Remembering 25 Years Ago Today: WORLD WAR III Festival

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By Sean Palmerston

Today, November 30th, is a very important date in this history of Canadian metal. It was on this date 25 years ago that the world renowned WORLD WAR III festival happened in Montreal, Quebec. The festival, curated and presented by then Voivod manager Maurice Richard, was done to help raise funds for Voivod to record their second studio album (which would come to be named Rrroooaaarrr upon its release). Realizing that in order to have a successful festival he would have to bring in some quality talent, Richard booked and flew in four bands for their first ever Canadian appearances. From the USA came Californian death metal quartet Possessed and Florida’s Nasty Savage, while the European contingent of the festival was represented by Switzerland’s legendary Celtic Frost and German thrashers Destruction.

I was personally too young to go to this show, as I was all of thirteen at the time, but I sure would have loved to have been there. One person who was lucky enough to have attended the festival was Toronto scene mainstay Dave Busch. Dave has been going to shows in the greater Toronto area for more than twenty-six years and was able to make the five hour drive down to Montreal for it.  When I asked Dave if he would be willing to answer some interview questions about the legendary festival he was more than willing to participate. A portion of our interview follows below.

Hellbound: Dave, you had the pleasure of attending the Word War III Festival, which happened in Montreal 25 years ago today. Do you remember exactly how you found out about the festival?

Dave Busch: I remember my friend Terry Girouard [Rest In Peace], who was the singer in Toronto band “D.O.G” (Death of God) was the first person to tell me about the show. Terry and I were going to the same school.We would trade tapes of all the new demos, live tapes, and rehearsals coming out of the underground scene. At that time the Record Peddler in Toronto and the Aggressive Rock radio show on CKLN were our main sources of information on all the upcoming shows. I was in disbelief and blown away by such an incredible line up .At first I thought he was playing a joke on me. My friends and I quickly found out how to secure tickets. At that time Rock en Stock on Crescent Street in Montreal was the ultimate record store for Metal and Punk music. We contacted them and they were able to mail us tickets.

This fest was unique in that it brought some very special bands to Canada for the first time. What was the draw for you that made you decide you had to travel from Toronto to Montreal for it?

At this time most shows for thrash metal bands were at the club level with one touring band “Doing it yourself” with local bands opening, so to have the first North American appearances of Celtic Frost and Destruction – both were flown from Europe – and with this being the first show for Possessed outside California (also flown in) it was a very special bill. There was no doubt I had to be there. These bands were all new,young, aggressive,and were entering the pinnacles of their new careers.

Do you remember what the turnout for the festival was like? Was it a packed house? Any memories about the venue itself?

The show was at The Palladium in central downtown Montreal. My friends and myself had been there earlier in August 1985 when we went to the Banzai Metal Fest which featured Slayer, Exodus, Metal Church, Hallows Eve and Agent Steel. The venue itself was a roller skating rink,which was very large for aggressive underground music. I would estimate that the venue could hold 2000 to 3000 people. The show was packed,and this is why Montreal was holding these festival style shows. Montreal supported the underground scene.

This show marked the first North American performance by Celtic Frost. Thinking back, what stands out for you about their set?

The highlight was meeting the band the day before and hanging out with them, as all the bands were staying at a very small hotel. My friend Milan was very good friends with Destruction, who were staying in the next room. The guys were appreciative to be invited to play at the festival, as this was their first time outside of Europe. We spent time with them talking about music and socializing. I remember that both Celtic Frost and Destruction were very happy that they were known and in demand in the North American music scene. Celtic Frost were extremely heavy live, especially as they were a three piece. Reed definitely destroyed his drums with his heavy style of percussion, and Martin was an animal when it came to head banging while he played. Tom and the rest of the band had a great metal image with an avant garde style.

Celtic Frost headbanging to Voivod rehearsing in the jamspace

This fest was also the first time that Possessed played outside of California. Do you have any memories of their performance?

The was my first time seeing Possessed, who had just released their legendary Seven Churches album. I hung out with a some of the band members at the hotel. This was my first time meeting manager Debbie Abono, who was so friendly and out going. Debbie explained to me how she got involved in the thrash scene [Debbie was in her 50's at the time]: her daughter’s boyfriend played originally in Bay Area band Blizzard and then had joined Possessed. She offered to help out the high school aged band who were all in their teens as they wrote, recorded and toured for the Seven Churches album. To see Possessed play all of Seven Churches album live leaves nothing left to be said except “AMAZING”!! Jeff Beccera’s vocals were the ultimate vocals of Death Metal and Mike Torrao and Larry Lalonde’s picking speed and riffs were amazing.

Destruction also came from Europe to play the festival. Any memories of their performance?

We were lucky enough to spend time hanging out with the band as my friend was good friends with Destruction. They came by our hotel to celebrate being in Montreal. We had a raging time, but on their way back to their hotel Tommy got lost, and ended wondering the streets of Montreal all night. Tommy only spoke German at the time, and a small amount of broken English, needless to say he was exhausted the next day for the festival. They were very happy to be in North America and soaking up the culture. Destruction played material from the Infernal Overkill album and Bestial Devastation EP,and showed the crowd the best of German thrash. The guys were very cool people to hang out with.

What band was your personal highlight of the festival?

Meeting the people behind the music and getting to know them as people was actually the highlight. Also meeting other fans who were fanatical about the music was amazing. Seeing people travel from all over the world to be part of a groundreaking music festival, both musicians and fans.

Voivod and their manager did this show as a fundraiser to help pay for their next album. Do you feel like this was a success for them?

This show really helped to bring Voivod’s name to the fore front all around the metal underground. Voivod was fast developing themselves as one of the best live bands in extreme metal. They had great showmanship and the Montreal crowd were diehards for their home town heroes. I remember Musique Plus / Much Music interviewing all the bands.This was great exposure for all these bands who were very extreme for the time. There were a lot of fans who traveled from all over to see this show. There was a large contingency of key players from the Eastern United States underground scene – fanzine/magazine writers and record label personnel – who were there to watch the international festival. Maurice Richard, Voivod’s manager and the promoter of the show, became great friends with Debbie Abono and they were able to put together many tours with the bands they were working with over the years. Voivod and Possessed toured Europe shortly after the World War III festival. Then Celtic Frost and Voivod toured North America,so the ground work had been set by the friendships and business relations built through the festival.

Any other parting comments you’d like to mention about the festival to Hellbound readers?

I look back and it is great to see that the longevity of the bands from this festival, and the legacy that lives on with Voivod, Destruction, Celtic Frost and Possessed. Their names all rank as some of the best of their era. Some great friendships and memories came from this historic event.

(Celtic Frost photo by Seth Grummel; Destruction photos by Dave Busch)

VOIVOD’s Set List
1 Intro from the thing
2 Thrashing Rage
3 Ripping Headaches
4 Warriors Of Ice
5 Korgüll The Exterminator
6 Condemned To The Gallows
7 Fuck Off And Die
8 Helldriver
9 To The Death

POSSESSED’s Set List
1 Introduction
2 The Exorcist
3 Pentagram
4 Swing Of The Axe
5 Holy Hell
6 Satan’s Curse
7 Fallen Angel
8 Burning In Hell
9 Evil Warriors
10 Seven Churches
11 Séance
12 Twisted Minds

NASTY SAVAGE’s Set List
1 No Sympathy
2 Gladiator
3 Unchained Angel
4 Fear Beyond The Vision
5 Asmodeus
6 Dungeon Of Pleasure
7 Indulgence
8 Metal Knights
9 End Of Time

CELTIC FROST’s Set List
1 Intro
2 Into The Crypt Of Rays
3 Circle Of The Tyrants
4 The Usurper
5 Eternal Summer
6 Dethroned Emperor
7 Necromantical Scream
8 Visual Aggression
9 Messiah [Hellhammer cover]
10 Visions Of Mortality
11 Return To Eve
12 Jewel Throne
13 Procreation Of The Wicked

DESTRUCTION’s Set List
01-Thrash Attack
02-Death Trap
03-Antichrist
04-Bestial Invasion
05-Invincible Force
06-The Ritual
07-Tormentor
08-Black Mass
09-Mad Butcher

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.

  • http://diffmusic.blogspot.com/ Rob Hughes

    Amazing idea for a hellbound post, Sean. Well done!

  • http://invisibleoranges.com Invisible Oranges

    World War III was important in so many ways. An acquaintance of mine met Debbie Abono for the first time there and had a long professional association with her as a result. I love learning about these bits of history, so thanks for this post!

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  • http://abegrand.pitas.com Adrien Begrand

    Outstanding piece! We didn’t know too much about this in Western Canada at the time (isolated as we were) but you’ve shown just how vital a piece of Canadian metal history it is.

  • Peter

    Awesome article/interview!!

  • http://www.mean-deviation.com Jeff

    Oh hell yes! Festivals come and go, most of them multi-day, 400-band sorts of blurs…and this one remains the most legendary of them all. One day, a handful of bands that were totally raging back in the day (and everyone knew it), all of which have only grown in mythic stature over time (well, Nasty Savage don’t quite have the same status I guess, but they should, they were awesome). This article is worth printing out and saving. Thanks Sean and Hellbound.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.becerra JEFF BECERRA

    THIS WAS A FUN AND FANTASTIC SHOW!! I HAVE SO MANY COOL STORIES JUST FROM THIS ONE SHOW ALONE…LOL!! CELTIC FROST WAS *AMAZING*, NASTY SAVAGE BLEW ME AWAY, DESTRUCTION TRULY DESTROYED, VOIVOD WAS SO TECHNICAL AND RIFFERISTIC..HEHE..DAMN I COULD GO ON AND ON. AND THAT IS ONLY THE SHOW PART. OFF STAGE WAS TOTAL MAYHEM..HAHAHAHA!!

    THE ONLY THING THAT I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IN THIS ARTICLE IS THAT THEY SPELLED MY NAME WRONG…LOL. I THINK THIS IS BECAUSE WHENEVER CENTURY MEDIA RE-BOOTLEGGED ALL OF MY ALBUMS THEY DIDN’T EVEN SPELL IT RIGHT EITHER. BOO!

    SINCERELY IN METAL AND DEATH,
    JEFF “BECERRA”
    POSSESSED

    PS WHEN ARE WE GOING TO BE INVITED BACK AGAIN FOR WORLD WAR IV DAMMIT!!! TELL ME THAT WOULDN’T BE KILLER!!??

  • Blacky

    Jeff was right, that was one of most fun, cool, fantastic and honest show I have ever been involve in. I remember that day, when we all met at the venue, everybody was so stoke to be together under one roof, although language was at time a funny issue, it didn’t madder a dime at the end, we all fit and blend so perfectly together. We had a great time. This was the beginning for long lasting relationships which even today is hard to come by. I sincerely have a profound respect for all involved, ‘chapeau’ to Maurice who thought, plan and organize the whole show, year later he renew his effort with the “No speed limit weekend”, two days of pure metal again in Montreal. Man that the 80’s were fun!!! it is still happening today, that was then, today is as good as it was, so you people that like and support the scene, please keep it going, it’s very cool indeed.

    R.I.P Debbie, was all miss you so much.

  • Justin

    Great post Sean.

    Awesome to see the mighty Jeff Becerra is in the house. Much respect!

    Sean, check out Tom Warrior’s latest blog…pretty sure someone alerted him to your story.

  • http://www.dirgewithin.com Shaun Glass

    This show was beyond any fest i have ever been to.As a kid to see some the best real Metal acts at one event was mind blowing.Voivod still remains one my all time fave bands and they truly were the proper headliner for this show.All the bands were amazing and i have so many great memories such as being at the infamous Voivod practice with the mighty Celtic Frost guys and running on cars downtown Montreal with the Possessed boys.This was a moment in time i will always cherish.
    TO THE DEATH!

  • Dale

    I remember this show! got a bus package from a metal record store in Hull, Quebec called Econo Rock. The show was awesome and I remember when Nasty Savage started throwing a TV in the air and it was landing on his chest. Some of the band were accessible on the far side of the venue which was a cafeteria or something and you could spot the Destruction guys a mile away :). So many great shows during that time in Montreal and have great memories of The Banzai Festival and the No Speed Limit Weekend at the Spectrum….My Son has all my old metal shirts from the 80’s and the WWIII one he likes to wear the most.

  • http://reverbnation.com/Nokturnel Tom Stevens -Nokturnel

    I took the 11 hour bus ride from New Jersey for this fest and it remains one of the greatest metal experiences of my life. I was in Savage Death back then and we met so many great people, and all the bands were just incredible.
    The No Speed Limit Weekend was even better, such an amazing weekend of strong beers, good buds, and a lineup of bands that blows peoples minds when I talk about it. I met Blacky last year at Maryland Deathfest and I brought up these 2 amazing concerts. It is literally overwhelming for me to think about these old shows… WW3 was one of the greatest metal shows ever heard of during that era of metal.
    Love this article! Thanks for posting this!
    Tom Stevens
    Nokturnel

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  • http://www.sarcophagic.com Andréas

    Very interesting article. Its cool that many of the bands still deliver great music.

  • http://www.voivod.net Bacteria13

    This concert is the stuff of legend for those that didn’t attend, especially for us in Europe.

    Question – does *any* live footage of the gig exist? I remember getting various bootlegs (cassettes) but what of video ..?

    Thanks for the article.

  • Mike Amstadt

    Great article ! .
    I was Voivod’s sound engineer at that time and continued to work with them until the late 90 “s . Maurice Richard , the promoter and Voivod’s manager did an amazing job organizing everything. He also booked Celtic Frost to play at ” Le Moustache ” that same week .
    The night before WWIII , I went to Quebec City with Possessed to mix their show at the Exhibition Hall .
    Woohoo ! fun times !

  • Mike Amstadt

    My mistake , Possessed in Quebec City was the night before No Speed Limit not World War III . ( about a year later )

  • RJ

    Probably the greatest metal show ever because it was so early in the game with the first North American shows of Celtic and Destruction. We drove up from NYC for it, a bunch of 17 year old kids who didn’t speak a word of French. While packed it did not actually sell out because one of the guys got so high he lost his ticket and was able to get another at the box office that night.

    Nasty Ronnie caught his hair on fire during the set while thrashing around with a lit candelabra. Unfortunately there is no known video of the show and I don’t recall any cameras being there. The only audio recording is sadly of poor quality. I have a large number of photos that I might publish someday.

    \m/

  • Peter s.

    I was at ww3 and I still have all 5 master tapes. They are above average recordings for the time and have circulated through tape trades back in the day. In the next few months I will master them onto a 5 cdr set. When this is done I will let this board know and trade them to those who are interested. I also have the banzai fest 8/17/85-all 5 bands. The ww3 tapes sound better though. -Peter

  • Peter

    I have good tapes of ww3 that soon will be on a 5cdr set. This will be done by July/2012 for trades. I have the banzai test too-8/17/85. Peter

  • PETER

    YES that show was the most memorable of the 100s of shows I have been to. the bands were at their best and the audience was so over the top that you wish it was filmed. BUT I do still have the tapes I made of each band-complete. these have been circulated back in the tape trade years but soon I will master the original tapes onto a 5CD-R set and make it avail. for trades. they will be done by June/2012 and I will let this board know when complete. I have kept these tapes in excellent contition & this will be the first time direct copies have been avail. PETER S.

  • laurent

    Waouh Peter! Sounds great! Can’t wait!

  • Peter s.

    The WW3 5 cdr set is now ready to go. I’m happy with the sound, I’ve taken good care of the tapes-minimal plays etc. & for 27 year old TDK sa’s they sound as good as new. I kept the mic at shoulder level all night & there are more songs than the set lists above show. Each one is apx. 1hour

  • WS

    Peter, what’s your email address?

  • Eric J.

    I’m proud to say that ”I WAS THERE” !!! One of the best festival ever !! Still looking at some pics that I got at home from that day With Snake(Voivod) and another with Martin Ain(Celtic Frost) Highlight?? The power faillure durring Nasty Savage !!! TV over his head !! loll

    Is that right ??? we can buy CD from that show !?? if its true this is so awesome !!! I want it ! :)

    Eric.