Avenged Sevenfold and Alexisonfire Fed on Nostalgia in Montreal

Bell Centre, July 22

Photo: Nadia Davoli

BY Stephan BoissonneaultPublished Jul 23, 2023

If there are two bands that can pluck you out of reality and drop you back into the weirdness of the early to mid-2000s, it's the California metalcore/alternative metal group Avenged Sevenfold and St. Catharines, ON's post-hardcore mainstays Alexisonfire. That's exactly what happened over a three hour stint at Montreal's Bell Centre for Avenged Sevenfold's headlining show of their very new album, Life Is but a Dream… 

Based on the reaction from their fans, it felt as though Alexisonfire were the headliners as they took the stage. Most of their set was a mishmash of old hits like "Boiled Frogs," "Pulmonary Archery,"  and "Young Cardinals," and though the set was 10 songs long and they were playing to a stadium of 20,000, there was still something oddly intimate about the performance. They opted for a cover of Tragically Hip's "Fully Completely" — which maybe seemed a bit off brand for a post-hardcore group — but still, we all saluted Gord Downie in unison. 

Despite the creative differences that nearly destroyed the band for good, hearing Dallas Green, George Pettit, and Wade MacNeil sing together in harmony or call and response is truly glorious. This was, of course, amplified by everyone in the stadium echoing "The city / The city is haunted / By ghosts / From broken homes," with Green and MacNeil during the closer, "This Could Be Anywhere in the World."

Next up was the real headliner, who busted out two of their new songs "Game Over" and "Mattel," which sounded more like System of a Down trying to be Metallica than Avenged Sevenfold. "Oh how we've missed you, Montreal…" M. Shadows screamed into the mic before jumping into "Afterlife," a song every aspiring metal guitarist once wanted to learn. It was hard to concentrate on the show because so many of the sitting fans were playing the air guitar and the floor fans were attempting to mosh, much to the chagrin of the security staff. 

Half of Avenged Sevenfold's setlist consisted of new material, and the crowd seemed a bit thrown a bit off because of this; described as "avant-garde metal," the new album, Life Is but a Dream… feels like Avenged Sevenfold attempting to be a number of different bands between each track, and it becomes somewhat exhausting trying to keep up. Avenged Sevenfold is served with the intense, heavy riffs that fringe on the line of progressive metal, and M. Shadows reciting his simple-to-understand Occult for Dummies rhetoric. That's what the fans want. Avenged Sevenfold aren't exactly a band meant to be taken seriously — at least we got "Bat Country."

Alexisonfire seemed to understand those notions a little better, and when the discordant but melodic guitar line of "Pulmonary Archery" echoed through Bell Centre, every true head lost their mind for two minutes and 30 seconds. Avenged Sevenfold might have had top billing, but Alexisonfire certainly stole the show.

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