SEPTEMBER 8th 2017

Review and Photos by John Bourke

If there was one showcase at this year’s Festival de musique émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (better known as FME) that represented all things dark and heavy, it had to be the wrap-up of Marduk’s Frontschwein North America Pt. II tour in the small copper mining town of Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec.  I mean, when you have over seventy artists from all over playing genres ranging from sunshine pop to folk to electronica, this was a show that was certainly going to stand out and scare some folk.

The FME Festival (having just ended its fifteenth year) is well known for bringing arts and cultures together under one big celebration for the people of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region.  Never being an organization of exclusion, the darker side of metal was not forgotten, and the commonality of the event was bracing itself for what was to come. I had the unique opportunity to email interview Audeath from local black metal openers in Black Empire after catching their set. I was intrigued for a local’s perspective. For those who may be unfamiliar with the band, they’ve been around since 2001, and have a strong connection to the metal community in the local area and surrounding region:

It looks like you guys have been at this for a long time (2001). Everyone knows Quebec is ravenous for it's metal. What's it like to play such an aggressive style in such a small town? What is the local scene like?
I think we are really lucky to have such a nice scene here! I was just a kid when it all started and honestly it always has been one of the best metal scenes I've seen if not the best in Canada in term of stability!! The intensity, the dedication and the loyalty of the fans here is unique! I must mention that every band here helps and supports each other to reach higher goals and it applies to all genres or kinds of arts around here! The aggressive side of the music is part of what we are here. There is a giant foundry in the middle of our city so I think I can literally state that metal is in our veins in Rouyn-Noranda, or anywhere around here in Abitibi! Reading your bio, you had stated that at one time, the only music you really identified with was with bands like Immortal, Satyricon, 1349, Necophobic and Marduk. So now you've had the opportunity to share the stage with Marduk (and in your hometown!). Tell us a bit about that. You should add Dissection to this list haha! I think that it is evident that Marduk has been a big inspiration for Black Empire! The intense part of our music is directly inspired by them and maybe some of our hate too!  It was an honour to open for legends like this! Being isolated in a small town like this make it rare/impossible for us to get to play with big bands in places like Montreal or Toronto. We are very lucky to have some nice people working hard for the scene here without them and the fans devotions, things like this could never happen... I still can't believe Marduk has come to Rouyn-Noranda! Its just epic!
FME is such a unique event that brings in so many styles and genres of music. How important was it to your scene to have black/death metal represented, and how do you think the show was received?

It’s because its part of what we are! People around here are open! Honestly, for a small town like this it’s just unbelievable!  More people than I expected came to the show. I guess that shows our scene is a nice one!  It was also nice to meet you in the Marduk pit!

Next on the bill was Los Angeles’ Abysmal Dawn. From note one, they ripped the theatre a new one and had the crowd mixing stuff up on the floor, covering a wide array from their catalogue.  It was a celebration after all: it was the very last stop on the tour before heading home.  So naturally, it involved shots with Incantation on stage to celebrate. This brings us to said death metal legends in Incantation who followed. Started in 1989, with ten records, two live albums, four EPs and a DVD to their name, the title of “legends” doesn’t happen without having paid some serious dues.  

“Come on you Quebec fucks!” screamed John McEntee to get the circle pits swirling. It worked. Be on the look out for their involvement in the upcoming horror film titled Death Metal.

Marduk was the band name floating around the festival village that had everybody either in awe or cowering for cover. We don’t need to tell you the legacy (and controversy) this band brings to the table. Touring an album (Frontschwein) referring to Third Reich WWII history doesn’t come without some raised eyebrows amongst the common folk. But we’ll just leave that for your own interpretation.  

I must say standing front stage before they hit the lights was one of the most searing energy surges I’ve experienced in my many years of seeing live music.  The fans were absolutely rapacious waiting for that first chord and I wasn’t sure what was about to happen, being it was my first Marduk experience and all.  But I could not get over how tight and bang on they were. One can only imagine the stamina and commitment it must take to perform like that night after night.  It was a great way to wrap up the festival to say the least.

FME fest happens again next year for their sixteenth installment from August 30th to September 2nd, 2018.  If you’re a “festival person” who enjoys the mix and isn’t afraid to broaden your horizons, you’d do yourself a favour by checking it out and supporting the cause.