Montreal’s own Priestess might have been a confusing addition to the lineup for some of the audience at Saturday’s M for Montreal. Sandwiched between local indie rockers The Dears and boisterous showmen Misteur Valaire, Priestess repped the metal contingent, and though they sounded like nothing else on the menu, they kept the energy high and the volume higher. Certainly the heaviest set to hit an M for Montreal show since they and Voivod rocked M on the Quays in September.
Not to be confused with American drone-metal purveyors Baroness (or Dutch black metal nightmare Countess), Priestess has a weed-fueled sound that’s firmly rooted in Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Deep Purple and other bands your parents listened to in dank, wood-paneled basements long ago. But Priestess aren’t content to ape the past; they’re also aiming for the same metal crowd who groove on the prog-inspired brutality of latter-day greats like Mastodon and Opeth.
Lead throat Mikey Heppner is capable, but it’s the increasingly virtuoso playing that really sells Priestess. Their 2009 album ‘Prior to the Fire’ gave us the first hints of reaching in a prog-influenced direction, and their set at M for Montreal showboated this love for dazzling guitar solos and complex rock rhythms building into songs of cosmic proportions.
Did the crowd buy it? I know I did. If the impromptu mosh pit was any indication, bursting from the relatively sedate crowd like agents of a sleeper cell, then Priestess did their dark job and more. You could almost hear the snapping of synapses as indie-kids’ minds were blown.
It’s always great to see a metal act on the bill at a show like M for Montreal. It’s a genre often shafted by festivals, despite its pedigree in the province (in addition to Priestess and the aforementioned Voivod, this region also gave us Cryptopsy, Martyr and many more excellent acts). You don’t even have to be high to enjoy Priestess, although the smell of the smoke will dull the scent of the beer in your hair and the pain of your bloody nose. Raise the horns.