Alestorm with Aephanemer, Sovereign Council & The Aphelion
Wednesday, November 6 @ The Brass Monkey
The air was cold and brisk as I approached the venue. It was a rather strange scene to see: a squadron of metalheads, clad in denim and leather had descended upon an unassuming strip mall on the outskirts of Ottawa. There was no fancy marquee, just a small sign reading The Brass Monkey, crammed next to a Pet Valu and Tim Hortons sign. Descending down the stairs into the venue, it felt as though I had journeyed into the very bowels of suburban hell. Instead I found myself in heaven, beer flowing, rum dripping, packed wall to wall with some of Ottawa’s most diehard metalheads.
First to hit the stage was Ottawa’s own The Aphelion, blending prog sensibility and melodic death metal in a powerful opening set. By the end of the third song, the band had whipped the crowd in a fury. Heads banged and horns flew as the frontman called for the wall of death. The crowd was more than happy to oblige, setting the bar for fellow Ottawa natives Sovereign Council.
Storming the stage with power and fury, Sovereign Council rose once again and delivered the goods song after song. Their battle cry (a blend of power metal and melodic death metal) was not lost on the crowd who responded with equal power and fury as heads banged and bodies collided time and time again. By this point the venue was nearly at full capacity, it’s ventilation overwhelmed by the ferocity of the crowd, heavy metal was alive and screaming at The Brass Monkey.
It was during the break between sets when I journeyed outside for a smoke and some cool air that I met the cold wind and first signs of winter. As the snow started to fall my thirst for beer beckoned me back inside just as France’s Aephanemer hit the stage. As I crawled into what may be one of the tiniest functional photo pits in the world (kudos to the venue) and readied my camera I was greeted by some of the heaviest riffs and most tortured growls of the night. Song after song Aephanemer drove the crowd further and further into madness. They’re following Alestorm across the great white north on this trek in support of their new album Prokopton.
I was quick to venture back to the bar for some libation before venturing back out into the cold, clad only in my battle jacket, jeans and shirt and next door to Tim Hortons for snacks and, of course, the famous ol’ black gold. Securing my spot stage left and overwhelmed with excitement I waited patiently for the evening’s denouement.
As Alestorm took to the stage from the port bow, the crown once again erupted into a fury. What was originally meant as a metal show quickly turned into a battle of endurance between the crowd, the band and the inevitably rising venue temperatures. With none willing to accept defeat the battle raged on as Alestorm delivered the killing blow after killing blow with one of the strongest, and frankly most fun setlists I’ve seen this year. After my time in the photo pit was done I quickly abandoned my camera and made a quick detour to the bar before heading straight into the pit. A camera can’t capture the intensity and energy that was contained within the walls of the small bar in the basement of a strip mall. By the time I’d hit the mosh pit the relentless momentum of the crowd was in full gear. Every single lyric sung by the band echoed back by the crowd, every ounce of energy returned.
It was a glorious night and all the credit goes to every single living soul inside the venue that night. From all the venue staff, band and crew members and local promoters to the crowd. Heavy Metal is alive in Ottawa, even if the shuttle bus company cancels at the last minute.