Rumours of their death have been greatly exaggerated, until now.
“We’ve been told like six times that people thought we broke up,” states Mark of Cain bassist/vocalist Sean Farren.
But now, with drummer/backing vocalist Tyler Dergousoff skipping town for school in Vancouver come fall, these trend-bending death metallers are programmed to self-destruct upon release of their second full-length album and final show at Vern’s.
“I think it’s a good form of what you could call ‘closure,’ ” Dergousoff explains, adding that the group’s progression since their 2009 album, Programmed Decimation, necessitated a final release, End of Man, recorded by Casey Rogers of Exit Strategy and Truck.
“In that time our sound’s really changed a lot… It felt like kind of a waste to just leave the last three years of work that we did without anything to show for it.”
While the quartet-turned-trio’s initial material reflected their more traditional death metal influences, such as Death and Cannibal Corpse, Dergousoff notes a recent injection of new American hardcore influence, as portrayed by increased dissonance and experimental stop-and-start time signatures.
Farren also cites a shift in vocal style away from the classic high-pitch/low-pitch growl combination as representative of this audio evolution.
“It’s changed to include just like regular screaming and then we’ve got [Dergousoff’s] super-processed robot vocals in there too, so it’s not just these guttural gurgles all over the place.”
These “robot vocals” stem from the man vs. machine lyrical themes introduced on Programmed Decimation, which have come to the forefront of Farren’s writing for End of Man.
“It just sort of turned from occasional songs about killer robots to all the songs about killer robots,” laughs Dergousoff.
“We got sick of the same themes in death metal, so we decided to sing about something different,” Farren clarifies.
Looking back, the minds behind Mark of Cain claim to have never felt fully assimilated with trends in the Calgary metal scene, perpetuating this pattern with their incorporation of eclectic influences. Their tenure in a plethora of varied Calgary acts – including grindcore act WAKE, powerviolence band Gummers, blackened death metal band Valour, and death metallers Mortality – equally demonstrates this desire to diversify. As Dergousoff describes: “We’re definitely not in the same vein as some of the other bands in Calgary that are really trying to push the limits of speed and technicality.”
“We’re just doing what we do,” adds Farren.
Although all involved revel ending on a high note, any breakup is at least as bitter as it is sweet, especially when the band’s chemistry is at its strongest.
“That’s one of the sad factors of this band breaking up, because it took us so long to define what we write, and we all kind of feel on the same page,” elaborates guitarist Viktor Seremetkoski.
Despite this reluctance to part ways, eight years without any new members (guitarist Aaron Brown being the only one to leave the band) rendered replacing Dergousoff out of the question.
“We’ll just kill it, move on, and do something different,” suggests Farren.
Before then, Mark of Cain will play their final show at the venue Dergousoff calls a “staple” of their time in the scene. “It wouldn’t feel right to play our last show anywhere but Vern’s,” he decrees.
As far as having achieved notoriety or other forms of success in the scene, Dergousoff shrugs.
“I think a lot of people even in like punk or metal, they see music as a means to something, whether it’s being well known…writing the next big album, or coming out with the next style of metal,” he speculates.
“I think the music should be an end in and of itself.”
Witness the end of Mark of Cain on Friday, July 27 at Vern’s Pub with Garroting Deep, Sub Atomic Chaos, One Day Late (Edmonton) and Akakor.
Story and photo by Ian Lemke