As Canada Day rolls around again, some of our regular Hellbound contributors have pitched in for another year of celebrating Canadian metal on the nation’s anniversary. This July we give you a snapshot of Canadian metal over the decades, selecting some highlights from 10, 20, 30 and 40 years in the past as well as a glimpse of what has caught (some of) our ears so far in 2014.
Rush – s/t (1974) – While not “actually” a Rush album (Neil Peart hadn’t joined the band yet), the band’s debut still sounds good forty years later. While they still needed some refinement, songs like “Working Man” and “Here Again” still play strong and showcase the beginning point of the prog dynasty that Rush would eventually curate.
Voivod – War And Pain (1984) – The truest and premier document in Voivod’s songbook happens to be their first. One would think that such dark, hard and classic metal material as this would just be in every metalhead’s collection, but this record actually proved to be a crossover too; punks who liked the more metallic directions that some hardcore bands were heading in could totally get behind what Voivod were punching out (and it made for a great soundtrack to a killer street–skate grind session too).
Our Lady Peace – Naveed (1994) – Not exactly a metal record, but certainly the hardest rocking album in Our Lady Peace’s catalogue was Naveed. Here, Raine Maida locks down all of the vocal and lyrical cliches he’d overuse throughout the nineties, but it sounds fresh and raucous here because it was the first time. Likewise, guitarist Mike Turner throws in a scruffy performance which won hard rock audiences not with virtuosity, but with a textural anger and aggression that the band would water down in the years following this release.
3 Inches of Blood – Advance and Vanquish (2004) – Sort of a stolen moment in 3 Inches of Blood’s catalogue (it was the last to feature guitarists Sunny Dhak and Bobby Froese, and the only album that bassist Brian Redman and drummer Matt Wood played on), Advance and Vanquish also holds the distinction of being the only 3 Inches of Blood album I like. With songs about pirates, pagans, robots and revenge, Advance and Vanquish appeals to most of the escapist things I like about metal (I hate J.R.R. Tolkien, but even like “Destroy The Orcs,” on the right day), and the vocals traded back and forth between Cam Pipes and Jamie Hooper keep anything about the album from getting stale or same–y.
1974: Rush, Rush: Even ten years ago this would have been a begrudging choice, as Rush’s debut album was never anywhere near a favourite of mine, but over the years it’s grown on me more and more, to the point now where I’m willing to excuse the weaker moments and embrace such killer tracks as “Finding My Way,” “What You’re Doing,” “Before and After,” and of course the towering “Working Man.”
1984: Kick Axe, Vices: It might be forgotten by most people now, but the Regina band’s major label debut was one of the cleverest and fun albums of the pop metal era, boasting sharp riffs, a charismatic frontman, cool backing vocals (a rarity in metal), hooks aplenty, and a short bassist with the goofiest axe bass you’d ever seen. It was fresh, vibrant, full of attitude, and relentlessly catchy. Us kids did the “Heavy Metal Shuffle,” got “On the Road to Rock,” and were “Alive and Kickin'” as a result.
1994: Cryptopsy, Blasphemy Made Flesh: Let’s face it, Canadian metal wasn’t exactly thriving at this time. The underground was only barely percolating, while the mainstream was plagued by crap bands like I Mother Earth and the Tea Party. But at the very least Cryptopsy was setting the stage for Quebec death metal with a wildly original debut that would set the stage for the timeless classic None So Vile two years later.
2004: 3 Inches of Blood, Advance and Vanquish: Narrowly, narrowly over Woods of Ypres’ The Pursuit of the Sun & the Allure of the Earth and Into Eternity’s Buried in Oblivion, I had to go with this record because none of the aforementioned bands wrote a song anywhere near as perfect as “Deadly Sinners.” I remember when the band released an advance version of the song, I nearly hit the roof. Those screams by Cam Pipes never fail to give me goosebumps, and I have no shame in admitting the track has gone on to rank among my favourite songs of all time. The fist–bangin’ awesomeness of “Wykydtron” and “Destroy the Orcs” is just gravy after that.
2014: Skull Fist, Chasing the Dream: Carrying on the tradition of first–rate speed–riddled heavy metal from this country dating back to Exciter and continuing with Striker and Cauldron, Skull Fist rebounded after an inconsistent debut with an exuberant, incessant, contagious second effort that brings back memories of practically every band that played on the Moose Molten Metal compilations 30 years ago, yet still retains a distinct character of its own. As much as I like metal that takes chances, I’m a total sucker for bands that understand the music and aesthetic of 30 years ago, and Skull Fist absolutely nails that 1984 vibe.
Bachman Turner Overdrive – Not Fragile (1974) – Fuck you, I like BTO. At least, just as much as the next guy, anyways. Although I still can’t stand it when “Takin’ Care of Business” blasts outta every junior–hockey rink across the country, these guys actually wrote a few decent tunes in their time, aside from the overplayed hits. Besides, I figured that if anyone else took on ’74, it would be Rush self–titled, and while I do kinda like that album, it doesn’t show the band at its full potential. And hey, Moxy’s black album didn’t come out till ’75… [read the rest of Greg’s BTO Not Fragile re-assessment in Hellbound Classics]
1994: OTIS – Paid to Suffer (independent). You couldn’t actually get a copy of this EP unless you knew the band (which later added the “Sons of” prefix), but this was the debut of Canada’s longest–running stoner/doom outfit, right here. Someone actually reissued it on vinyl not too long ago, so they might still have a copy at their occasional shows.
2004: Electric Magma – Karaoke Bitch Slap (Around Ahead). Speaking of stoner rock… the finest instrumental jam band in the country, right here.
2014 (so far): Hmm, good question. Right now, the new Godstopper EP, Children are Our Future, has really been kicking my ass, so I’ll go with that.
An interesting little project this. Best Canadian albums from years ending in ‘4. What better way to celebrate this great land than through song! Great land, great people, not so great government, and great music! I chose 1994 because that was the year that I started to really get my feet wet in the metal world. I was still heavily into grunge and alternative but albums like Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven and Slayer’s Divine Intervention had lit the fire. But we’re talking about Canadian albums here. Unless I did something wrong, a search of Metal Archives only yielded 16 Canadian metal releases in 1994. One of which made my list. As I said, I was just getting into metal in 1994 so my list is mostly “hard rock.” Also, I don’t believe any of these survived the Great CD Purging of 2000–2001. Except one. Maybe. I’d have to check. In no particular order:
Varga – Prototype: I can’t remember exactly how I got into Varga but I listened to this and 1995’s Oxygen quite a bit. I probably saw a video for “Freeze Don’t Move” on MuchMusic. This industrial metal is a far cry from the Varga of today but that was 20 years ago and the 90s were a strange time.
Varga – “Freeze Don’t Move”
Moist – Silver: If you lived in Canada and listened to rock radio, Silver was inescapable. I mean “Push” was HUGE. This also means it’s been 20 years and I’m still jealous of David Usher’s hair. [Moist – “Silver/Push”]
Monster Voodoo Machine – Suffersystem: Another one in the “industrial” vein. You can kind of see where my head was at around this time. I wasn’t on this one right away though. But now I think the only one I’m missing is Pirate Satellite. [MVM – “Bastard is as Bastard Does”]
Econoline Crush – Purge EP: This is the one I still have. I think. I still have more EC releases than any man should but this one started it all. It kickstarted the industrial revolution on my stereo through the mid–90s and soundtracked lots of Donkey Kong Kingdom. [Econoline Crush – “Cruel World (Affliction version)”]
Gandharvas – A Soap Bubble and Inertia: To this day I lament ever getting rid of this cd. “The First Day of Spring” should be the new Canadian National Anthem. The video ruled. The rest of the album was good too and defined “alternative.” I saw them play at Boo Radley’s in Guelph years later and it was awesome. I keep my eyes peeled for this baby in every place that sells used CDs I happen across. I could just go on the internet I guess. Meh. [Gandharvas – “First Day of Spring”]
\m/ Happy Canada Day!! \m/
Rush – s/t
What else am I gonna pick? Rush’s debut was well heavy for 1974, never mind for sleepy, polite Canada in 1974. If they’d never found “The Professor” and broken up right after this, it’d still be a classic, and probably still in print too… except that the 40th anniversary edition would be coming out on Relapse or Rise Above, not Universal Music.
Voivod – War and Pain
According to Kerrang! magazine at the time, Voivod were the kerrapiest band on Earth, but when I finally saw this album’s cover—replete with Banzai SPEED METAL icon—on the wall at A&B Sound, I figured they had to be the real deal. Bought it, loved it, and have tagged along with the band on their wild ride in the three decades since.
Sacramentary Abolishment – Misanthropy
Scouring metal–archives.com for any 1994 Canadian metal album in my collection, I came up with this tape of nascent savagery from Alberta’s Sacramentary Abolishment. Although the style is more straight–up death metal, the band already stood out for their chaotic riffs and atmosphere, an approach that they’d pursue as they blackened their music over their next two albums.
Woods of Ypres – Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth
From my blog’s 2004 year–end list: David Gold’s cottage country black metal is crafted with enthusiasm and class, infused with essences of shuttered–room must and just–dug soil. With melodies that paint scenes as precisely as Colville or Danby, this is my favourite Canadian album of 2004.
Archspire – The Lucid Collective
Well, this is a no–brainer. I’m proud of the fact that Canadian metal has always mixed extremity and innovation, and here we are in 2014, with Vancouver’s Archspire achieving a new level of tech–death supremacy, cranking the genre up to almost absurd heights of intensity on The Lucid Collective.
Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush – Child Of the Novelty
While he may not currently have nearly the same level of reverence that other early 70s Canadian hard rock heroes like BTO and Rush do, Montreal psychedelic hard rock axe slinger Frank Marino is more than worth mentioning. I have been a big fan of his early–to–mid 70s material since discovering him via Toronto’s Q107 in the early 80s. I bought a number of his albums, including both this one and 1976’s Mahogany Rush IV, on a trip to Toronto visiting relatives around 1984 or 1985 from a neat used record store down the street from their St. Clair West apartment. The store is no longer there but this album remains a favourite. I mean you just knew it had to be good looking at the album cover alone.
Marino was obviously very influenced by Jimi Hendrix, adopting a power trio line up for his group Mahogany Rush, but there are a few absolute gems on this record like “Thru The Milky Way” so that it’s absolutely worth looking into if you have never heard it.
Listen to the whole album online.
Rapid Tears – Cry For Mercy
One of the things I decided when picking my best albums for each year was that in order for it to qualify I had to still have a copy of it in my personal collection. If I didn’t think enough of it to keep it then how could I call it my favourite? Doing this also really thinned out my list to pick from. In fact, for 1984 I still only have four Canadian metal albums left on vinyl, all of which I think are masterpieces in their own right: Helix’s Walkin The Razor’s Edge, Razor’s Armed and Dangerous EP, Voivod’s War and Pain and this unsung gem from Scarborough ON heavy metal quintet Rapid Tears. I picked this 12” EP up on a whim at a flea market after remembering how great the title track was and was pleasantly surprised that the rest of it was decent too. (Plus, my copy is actually autographed by the line–up that played on the record, how cool is that?)
I think that honestly it isn’t my favourite Canadian metal album of 1984 – that is definitely War and Pain, followed very closely by Armed and Dangerous – but I did feel it is strong enough to make a mention of it as a great, unheralded Canadian release that I am going to guess a lot of younger Hellbound readers may have never heard of.
Listen to the title track online.
Cryptopsy – Blasphemy Made Flesh (Invasion)
One of the most impressive debut albums released in 1994, although I really didn’t hear it until the following year, was this full–length effort by Quebec extreme death metal outfit Cryptopsy. I actually saw them live before hearing this album. They blew me away playing to a near empty Opera House in Toronto in early 1995 and I finally managed to find their album at the show. The album was extreme for Canadian metal in 1994, up there with early Gorguts albums for sure. It was the only Cryptopsy album to feature bassist Martin Fergusson and it was my first introduction to the awesome drumming prowess of Flo Mounier, who also drew their wicked logo on the cover. Also, props to War On Music for reissuing this gem on vinyl!
Listen to the whole album online.
Augury – Concealed (Galy)
Montreal tech death outfit Augury really came out of left field in 2004 with their debut album Concealed. From its dual death metal and operatic vocals, its twisting and tethered rhythms and outstanding bass work it was like a mixture of black metal, the operatic moments of Celtic Frost and a whole lotta Quebecois tech death. It may not have been as groundbreaking as something like Gorguts’ Obscura, but it was clear to see how this band took influence from albums like that and Emperor’s In the Nighttime Eclipse and came out with something completely fresh yet familiar.
Listen to the entire album online.
Archspire – the Lucid Collective (Season of Mist)
I am really just starting to get my head wrapped around the Season of Mist debut release by Vancouver’s Archspire, as it is a ridiculously dense album of technical virtuosity, but it is my favourite Canadian album of 2014 so far. I can’t wait to see these guys live, because if they can pull this shit off it is going to be incredible. Wow.
Listen to most of the album online.
Woods of Ypres – Pursuit of the Sun and Allure of the Earth (2004)
When I was asked to think of a notable Canadian metal album from a year that ended in ‘4, the only release that was significant to me at all was the first full–length from now defunct act Woods of Ypres. It is only fitting that this album should be highlighted during the Canadian summer season. Not only was it released in the summer of 2004, it thematically embodies both the possibilities but also potential malaise that are inherent to the summer months. Woods albums are special because they capture a cross–section of a life (though not necessarily the listener’s own) and present what are ultimately challenging, genre–defying albums that cannot help but feel deeply personal. As such, Woods albums feel like genuine attempts at sending a message out into the world, even if what they have to say is misunderstood or rejected by they who receive it. While many summer jams invoke a generalizable feeling of innocence, carelessness, or nostalgia, Pursuit of the Sun and Allure of the Earth grants to the summer a substance and emotional weight that is normally the purview of the darkness and cold of winter. For this unique contribution to Canadian metal, I can think of no better album to pay tribute to simply for having the luck of its being released in a year that ends in ‘4.
Woods of Ypres –”Summer’s Envy” on YouTube.
Woods of Ypres – “The Allure of the Earth”
2004: Woods of Ypres – Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth (Krankenhaus Records)
Not only was the sophomore release of Ontario’s Woods of Ypres my favourite Canadian album of the year – but it was at the top of my year end list as well. Woods frontman David Gold masterfully added a layer of doom to this release, contrasting their first, a trend that would continue throughout the rest of the band’s catalog. Pursuit… will forever be linked to memories of driving through beautiful northern Ontario that summer – fitting for a band that was so proud of its Ontario origins.
2014 (so far): Thantifaxath – Sacred White Noise (Dark Descent Records)
Toronto’s Thantifaxath first full-length opens with an unsettling mass of noise and doesn’t let up during the duration of the album. Unorthodox and manic scales combine flawlessly with flowing riffs, all of which are interspersed with jazzy and progressive interludes. The variety that the nameless members of Thantifaxath employ throughout Sacred White Noise come together for a complex yet satisfying listen. One of the best black metal releases to come out of Canada in awhile.