Photo Essay: The Rebel Reviewer Checks Out Special Ops

Special Ops

Special Ops
Annex Wreckroom
Toronto, Ontario
April 28, 2010

What a combination of culture and styles this band is comprised of. Hailing from Montreal, the English side of town, Special Ops has the most diverse group of individuals I’ve ever encountered in a band.

Frontman, Abe Froman with his dreads flailing and hip hop style moves gives you that distinct feeling that you could fire up a fatty with him and head off down a reggae path after the Special Ops assault comes to an end.  His generosity and cool demeanor mixed with his powerful vocals and onstage charisma is a welcome sight in a never ending lineup of often faceless and cookie cutter ridden bands.

The only Montreal Frenchman in the crew, Clarence McGillicutty, held a tight court with his transparent orange Ludwig kit, reminiscent of the late 70s.  His flawless attack upstaged both opening acts as they both had problems getting started due to the percussionists tripping over the blue line.  Clarence kicked ass from opening beat to closing, never faltering for a second.  Definitely the most insane of the group, as most drummers are, he showed his multiple personalities ranging from calm, cool and collected, waiting for the show to start, to the war faced killer onstage and the crazy shithouse rat after the show while I snapped a few shots of the group hanging with some fans.

The diversity starts cranking up a notch with the inclusion of Native Canadian bassist Wally Thornhill.  The instantly likable Thornhill holds down a tight and solid bottom end meanwhile infusing some exotic and welcome flavour into the band.

Guitarist, singer, songwriter, Akbar Johnson rounds out Special Ops and cranks the diversity knob to 11 while juggling a few other projects. Namely his Amiral guitars personal model he jokingly refers to as the “Johnsonian”.  With its 7 strings and customizations reflecting exactly what Akbar wants in a guitar, he’s proud to show off his very own model built by the Montreal based guitar company.

As expected, Special Ops jammed a good chunk of their 3rd album “Through the Heart of the Infidel” which I have been spinning since I got a copy at the end of last summer.  I know this album inside and out and I love every minute of it.  Listening to the album I didn’t realize how many of the songs Akbar actually sang.  He’s got an amazing voice that he weaves into a good many tunes providing an awesome “backup” to Abe’s frontman show.

Highlights for me were definitely “What You Did Today”, “Snakebite”, “Monster in Me”, “Pressure” and for whatever reason it is, I absolutely love “Hard Ass” with it’s deadly chorus and Wally’s borrowed scream.  The guitar work on the album is what hooked me immediately.  If there’s anything that ever hooks me, it’s always the guitars and Akbar knows exactly how to feed my need for the crunch.

If it’s good new metal you’re looking for, I suggest you try a nice heaping helping of Montreal’s Special Ops.  With all it’s exotic spices and just enough home grown t.l.c., I assure you’ll love every bite.


  1. It’s always awesome to meet a frontman in a Metal band that has talent and amazing personality! I went to their myspace link after reading this blog and I have to say the music is pretty solid!
    Thanks for this review! Sweet


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