2011 – Canadian Metal – A Year In Review
On the surface it seems like it was a very poor year for Canadian Metal. There are currently over 1500 active Canadian Metal bands. This year about 150 bands released new, full-length studio albums. That’s about 9% of the active pool of talent stepped up to the plate. Not only were the numbers low but by some odd twist of fate the vast majority of major (namely international touring acts with label deals) bands were dormant this year.
Our big guns were silent. We had nothing from our thrash titans, Exciter, Razor, Sacrifice or Annihilator. The Metal community in Quebec was quiet with no new studio material from Augury, Gorguts, Martyr, Cryptopsy, Voi-Vod, or Kataklysm. The west coast was also quiet with Three Inches Of Blood, Omega Crom, Tenet, Zimmer’s Hole, and City Of Fire all lying dormant. Infernal Majesty’s long-delayed album, ‘Systematical Extermination’ still doesn’t get to see the light of day. Even good ol’ Rush only managed to churn out their 9th (!) Double Live album. In the last decade Rush have done two studio records but managed to release five Double Live albums in the past nine years! Meanwhile, Kick Axe, Helix and Lee Aaron doing the retro-casino circuit and the oft-mentioned reunions of the Killer Dwarfs, Harem Scarem, Sword and Brighton Rock failed to materialize. Stu Block’s defection to Iced Earth means the Into Eternity album slated for 2011 was delayed. The Mighty Thor announced his retirement and that his son would continue the legacy of Thor. The only big Canadian artists that put out new albums this year were Neuraxis, Threat Signal, Devin Townsend and Anvil!
Looking at the bright side, the bands that did put out albums released some world-class material into the underground. It’s a competitive global Metal market but newer bands like Blackguard, Cauldron and Skullfist lead the charge. Anonymus came late to the game and released a killer album and Dan Beehler (ex-Exciter) also put out a very heavy album late in the year. Canadian Power Metal made a strong showing from the underground with Borealis, Warmachine, Sequester, Stinger, Scythia, Magnetic, Gales Of Avalon and Conflicted all putting out great records. Untimely Demise also had their great indie album, ‘City Of Steel’ reissued to much wider acclaim. The talent and drive of the new generation of Metal warriors is keeping the scene vibrant and interesting.
In industry news, CARAS (The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) announced that they would be re-instating a Heavy Metal Category for our National, annual music awards, the Juno’s. The Metal category was dropped in 1993 and much to the disgrace of our domestic music industry, Canada remained one of the only Western nations WITHOUT a Metal category in our national music recognition program. It’s been 17 years in the waiting and while Canadian Metal industry experienced a poor year in terms of productivity, that may work to the advantage of the bands in the running, as the heavy-hitters are not in contention this year. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that an unsigned, independent Metal band may win the Juno this year, which would be a slap in the face to the mainstream record industry!
In other industry news, Canada continues to dominate the inter(metal)net and with some of the biggest web-zines still working hard to defend the faith. MetalObserver.com, MetalCrypt.com , MetalRules.com, Hellbound.ca, MetalArchives.com, and BraveWords.com all draw huge global readership! Canadian Metal radio pulls their weight with PowerChord (CITR) and Mind Compression (CJSR) and Megawatt Mayhem, CJSW all hitting milestones in their broadcast histories. Sam Dunn’s 11-part documentary about the history of Heavy Metal, Metal Evolution, debuts in North America to widespread popularity. A new major Metal festival HEAVY TO, the offspring of HEAVY MTL is a big success and Noctis Valkyries Metal Fest in Calgary enjoys it’s 5th year of operation. Labels like Diminished Fifth under the new umbrella of the Red Tentacle group in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, continue to single-handedly champion and dominate the East-coast Metal market. Sonic Unyon Metal continues to support Canadian bands of all kinds. The H.M.M.A.C. (Heavy Metal Music Association Of Canada) continues to wave the flag and Chromium Dioxide fanzine from Toronto continues to be the coolest print ‘zine on the planet.
Despite a weak year for actual music, a lack of actual product coming into the market, the Canadian Metal scene is stable. The industry stays strong as the gears of the Metal machine still churn and burn. International touring acts crisscross our great nation more frequently than ever before. Bars support local bands performing original material. Canadian Metal bands continue to tour and grow and new bands work hard to create, write, play and entertain. 2012 can only get better!