Deep in the sky, a star dies, in a brutal, blinding explosion that sends shards of light throughout space. Les soeurs Boulay set out on a quest for this intense brightness, for what’s left after us. Their third album, La mort des étoiles (The Death of Stars), is carried by their adult voices, the voices of strong women who’ve grasped their fragility, and the fragility of the world. Co-produced by Connor Seidel, Mélanie and Stéphanie Boulay’s heady project sees them officially out of their teens, and confirms all of their previous choices.

“S’il vous plaît quelqu’un, faites quelque chose pour virer le courant” (“Somebody, please do something to turn the tide”), they sing on the title track. While we’re connected to everything that exists, we’re also navigating in a paradoxical era, where everything that allows us to communicate with each other also isolates us. “It’s a song about the downfall of humanity, but also the downfall of the reign of the image,” says Stéphanie. “We’re basically saying that we would love, in an ideal world, to not have to sell ourselves on Instagram. Apparently, God is dead and Man took his place, but it’s not mankind that’s at the centre of everything; it’s the omniscient stare of all of our networks, invisible, yet constantly judging us, and making us doubt ourselves.”

The Boulay sisters’ hiatus, following the 4488 de l’Amour tour in 2015, allowed Stéphanie to release a solo album, and Mélanie to take a maternity leave after the birth of her son. “It was clear it was only a hiatus, and it was planned for before my child,” says Mélanie. “People are afraid of a hiatus, because artists often don’t actually come back. But for us, it was the only way to find out who we are without the other one.” That hiatus also allowed Mélanie to get rid of the calluses she’d always had on her fingers. Each on their own, they heard and witnessed things that led them to the remains of those stars.

This third album arrangements shelter such subjects as a warm blanket in the winter, and are the result of collaborating with a prolific entourage. “We were used to working together, and we didn’t want to let anybody in,” says Mélanie. “We were afraid to lose our essence. But now, we have such confidence in ourselves as a duo that we’re not afraid of going out and getting all the best that others have to offer.” “We barely played on the album,” Stéphanie adds. “We delegated. We discovered colours we didn’t know we could have. We showed talented people what we’d come up with, and asked them what they heard in it.” So we can hear Marie-Pierre Arthur’s bass playing, and the meticulous guitar stylings of Joseph Marchand and Simon Angell, the latter a real savant of the instrument. To wit, his breathtaking fretwork on the album’s closer, “Immensité.” “I believe we hired the best guitar player in existence,” Mélanie says. “His playing sounds like the instrument is moving back and forth. It’s like the music is holding its breath.”

The sisters stopped denying themselves what they enjoy, and dove right into what they once loved, finding inspiration in Jean-Pierre Ferland, Michael Kiwanuka, Sinatra, and Julie Masse. “We learned new chords, and I got back to composing on the piano, an instrument that affords me a lot more creativity,” says Mélanie.

Ambition is no longer at the centre of their lives, now that the girls have taken heed of their impact on things to come, especially since the birth of Léonard, Mélanie’s son, who sees his name used as a song title on the album.

They obviously couldn’t ignore everything that came in the wake of the #metoo movement. “Il me voulait dans la maison” (“He Wanted Me in the House”) is an intense testimonial on psychological violence. “We watched the documentary on R. Kelly and realized that narcissistic perverts truly are everywhere,” says Stéphanie. Women lived through #metoo, they assimilated all of that. Now, the time has come to dissect it. “Invisible violence is very frustrating, because it leaves no evidence, and is often blamed on the woman,” says Stéphanie. “I lived it, so many women lived it. On the day we recorded that song, I couldn’t stop crying, and everyone had to leave the studio so that I could get on with it. I was crying from rage. Psychological, verbal, and economic violence goes unpunished, because it’s intangible.” “Au doigt” touches on similar themes, and describes the weight of what’s expected of women on a daily basis, in society. “Boys are sometimes afraid of being crushed, when all we want to do is walk by their side,” says Mélanie.

Politics aren’t spared either, since the society in which we live is still subjected to values that are imposed from above, and have a real impact. “We sang ‘La fatigue du nombre’ in front of 300 MPs and Senators, last May at the SOCAN reception on Parliament Hill. We sang, ‘Vous étiez jeunes avant nous votre feu a tout brulé’ (‘You were young before us, and your fire burned everything to the ground’). It was only once we were onstage that we realized what we were telling them,” the sisters say, giggling. “That’s the role of music: carrying messages. After that, it’s up to you to digest it at your own pace,” says Stéphanie. “What we were telling them, in a song, is that if no law comes into effect, all you’ll ever hear are songs by the same 12 people who have to means to make music.” “Music is a psychotherapy that you pay $10 a month for on Spotify,” her sister adds. “It’s more important that we think.”

The Mort des étoiles tour will be carried by the incandescence of stars, thanks to enticing visuals, and new arrangements that will help us embrace once more songs that we’ve known by heart for nearly 10 years. “We wanted to renew our love of those songs we were tired of playing,” says Mélanie. “We wanted to embrace our evolution, and the evolution of our audience.”

Hip-hop combo Dubmatique is known for popularizing the genre in Québec in the latter part of the ’90s, thanks to its wildly popular album, La force de comprendre. They’re about to write a new page in the history books at the 30th annual SOCAN Awards Gala, to be held at Montréal’s La Tohu on Sept. 22, 2019. Their hit “Soul pleureur” will become the very first hip-hop song to become a SOCAN Classic in Québec. We met with Jérôme Belinga (DiSoul) and Ousmane Traore (OTMC). and they told us about the inspiration behind their hit. They also told us about what the Francophone rap scene was like back then, and their take on the current “rap queb” scene, which they help to propel forward.

“Singing has always intrigued me,” says Alex Erian in the middle of a conversation about Balance, the fourth album by his band Obey The Brave, released in July on the Hell for Breakfast imprint, a subsidiary of Slam Disques. The statement seems odd, since Alex Erian has been OTB’s singer since it was created, in 2012 and was previously the singer for deathcore band Despised Icon starting in 2004.

So what does he actually mean? He means that he’s been pining to escape the sometimes limiting constraints of the role of screamer, so typical in the metalcore universe. According to the current standards—and all things being relative—Balance is Obey The Brave’s most “pop” album, and undoubtedly the one where the frontman uses his voice for more melodic endeavours. Alongside him are axeman Terrence McAuley, drummer Stevie Morotti, and newcomer Ben Landreville on bass.

“I was weary of the reactions that would provoke. I was expecting more hate on the internet, but people were pretty cool,” says Erian, referring to the sometimes virulent attacks that such a move generates in the world of punk or metal, no matter how subtle it may be – because it’s usually, childishly, likened to a form of compromise or “going soft.”

“In any case,” says Erian, about those for whom the slightest modulation to a band’s intensity is nothing short of high treason, “what matters the most is creating something that comes from the heart, not fitting into a trend. In my twenties, I focused on the technical aspect of things, musical prowess. Now, it’s all about the feeling. I’ve learned that simplicity is an art form, and while it’s far beyond me to look down on screamers, I wanted to develop another talent. It was a big challenge. I had to work on myself a lot. Singing without screaming takes on an additional form of vulnerability. You can no longer hide behind lyrics that are barely audible, and I believe having lyrics that are more audible makes the message more universal. We wanted to establish a better bond with our fans, and for me, that was the way to do it.”

What message? Let’s summarize Obey The Brave’s discourse as flipping the bird at adversity. “I’d rather die standing up than live on my knees,” Erian swears on No Apologies, a tip of the hat—or of the Montréal Expos baseball cap, as it were—to his friends in the LGBTQ+ community who chose to risk rejection by their loved ones rather than denying who they are one more day. “Calme le jeu,” the compulsory French song on the album, decries the masked-identity games that go on in social media, which have become kingdoms of fakes and shams.

Although he’s never shied away from exploring the dark recesses of his mind,  Erian had rarely before spelled out so clearly his quest for serenity and light than on Balance, a project that sees him ferociously battle the harmful instinct of inward-looking attitudes. Does he sometimes feed his own dark side for the sake of creativity? He bursts out laughing over the phone. Of course he does.

“I was telling my mom just yesterday: ‘art is pain,’ but I’m really trying hard to get out of that mindset. It’s difficult, however, because you can’t avoid isolating yourself in order to create, and writer’s block can become overwhelming to deal with (which is, incidentally, the subject of the song “Cold Summer”). When you devote three or fours hours a day to writing, and you have nothing in the end, it can bear on your conscience quite a bit.”

While being careful to not come across as complaining too much, Erian does recognize that equanimity is a rare commodity on the long and winding road of heavy music. He was flying out to California on the day after our interview (on a Tuesday) to meet with the executives of Despised Icon’s record label, before flying back to Québec on Satruday, and heading straight to Rouyn-Noranda’s Festival de musique émergente to play with Despised Icon.

Writing Tips: Metalcore Breakdowns
Metalcore as a genre is quite fond of breakdowns, those syncopated interludes that often act as a bridge in a song. What is the goal of a good breakdown? “The goal of a breakdown,” says  Erian, “is to engage the crowd even more during a show, make people move, and let them express themselves physically.” In other words, a good breakdown gets the bad mojo out of your system.

As for Obey The Brave, they’ll undertake a short tour of Québec, starting in Shawinigan on September 6, before heading out to the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria in November for a 15-date tour. Balance, in a sense, is also the testimonial of a man who refuses to give up on his ideals, despite all the hardships he’s had to endure, and all the sacrifices of his quest.

“People think we’re living the dream, and in a way we are,” he says. “A career in music is unbelievable, but it can be quite difficult at times. I’m 38, and I’ve been touring since I was 17, and what I realize, with increasing pain, is that the life of the people you leave behind goes on without you. The people around you are experiencing things, and you are not a part of it. Then there’s what I see behind the scenes, and that’s not pretty either. People think that the “sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll” lifestyle is glamorous, but I can tell you it’s not at all. Drugs more often than not become a crutch, a way to avoid reality.”

His main incentive to carry on: the hope he sees in the eyes of the young people everywhere OTB plays, and the energy they get from the band’s metalcore explosion, an energy that fuels their desire to defend their convictions. “A lot of people of my generation are quite resistant to change,” says Erian. “To the contrary, I’ve always thought it’s important to foster new ideas, new conversations. That’s how our world evolves. If, as we’re hearing from all over the place, we’re undergoing a planetary crisis, maybe it’s time we listened to the younger ones among us.”