Released: NA, Various
Canadian Millennium Underground Scene Overview
Intro note: This month the boss EvilG gave me permission to do a little feature on some of the extreme bands in the Canadian underground. I choose 10 bands; 5 from the West and 5 from the East. If you are interested in what the growing underground scene in Canada has to offer, check out these other reviews. Team West: Butcher’d, Deimos, Hurt, Myopia, Thorazine, & Team East: Anonymus, Blinded By Faith, Martyr, Neuraxis, and Quo Vadis. Some of these bands I have met, some I have seen live, but they all got fairly good reviews because of the hundreds of bands out there in the icy wastes of Canada, these 10 bands are making the brightest blaze in the northern sky.
December 2001 | Released November 1999
Label: MVP Records | Rating 4.5/5 | Reviewer: JP
Anonymus are a great band! They have been around for many years and are a strong part of the Quebec metal scene, which I believe is the strongest in Canada and one of the strongest in the world. Instinct is their third album and the first two must have caught some big name attention because the producer on this CD is none other than Colin Richardson. I’m not exactly sure where I read this but I believe Colin Richardson was quoted as saying that Anonymus was the most “metal” band he had worked with. To me that’s a compliment! (He has produced a few real dogs in the last little while, but that’s another story!)
This Quebec four piece play extremely, proficient thrash with a crushing, modern edge and sound. Everything about this band is class. The packaging, the look, the killer production (of course) and most importantly, the songs. The opening track “Virtually Insane” is just that, insanely good! It starts heavy and fast then has a nice abrupt time change before taking off again. Other standout tracks are “Feeding the Dragon” and “Evil Blood”. One interesting feature that adds a cosmopolitan flair to the band is they sing songs in English, French and Spanish. The Spanish tunes were well received when they toured in Mexico with Blind Guardian! This band has been around the block and it shows with the sophisticated songs, excellent riffs, intelligent lyrics and it is all combined with a crushing youthful modern aggressive feel. The vocals are raw and aggressive but still intelligible, almost death-like but not quite. The solos are all very well done but never too self-indulgent. Did I mention they are as heavy as hell?
Anonymus WILL be big. They have played a number of big festivals as well as with Anthrax and by all accounts held their own. Check these guys out at anonymusmetal.com
BLINDED BY FAITH- Veiled Hideousness
December 2001 | Released: Summer 2000
Label: Indie | Rating: 4/5 | Reviewer: JP
A black metal representation of the Quebec metal scene and somehow it works. To me black metal should ideally be from a northern climate, I know that sounds weird but somehow a bunch of guys from downtown Detroit wearing corpse-paint and singing about Odin just rubs me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong I love Absu and all those guys but somehow a black metal band from the middle of the woods in Canada seems to be a little more…pure. Anyway, BBF are an excellent band. After a very enjoyable opening track called somber Harbinger (which was a perfect name to suit the tone of the CD) BBF rips into a quintessential black metal screeched song with the quintessential wordy song title, “Behind the Placid Mask of the Starlit Cosmos”.
This CD is very well done with orchestral touches and flourishes keyboards, electronic and organ style, raging blast-beats, some nice tempo changes, acoustic guitars it’s all here. A rich and rewarding listen, BBF are a very complex with multi-melodies and musical influences. Black metal purists may not enjoy this 7 song EP, it has two mellow pieces the intro and outro and has plenty of keyboards.
The band has 6 members and all their talents are put to use. It has good packaging for an indie with lyrics, some nice photos that add a gothic feel to the proceedings. I don’t like the logo much, it reminds me of some hippie 60’s flower-power thing but if that is the only thing I can find to complain about this CD that’s good! The production is strong but I would have liked the guitars a little farther up in the mix because sometimes they got left behind in all the other cool parts in the songs. Adventurous death metal fans and black metal fans should enjoy this CD and band as much as I do. Check them out at blindedbyfaith.com
MARTYR-Extracting The Core-Live 2001
December 2001 | Released: Summer 2001
Label: Skyscraper | Rating 3.5 /5 | Reviewer: JP
Yet another kick-ass Quebec band! They must put something in the water over there. This live offering is Martyrs third CD and it was recorded live in the backwoods of Quebec which makes it surprising the sound is as good as it is!
The packaging is excellent and it has the essential elements of a live CD, some great live shots and a description of their previous two CD’s which is very important. It also has a multi-media component as well which “will bring you closer to the actual atmosphere of a Martyr show.” Too true! I saw ‘em live in front of a regrettably small crowd and they kicked ass, so I can attest this CD is a good representation of the band live. And how would I describe that live sound? Clean and tight, fast and heavy! It might be difficult to categorize this band because they will rip your face off in a manner consistent with that of a technical early 90’s Florida style death metal band but then throw in these great thrash parts and some melodic soloing! It all works…Death-thrash, I guess you’d call it for those who must categorize. A bit like Soilwork perhaps, fast, heavy with melody… a brilliant combination.
Lyrically Martyr are quite adept and technical much like their music. Tunes like “Warp Zone”, “Virtual Emotions”, “Prototype’ and the oddly titled “Endless Vortex Towards Erasing Destiny” give you a very modern feel, not your typical death-gore lyrics, maybe some Voivod influence? The aforementioned “Endless Vortex” is very well played with some neat bass parts, fast shredding some melodic soloing and a sci-fi vibe all driven by a pummeling double bass attack.
The only reason I gave this CD a 3.5 / 5 is because this CD is premature. An indie band, putting out a Live CD early in their career just doesn’t seem right. Live albums are supposed to document a certain special pointing time or tour. Also this CD has no bonus tracks, lyrics, unreleased material, cover tunes etc…However this is for the fans and if you are already a Martyr fan, (which I am) then bump this rating to a 4.5. But if you are some guy living in Moosefart, Norway (pop: 72) who has never heard of Quebec let alone Martyr, this may not be for you, get the debut instead! I won’t name names but the industry buzz on this band is big, very big, watch for a huge fourth release soon and check them out at welcome.to/Martyr
NEURAXIS-A Passage Into Forlorn
December 2001 | Released: February 2001
Label: Neoblast Records | Rating: 4/5 | Reviewer: JP
The word Neuraxis means the headquarters of the human central nervous system located in the neck. A very cool name for a band (and you thought all the cool “metal” names like Violence and Destruction had been used up!) and they have a very cool, spiky, almost unreadable logo which is the way I like them!
Yet another kick-ass 5 piece from Quebec which goes along way to proving my theory that there is some metallic element in the Quebec water system that makes guys be able to play this kind of killer metal!
Founded in 1994 and after several line-up changes and an indie debut called Imagery Neuraxis are back with another white-hot slice of highly precise death thrash. One of the members of Neuraxis was acting as a roadie for Quo Vadis when they passed through town gave me a copy of their new EP which I though was very generous of him!
The constant line-up changes may have been detrimental to this band as the band has only managed to produce one full length and this 23 minute EP in almost eight years. That’s OK because this EP is awesome! Much like several of the other bands in Quebec Neuraxis play a brutal form of ultra-precise, death-thrash with variety, innovation and aggression. Some might say this type of ultra-dense technically proficient thrash is missing elements of “groove” or “vibe” but if you want that go buy a Black Crowes CD.
The vocalist is raw and aggressive and falls into a mid-range scream style, not too guttural…almost a touch of black metal. Short songs punctuated by sweeping guitar flourishes that are so tasteful and well played I had a big grin on my face hearing the mini-solos on the track “Virtuosity”. How appropriate! The drumming is ultra fast and maybe lacks a little in power and bottom end. The production is excellent, nice separation between the instruments but maybe the bass was a little far back in the mix, or maybe it’s just my crummy stereo!
The band doesn’t really have an identity…yet. Lyrics and visual themes seem based on modern technological concepts, not exactly like Fear Factory but tunes seem to have a modern element. It was very prevalent on the lyrics of their debut but this time around with song titles like “Forlorn”, ‘The Art of Sadness”, and “Pacify” you might expect to hear some doom metal, instead of the blistering tunes on the disc. It is almost as if the songs titles and lyrics don’t really match the music. The CD ends with a short and surprisingly gentle acoustic outro. Great stuff.
These guys toured across North America with Cephalic Carnage so you know they can kill with brutality! Probably one of the heaviest most proficient bands from Quebec along with Kataklysm and other purveyors of fine northern hyperblast. Check them out at neoblast.com
QUO VADIS – Passage in Time
Decemeber 2001 | Released: October 2001
Label: Skyscraper | Rating 4.5 /5 | Reviewer: JP
Of the five great bands from Quebec I reviewed in this overview, Quo Vadis is my favorite. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the band and seeing them twice this summer, once in Calgary and once at the First Annual Okanagan Death Fest in Oliver, BC, so I am a little biased.
Quo Vadis is a truly magnificent band. If anyone tells me metal died in the 80’s I would play some Quo Vadis. They combine thrash, speed death and progressive elements into an incredible package of complex, yet accessible song-writing and virtuoso musicianship. They have 2 full length CD’s and this third is a great package.
PASSAGE is a nice collection and introduction to the band if perhaps a little premature. That’s my only complaint, like Martyr an unnecessary live or best of coming too early in the discography. However this one is so well done it is forgiven. It has a year 2000 remake, a remix, an unreleased tune, 2 live tracks and most of their 1995 demo and a bonus CDROM video. Excellent value, full lyrics and some photos and liner notes as well. Vocalist Bart is the resident computer expert and handled the layout and so on and did a great job. One thing I like about this band is that they have a consistent image on all their material.
Musically this band gets only better and better. Guitarist Arie Itman also plays violin for the band but sparingly adding an excellent dimension to already complex, multi-dimensional songs. The lyrics are dark, well written and intelligent without being wordy. These guys are so tight, so precise and so fast when they need to be it is an extremely enjoyable listening experience. I have already turned 3 friends on the mighty QV!
I strongly encourage you to seek out the first two CD’s FOREVER and DAY INTO NIGHT check them out at quovadis.qc.ca
BUTCHER’D – Razor Eaten Flesh
December 2001 | Released: Mid 2000
Label: Indie | Rating: 3.5 /5 | Reviewer: JP
First up in our Western Death round-up is Butcher’d from Edmonton. Great band, good guys from the few brief moments I had to chat to them and they are one of the leading lights in the Canadian death metal scene.
The cover is very neat. It folds out into this big 9 panel display of butchered (what else?) bodies. Skinned bodies, gutted bodies, impaled bodies, bodies here, bodies there, bodies everywhere! The drawing is crude, very crude almost like the style of guy who the autopsy album cover for ACTS OF THE UNSPEAKABLE. It’s creepy because I think it looks like deranged mental patient did it with crayons held between his toes, not a ultra realistic rendering of anatomy done by a pro.
Lyrically I’m really torn. On one hand you could say they remain true to the archetypes (big word) of the death metal genre. Very commendable. On the other you could say boring and repetitive. Song titles like “Decapitation”, “Brains”, “Bloodlust”, “Cannibal” and “Destruction” are lame and boring. Bloodlust was the name of the last Sacred Steel CD for crying out loud…that’s not scary. However, song titles like, “Cut Throat Kill” , “Of Blasphemy, the Propechy” and the title track “Razor Eaten Flesh” are all very cool and evoke nice images of evil. They are young so we give them the benefit of the doubt. As for the actual lyrics; straight outta the Mortician /Cannibal Corpse handbook , “How to write Death Metal lyrics in 10 easy lessons.” Simplistic but at least they were nice enough to print them!
Musically these are guys are top-notch. Great production, short, crushing, heavy, brutal death metal!! There is a lot of competition in this style of metal and for what they lack in terms of pure originality they make up for in skill and brutality.
The singer has a decent range of guttural growls and occasional higher screams to mix it up a bit. The lyrics are mostly indecipherable which is the way it is supposed to be. The tempos of the songs are mostly mid-tempo, slightly faster than Obituary but slower than Suffocation. Just a nice death grind pace.
A very promising debut by the young 5 piece, I hope they continue to dish out this level of brutality while gaining a little originality. Check out their web-site at butcher’d.ca
DEIMOS – Deimos
December 2001 | Released: TBA (Advance copy)
Label: Indie | Rating: 4/5 Reviewer: JP
Deimos (along with Thorazine) are one of the two top extreme metal bands in Calgary. In fact members of Deimos used to be in Thorazine, and now there is a healthy rivalry that is pushing both bands to greater heights of performance live and in the studio. After a couple of well received demos and a some minor line-up instability, Deimos have unleashed their debut, self–titled CD.
Deimos is billed as “Sick Black Death” and that describes their sound perfectly. Some bands try to merge to many opposing influences into the sound causing them to lack direction or just sound weird. Not Deimos! They have found a perfect blend of… well…sick black death!
This four piece has opened for a number of big bands that have passed through the Calgary area and this release is a good opportunity to see how the live show translates to disc.
The disc opens with a creepy part-spoken, (part sampled?) horror movie style intro, kinda like Mortician always does. Listen carefully and you’ll get the joke…Immediately after the band rips into Necro Cannibal!! A great tune but how many bands have done a song about eating dead people? Many, many bands have covered that territory before and the lyrical concept is a little stale. But what else is a sick black death metal band going to sing about?…puppies and rainbows?! I think not! So it is forgivable.
Most of the other songs carry good ideas lyrically and thematically, tunes like “Death Apothecary”, and “Satyr Fallen” give a nice black feel, a much more sophisticated sound than a straight Death Metal bands like Obituary or Cannibal Corpse. The band covers a tune called “Ghostriders in the Sky” which apparently is some ancient, famous song from like the dawn of time, but I have never heard it before, but then again I don’t listen to wussy, ancient, medieval, folk music…only sick black death!! Seriously, even though I don’t “know” the song, I sorta recognized it.
The band is tight and proficient, as any band tackling this type of material has to be. Grimmstone is a monster on the (human) skins and vocalist Mayhemic Christ Slasher has a good range for both the black screams and the guttural growls. (I wonder what made Mr. & Mrs. Slasher decide to name their son, Mayhemic? M.C. Slasher? Any relation to M.C. Hammer? Just kidding) The guy kills!! He has a tiny bit of a croak in his vocals that are slightly reminiscent of Antti Boman, the vocalist from Demilich. Bassist, Screamer does a great job holding down the heavy end as well.
Guitarist Reverend Kill has assembled a highly proficient kill-team. My favorite tune on the debut is “His Blood, Our Victory”. Check out that opening scream!! I expect Deimos to be victorious in the very near future. Check them out at members.home.net/deimos666/
December 2001 | Released 2000
Label: Indie | Rating:3/5 | Reviewer: JP
Hurt are a Vancouver 5 piece that put out what amounts to a very pro 5 song “demo” that is short as it is ugly. And I mean that in a good way. This thing has 5 tunes and clocks in at a whopping 15 minutes and man is it ugly.
Let’s do the bad first. This whole thing is weird. The cover is pretty lame, mostly black with the band name and a collage of what seems to be high-school grad photos…a collage of people who pissed them off perhaps. The packaging is pretty poor, no lyrics but that’s forgivable for a demo. The song titles are quite dumb (an attempt at humour perhaps?) with song titles like “Onion”, and “Lobo”. But who can tell if they are trying to be funny because the vocals are unintelligible (which is good) and no lyrics are provided. Weirdest of all is a photo of one of the band members giving another member a blow job in an outhouse (or something) while the other stand and watch. Weird. Maybe I just don’t get it.
What salvages this disc? The music, thank the gods of metal. Self described as full-bore hardcore it is a nice mish-mash of death, black, grind and hardcore but somehow those dissimilar elements have not blended together very well, which is the beauty of it. The drummer is way too frantic and all over the map, and the vocals are harsh, super harsh…which like I said is good!
I can definitely see this freaky band fitting nicely on the Relapse label, with other weirdo bands like Blood Duster and Soilent Green that just have this insane desire to obliterate sonically while maintaining a humour or image that either you get or you don’t. I guess maybe I just don’t get it, but I am intrigued enough to watch what the future has in store for these guys. Check them out at hurting.org
MYOPIA-Concentration of Suffering
December 2001 | Released summer 2001
Label: Indie | Rating 3.5 / 5 | Reviewer: JP
Another insanely brutallic (Hey… I made up a new word!) death metal band from Vancouver. These guys thank Hurt in their liner notes so it makes sense.
Myopia have their act together with this short CD. It is well presented, well produced, the pictures are all very cool. Check out that guy getting impaled in the face…real or not it’s still pretty grim. The back cover of the vultures and the body is also pretty cool. It makes you wonder why they went with the trippy, green, acid-inspired design on the front. It looks like the alien in the dog kennel scene in that old horror movie, The Thing with Kurt Russell. No lyrics! The singer could be singing about puppies and or mowing the lawn for all we know, but probably is singing about mowing puppies on the lawn.
The mandatory unreadable logo is in place.
Seriously, a good disc, the music is fairly conventional death-metal but enough raw edge and talent to take it out of the realm of the slower Obituary type bands. It went by pretty fast not leaving a huge impact. The vocalist is standard guttural growler but shines in some spots. There is nothing actually wrong with this disc but I’ve listened to it, played tunes on my radio show, and listened to it again and nothing really sticks in my memory. Maybe the riffs are a little dull and uninspired. Not a glowing endorsement I realize but if you are a serious hard-core death metal fan buried deep in the underground you must get this disc. It is seriously heavy and stays true to classic death metal form. If you are a casual fan of death (sounds odd) you may want to say your bucks for the next Nile or something. Myopia is about as heavy and brutal as they get…and you thought the only heavy band in Vancouver was SYL…shame on you. The web-site seems to be down but the contact is listed as email@example.com.
December 2001 | Released: TBA (Advance copy)
Label: Indie | Rating: 4/5 | Reviewer: JP
Thorazine (along with Deimos) are one of the two top extreme metal bands in Calgary. In fact members of Deimos used to be in Thorazine, and now there is a healthy rivalry that is pushing both bands to greater heights of performance both live and in the studio. After a fairly obscure debut and a well regarded follow up called SEED THE BLACK SKY Thorazine have unleashed their third slab, GENETICIDE.
Thorazine is death through and through. Pure blazing death! Some purists might say that most true death metal CD’s should be about 33 minutes long and Thorazine stay true to that theory with GENETICIDE clocking in at 38 minutes. 12 short songs and one short intro called Into The Chaos. A little cliché and musically it sounds like my furnace turning on in the morning and just about as scary. Thankfully it is short-lived and they proceed to crush all non-believers with the opening real track, “Aborted”.
Some of you hard-core underground death metal types might recognize the vocalist, Shane “Drifter” Hawco, vocalist and artist having contributed art to another Alberta band of some fame, Disciples of Power. Shane does another excellent cover for the CD, one of his best pieces of art yet. His vocals are raw and aggressive but not unique, sounding similar to several other growlers out there, but very well done nonetheless.
Lyrically or thematically the band seem a little…schizophrenic. Some songs lean towards a generic gore-metal style “Infanticide’, “Aborted” and “Tortured and Hidden” and some songs have an element of humour in songs like “Malpractice Makes Perfect” and “Curbstomp Execution”. Where I feel the band shine in this regard are tunes like “Injecting Utopia” and the title track “Geneticide” that offer more than just descriptions of morbidity. Maybe they are not schizophrenic so much as having diverse influences and inspiration. Regardless, they are all excellent songs, not a weak track at all.
Musically, it is easy to see why they are gaining a big name in the Canadian metal underground. The pace is relentless with occasional lulls before tearing off again on another surge of aggression. They let up enough just to add the element of interest to break up the “wall of noise” syndrome. Guitarist Joe keeps his head down and shreds but not getting into much in the way of melodic soloing that is becoming all the rage with with Soilwork, Darkane and those Euro-dudes. Thorazine is much more…focused on the “death” in death metal. One minor complaint; I don’t like the snare sound, too high and thin for my tastes but the rest of the production is fine, very listenable.
I know it is a cheap way to review a band comparing them to others but Thorazine reminds me of many of the middle-tier of solid, respected, Death metal bands that have been around for ages, have a loyal cult-following but have yet to make it big. For example, they are not as innovative as a Nile or Pestilence but they are as easily as good as Judecca, Centinex or Angelkill. Their web-site suggests they are “progressive” which I do not agree with at all but, I do agree with the more common description of the band “Canadian Injected Death Grind”. If you want to get into these guys before they do make it big become a Thorazine addict and check out their web-site at thorazine.ca.