Metallica fans flocked to the drive-in concert like a “Moth Into Flame”

Metallica and Three Days Grace try their best to adapt a live performance during a pandemic

There are only so many days in a year that have the anticipation of last Saturday. One of your favorite bands is performing in your city. Your excitement is palpable. As the night approaches, you only continue to get giddier. It’s time to leave the house. You grab the keys. The only worry in the world is finding a parking space.

Only one catch: it’s 2020. Due to the raging global COVID-19 pandemic, concerts as we knew them are no more.

That’s where nostalgia steps in with a solution. Metallica and Three Days Grace put on a drive-in concert from coast to coast. And like a moth into flame, metalheads came for a uniquely 2020 concert. The only catch is that there’s no in-house sound system since the venues are mostly pop-up locations. The venue suggested using an alternate sound system than your car stereo—two hours on the car battery is not a great idea if you plan on leaving the parking lot.

For my experience, I used an iPod Nano and a Beats Pill to connect to the show’s FM broadcast. The company running the show was beta testing their app which I could not connect to from my parking spot, with no explanation as to why. Some brought boomboxes to layout in truck beds, others took whatever they had to get the closest approximation of live music possible. As such, I will not be commenting on the audio quality beyond the limits of FM radio.

First up was Three Days Grace, playing an opening set of all their hits, recorded live from an unknown studio. From the get-go, the oddity of playing a live show in 2020 was apparent, as they made their best effort to rile up the crowd as an opening act should, despite playing behind a screen. Despite the awkwardness of the scenario, Three Days Grace played like they were in their element, and their set was filmed just like a normal concert movie.

Metallica started their set after a one-minute countdown between the shows. The band began with their trademark curtain-raising instrumental song “The Ecstasy of Gold” (originally composed by Ennio Morricone) and opening on a sunset stage in a secret Northern California location. No stranger to filming their concerts, they made an excellent showing with all the lights and theatrics that one should expect. Metallica even made the effort of playing clips of their crew changing out guitars, banter amongst the band and with the audience between songs. Their crowd work was more natural than that of Three Days Grace, mostly just joking between themselves, including a shout out, with lead singer / guitarist James Hetfield even saying, “Quebec, they’re going nuts right now, if I know Quebec.”

At the end of the night, when all the riffs were done cutting through the FM radio static, concert-goers left their drive-ins as satisfied as possible. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that the drive-in experience was clunky at best, and a meager substitute for a real live show. That being said, given the circumstances, I wouldn’t trade it away. It was refreshing to have somewhere to go, to be outside of the house. Even with the subpar sound compared to what I could have had back home, the togetherness and excitement of a live show still beat a typical web concert any day.

This show is a look into the future of concerts and live events going forward in 2020. As we step into Zoom classes, we’re all painfully aware of the problems and awkwardness of trying to have an event worth going to digitally. The drive-in format provides a middle ground between a computer monitor and concert hall that was a welcome change of pace from my normal day behind countless screens. Judging by how full the show I attended was, I’m not alone in wanting to go to a performance, not just log into one.

The Metallica / Three Days Grace show offered a moment’s reprieve; the only major concert to grace the summer of 2020, a reminder of a world so cold.


Photo by Grayson Acri


Bringing Mongolian throat singing to North America with The HU

Mongolian traditional music outfit tour in support of new album The Gereg

L’Astral recently hosted world-famous Mongolian throat singing quartet The HU on the first stop of their North American tour. No, this isn’t a revival of the ‘70s English rock band, although the venue did enjoy playing “Who Are You” by The Who before The HU came on. More on the name later.

The band are currently embarking on a multi-faceted world takeover, playing venues across North America and Europe over the next few months. They are touring in support of their debut album, titled The Gereg.

While the legend of Genghis Khan and his brotherhood still lives on, The HU are resuming this ancient conquest by bringing rhythmic beats and cultural tunes to the masses, rather than war and pillage. The hype surrounding this band revolves around the new sonic mix they have created by blending traditional Mongolian music and classic rock and roll beats, making for a culturally energetic spectacle, to say the least.

We met with lead throat-singer Jaya before the show, who was accompanied by a translator, as none of the band members speak English. They did, however, use the little English they know to scream “let’s rock!” between songs. Of course, the crowd responded to this in the universal language of ‘scream as loud as you can.’

The band name derives from the Mongolian term “Hunnu,” an ancient local empire known globally as the Huns. Traditional Mongolian values, such as adopting the role of a strong warrior, are implemented within the band’s music through inspiring lyrics (which are all written and sung in Mongolian, of course).

“Our message is to inspire others with courage,” said Jaya. “We don’t want to be just playing rock headbanging or melodic things, we want to combine everything. Most of the time the message we are trying to share with the world is to love and respect our elders, honour this Earth, and protect it.” The Gereg also discusses modern values, such as a global respect for women.

Concert-goers were undoubtedly fully immersed within the Mongolian serenade that occured on the night of Sept. 19. The HU packed a punch with a mini army – a lead singer, two guitarists, a bassist, one morin khuur (horse-fiddle) player, a lute player, and two percussionists. For stage aesthetics, each member wore a slew of traditional Mongolian garb, sporting long flowy robes, tribal tattoos, hyde mountain shoes, and even special leather water canteens. The scene is exactly what you’d think a Mongolian throat-singing band would stereotypically look like.

The concert experience was incredibly powerful, unsurpassed by any previous acts I have seen. First off, the crowd was diverse: you had your metalheads in full leather, long-haired stoners, young popheads, and even people that seemed like this could have been their first concert. Regardless of character type, The HU’s tribal rhythms got everybody’s heads bobbing.

The room was pulsing with an indescribable sonic energy, akin to that of a swaying heartbeat pumping its way through the crowd to the beat of synchronized drum hits and Mongolian fiddles. Song after song, the packed crowd moved at the fingertips of the brotherhood before them. It was a mesmerizing performance.

Jaya ended the interview on an inspiring final note which confirms the power behind the band’s lyrics.

“Everybody has struggles in this life, whether you be facing financial struggles, facing cancer, or anything else,” said Jaya. “We wanted to help those people through our music to awaken the fighter in you so you can face it, accept it, then come out of this as a winner.”


Photos by Hunter Walwaski


Killitorous invades Piranha Bar

Headbanging sextet keeps metal lighthearted and collaborative

Killitorous—both a band and a tongue-in-cheek play on female anatomy—is currently touring in support of its forthcoming album, AfterParty. The technical death metal outfit has certainly been making rounds within the extreme music community, as a result of both their place of origin and unique thematic presence.

Unfortunately, Canadian metal bands are few and far between, at least in comparison to the United States. Due to our country’s sparse major cities and extreme weather, bands trying to tour and make a name for themselves often struggle and end up remaining underground. Killitorous, however, have been seeing steady career success since their first EP, titled Pretend to Make Babies, dropped in 2010. Standing the test of time, the band is currently headlining a North American tour, with one of their last dates being at Piranha Bar in Montreal.

Photo by Gabe Chevalier

The band’s lighthearted aesthetic is representative of their mentality. Within the current politically-charged sphere, people will try to attach some sort of meaning to bands like Killitorous. However, Aaron Homma, the band’s only original member, stated that Killitorous is a freeing project, not one that puts them in a corner. “Metal has always been about brutality, but we’re just not brutal guys,” he said. “This band allows us to do all the things we want musically, we’re more free.”

Killitorous’s demonic blend of technical death metal and grindcore offers a viable platform for the band’s humorous drive. From songs like “George Costanza’s Father’s Son,” to “It’s not Stanley, It’s Stan Lee,” the band’s unusual take on the genre make them nearly incomparable to any other metal act. “We actually come up with our song titles first, and then build the song around that,” Homma said. He further expanded upon this, describing how Killitorous’s music has and will always be a group effort. They come up with everything from track titles to complete songs as a group. “I love the collective mentality of the band.”

Photo by Gabe Chevalier

The group’s live show certainly lives up to their aesthetic. Comprised of six members, the band crowded the Piranha Bar stage, but this blended well with their chaotic music. The sextet was one of the liveliest bands I’ve seen live, with their stereotypical headbanging and frontman Mark Phillips’s deranged composure. The combination of smoke effects, seizure-inducing lights and lively attitudes were three of the strongest aspects of the show. Killitorous’s music also transitioned well in a live setting, with their interchanging song sections going from blazingly fast to crushingly slow. They were, by far, the highlight of a night with three other bands.

Killitorous has a handful of dates left on this tour. The band plans to finish recording their upcoming album, AfterParty, in the coming months, as it is set to release mid-2019.


A beginner’s guide to Kawaii metal

An introduction to what may be your next cardio workout playlist

A fresh wave of metal, known as Kawaii metal, began its musical journey seven years ago in Japan. This new subgenre of metal had no difficulty finding its own spot in the music world. Its style has brought something unseen to the metal scene—a uniqueness that gathers fans of varied metal genres and subgenres to mosh.

Kawaii metal is defined as a combination of Japanese pop, power metal and thrash metal. The power metal aesthetic in Kawaii metal brings an upbeat melody with clean, soft and usually high-pitched vocals. The trash metal element, on the other hand, adds complex instrumentals and aggressiveness with deep vocals and screams. Both sub-genres fuse double-bass drumming and complex guitar riffs to form Kawaii metal. The final sound component of Kawaii metal is an energetic and unique melody which combines soft and deep vocals. This sub-genre differs from the male-dominated metal scene as it uniquely introduces feminine voices to the world of heavy rock.

Kawaii metal lyrics tend to differ from the typical, overly-covered topics in metal. The bands prefer to convey empowering and positive lyrics focusing on love rather than death, on life’s pleasure rather than pain, and on social problems rather than murder. One aspect specific to this sub-genre is its mandatory Japanese aesthetic. Kawaii metal singers wear cute, girly school or maid uniforms during their performances. The band’s choice of attire helps the band members develop their stage characters, which makes Kawaii metal performances unique to each band.

One of the most well-known Kawaii metal groups is BABYMETAL. This band is composed of three singers and four musicians who are the centre of attention when it comes to Kawaii metal. When the group was formed in 2010, the lead singer—nicknamed Su-metal—was just 13 years old, and the two other singers, Moametal and Yuimetal, were only 11, according to news website Inverse.

The group developed a goth Lolita look with a concept centered on the uniqueness of their music. This concept is based on the “entity” invented by the band, the Fox God. The Fox God is a spirit—nor human, nor animal. According to the band, the Fox God selected the girls of BABYMETAL to be part of the group because they had no prior knowledge of metal, making them perfect in the eyes of the Fox God. As a rule held by the Fox God, BABYMETAL is never to reveal their future plans to the media or answer any questions regarding new projects—instead, in interviews, they simply say: “only the Fox God knows.” During the summer of 2014, BABYMETAL embarked on a world tour.  This has helped Kawaii metal pierce through to the international music scene. Since 2014, the band has won 23 music awards.

Not all listeners accept this style of metal as innovative. In fact, some metal fans don’t consider the genre to be representative of the spirit of metal as it appears as a musical act or pop show. Some Kawaii metal groups, including BABYMETAL, have made it their goal to truly differentiate themselves from the pop music industry and instead represent the metal community as best as they can. Recently, BABYMETAL has had the honour of opening for Lady Gaga, Metallica, Guns ‘n’ Roses and, currently, Korn and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ on both of their U.S. tours. BABYMETAL also wrote and played the song “Road of Resistance” with DragonForce, according to BABYMETAL’s website.

BABYMETAL’s Japanese tones and exciting guitar riffs attract many curious listeners and Japanese bands to follow suit. Notable Kawaii metal groups at the moment are Doll$Boxx, BAND-MAID and LadyBaby. To stay true to the Japanese-pop aspect of Kawaii metal, all of the abovementioned bands have a specific concept and theme to attract and develop a specific target audience. Kawaii metal is a great go-to genre to get your body moving if you’re looking for motivation to study, exercise or do chores. For those who wish to explore Kawaii metal further, Twitter is a good place to start, as you’ll find an active community sharing new groups and songs.

Explore Kawaii Metal


from BabyMetal:

  • Megitsune
  • Ijime, Dame, Zettai
  • Headbanger
  • Catch me if you can

from Metal Resistance:

  • Karate
  • Road of Resistance
  • Awadama Fever



  • Nippon Manju
  • Age Age Money
  • C’est si bon Kibun


from Dolls Apartment:

  • Monopoly
  • Take my Chance


from New Beginning:

  • Thrill
  • Don’t let me Down

from Brand New Maid:

  • Don’t You Tell ME
Music Quickspins

Metallica – Hardwired…to Self-Destruct

Metallica – Hardwired…to Self-Destruct (Blackened Recordings, 2016)

Metallica’s 10th studio album, Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, has turned an unsatisfied metal-head like myself into a believer again. If Metallica were to combine the sound of their last album, Death Magnetic, their breakout album, Metallica and their Load/Reload albums, you would get Hardwired…to Self-Destruct.The album features incredible vocals from lead singer and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield who, at 53, is still able to belt out his lyrics in a way that gives you chills. The guitar riffs on the album are fast and catchy and demonstrate a strong comeback. Songs like “Spit out the Bone” and “Hardwired” are some of their fastest and heaviest songs to date. The one problem with the album is that the songs are a little repetitive, as the riffs tend to be repeated more than they need be. Despite that one issue, Metallica’s latest record is one of their best releases since the 1990s.

Trial Track: “Atlas, Rise!”



Conquer Divide kicks major ass

The all-female metal rock band conquers the divide between genders

Conquer Divide, an all-female metal rock band, is conquering rock radio stations across America. It’s only been a year since their first self-titled album was released and they have already landed number 13 on Billboard’s HeatSeeker charts and number 33 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock/Radio Charts.

The band consists of screamer and vocalist Janel Duarte, guitarist Kristen Waters, drummer Tamara Tadic, lead vocalist Kiarely Castillo, bassist Ashley Colby and guitarist Izzy Johnson. For Duarte, hearing her band’s name on the radio is surreal. “We’re getting up there and it’s a lot to do with our fans,” she said. “They are calling the radio stations requesting us. It’s such a lovely feeling.” Conquer Divide’s music is a mixture of metal rock and softer rock tunes. Duarte said the bands “Beartooth” and “Attack Attack!” were some of the band’s major musical influences.

The band wouldn’t have been formed if it weren’t for international networking across a multitude of social media platforms.“It originally started with Kristen [Waters] when she was 15. She had the vision of starting a female project. She wanted to prove that it’s possible,” said Duarte. “She looked for girls in the Michigan area, which is where she’s from, but had to broaden her search.” The search for Kristen’s band mates expanded throughout the U.S., Canada and into the UK.  Duarte mentions how band members Kiarely, Izzy and herself were discovered through YouTube. “They found me through my song covers that I had posted on my YouTube Channel,” Duarte said. “We all come from different states and Izzy is from the UK. Conquer Divide started with a lot of Facebook and YouTube so we have a lot of love for social media.”

The name ‘Conquer Divide’ has a strong meaning, one that Duarte explained is different for each member. “I see Conquer Divide as conquering the division of how far apart we are, we all live in different parts of the world and we come and make beautiful music together,” she explained. “It also means conquering the division of genders. Essentially, how conquering the fact that we are girls and still kick ass.”

What she loves most about being in the band is when they all get to [jam] together and go to different cities that they’ve never been to. “It’s always a good time when we are out travelling and then the shows are just the highlight of the night,” Duarte said. She added that touring isn’t dreadful: “When we got stuck by the side of the road at the end of our ‘Slave’ tour, we were all giggling. We were in the middle of the desert.” The girls are very close-knit and they conquer all their band issues together. “We’re a really strong band,” she said. Duarte said that the whole experience is worth the sleepless and showerless nights.

Conquer Divide wants listeners to feel comforted through their music. They write their songs based on experiences that everyone goes through. “Everyone goes through a lot of stuff in life, so I have a few things that I want to get off my chest and that’s where my inspiration comes from,” said Duarte.

Janel Duarte, vocalist/screamer performing live. Photo by Lauren Klinge.

What she loves most about what she brings to the band is her sense of humour. “I make a lot of people laugh, I’m just a ball of energy,” she said. “I feel like I help bring the shows together with the hype, craziness and aggression.”

She has a lot to say about her beloved bandmates as well. “Next to me, [Izzy] has a lot of patience, she knows how to get things done—best sense of humour mixed with a pretty personality and sassy accent.” As for their drummer Tamara, Duarte said she’s on fire behind the drums. “She’s a quiet sweet girl and when you see her on drums, it’s like, what? She’s so down to earth. We are all two different people on and off stage but for her it’s definitely apparent.”

The “momma” of Conquer Divide is guitarist Kristen. “She knows our schedules, when we need to do interviews. Any questions we have, we ask her,” Duarte said, adding that Kristen is the blunt and honest friend of the group. “She’s the friend that will tell you you look fat in those jeans.”

Their bass player Ashley is a tall southern gal who loves country music. “Her personality is so bubbly and happy. She’s always the person trying to keep us positive. It’s really awesome to have her around,” Duarte said. Vocalist Kiarely is Duarte’s best friend, inside and outside of the band. “We can just sit in a room and laugh our asses off for hours. We are inseparable on tour,” said Duarte. “I love all my girls in my band.”

To all bands out there working hard on their music, this is Duarte’s advice: “Get on YouTube, Facebook, post comments, go crazy, network as much as you possibly can, because when you do have a project that’s about to blow their minds, you will have a great audience.”

The girls are currently saving up for a new van for future tours. As soon as they hit the road again they are looking forward to touring and performing in Canada.


Mixtape: Music to strike to

Does the proposed tuition hike piss you off? Does Charest’s silence unnerve you? Are you worried about the way the government manages funds? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.
Whether it’s a question of accessibility or where the provincial government’s priorities lie, this is a historic moment for CEGEP and university students in Quebec. Protests and sleep-ins are taking over Montreal’s downtown core. It’s chaos for change; for those who don the red square, this is not a quiet battle. The strive for accessible education is a loud revolution and a long fight. Though the weather is getting warmer, Minister of Education Line Beauchamp should be aware that the students won’t quit until the freeze settles in. So, for those of you who choose to strike, or for anyone who is against the hike, this mixtape is for you.

Listen to the mixtape here!
SIDE A: Hungry for change

1. “Bulls on Parade” – Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire

2. “The Hand That Feeds” – Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth

3. “Walk” – Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power

4. “Fuck Authority” – Pennywise – Land of the Free?

5. “I Fought the Law (and I Won)” – Dead Kennedys – Single

6. “Brainstew/Jaded” – Green Day – Insomniac

7. “Flagpole Sitta” – Harvey Danger – Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?

8. “I Get it” – Chevelle – Vena Sera

9. “Fight the Power” – Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet

10. “Bound for the Floor” – Local H – As Good as Dead

SIDE B: Irate and ready to rage

11. “Uprising” – Muse – The Resistance

12. “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes – Elephant

13. “Deer Dance” – System of a Down – Toxicity

14. “Down With the Sickness” – Disturbed – The Sickness

15. “Bodies” – Drowning Pool – Sinner

16. “The Kids Aren’t Alright” – The Offspring – Americana

17. “Break Stuff” – Limp Bizkit – Significant Other

18. “Re-Education (Through Labor)” – Rise Against – Appeal to Reason

19. “Man in the Box” – Alice in Chains – Facelift

20. “When Worlds Collide” – Powerman 5000 – Tonight the Stars Revolt!

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