Published Oct 06, 2014Felix B. Desfossés has once again tapped into a main vein of Quebec's historical underbelly. After singlehandedly reissuing the "maple syrup porn" cult soundtrack Après Ski on vinyl in 2011 on his own Pluton Records label, Desfossés has now succeeded in connecting the dots between (yé yé group) Les Hou-Lops and Voivod with his most recent endeavour: a book — the first of a three-volume series, we're told — on the evolution of metal in the province of Quebec.
With the help of a rotating cast of talking heads, Desfossés dusts off corners of La Belle Province's less travelled roads, starting from the crepuscular efforts of '60s garage punk groups such as Les Loups, Les Sultans, Les Sinners and Les Mésirables — arguably the first local outfit to make prominent use of a fuzz pedal.
The book's initial intention appears to be to point out how the geopolitical and linguistic particularities of Quebec created a fertile and influential microcosm that reverberated both on a local and global level. Desfossés peruses the evolution of the genre via originators such as Offenbach, Frank Marino, Danger, Aut'Chose and the likes, until he reaches the early '80s… when the rubber (and yes, the leather) hits the road.
Helped by Voivod's own Michel "Away" Langevin, who is also accountable for the cover art, Desfossés catalogues, reviews, contextualizes and interviews dozens of people from the various scenes. He speaks to pioneers such as D.D.T. and Sword, rockers like (YouTube sensation) Trop Féross's leader Ginette Provost and Offenbach's John McGale, punk rockers Unruled, 222s and Genetic Control, individuals involved with Banzaï Records, tape trader Wayne Archibald, fanzine contributors, club owners and other local performers like Nick Catalano — today's head honcho of the Montreal-based record store Beatnick. Moreover, Desfossés covers landmark events and tours like the No Speed Limit Weekend, World War III and the Banzaï Axe Festival.
In order to provide the reader with an idea of the Zeitgeist, L'évolution du métal Québécois also revisits important locations and venues all over the province. The oral history of the genre is perhaps the most interesting element in the book once the reader gets past Desfossés' most comfortable and prolix moments — namely, his chapters on the '60s and '70s.
The music geek will, nevertheless, excuse the author for letting one or two mistakes slip by, like when he mentions that "Kick Out the Jams" opens the MC5's debut album, for example, or when he namedrops Bad Brains amongst his list of influential California bands. As a result, chapters dealing with Cookie Monster-influenced crooners of the speed/trash/death metal scenes come off more as a bundle of excerpts from a music encyclopaedia like the "Flex Hardcore Discography."
However, the anecdotes dealing with ferocious opponents to heavy metal such as Father Regimbald and excerpts from Kerrang! magazine dissing Voivoid's debut album War and Pain — "Let's get straight to the point; Voivod, or as I prefer to call 'em Avoid Void, are the Kerrapiest band I've ever had the misfortune to hear […] I mean, at least you can laugh at rubbish like Slayer and Hellhammer" — easily redeem the weaker passages.
And just as this gem of a book is already going into reprint, the greatest news about it is that an English translation should be available in the near future. (Éditions du Quartz)