some had six, but my goal is to get them out and working as soon as possible. Imagine the thrill of having your first match here with the crowd at Heavy MTL,” said Hawke.

Admitted newbie Jonathan Duberry: “I was pretty nervous in the beginning but once you get out there you feel the crowd and you go with the flow. I learned to wrestle at the IWS Training Centre. Shayne Hawke is a great teacher. He gets your ring confidence up in no time. It doesn’t take long before you’re performing in front of people. I was a little nervous here because there is a difference in performing for 100 people versus over 300 people. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but I went out there and tore the roof off.”


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