Long has the underground cried their love for Edmonton death-tech-thrash band, Disciples of Power. The group began performing on the Canadian metal circuit in the late ‘80s and continued on until 2002. Their cavernous musical footprint still reverberates to this day.
“Growing up in the metal scene in Alberta, they were definitely one of the biggest influences for myself and a lot of people that I know,” says Disciple of Power’s current vocalist Shane Hawco, who has screeched for Thorazine, WAKE and Exit Strategy. “They were one of the more outstanding bands that were around in the early ‘90s. They kinda redefined what heavy music was at the time.”
Indeed they did. Disciples of Power were renowned, simultaneously appealing to the war, death, black and power metal scenes. Their colleagues and contemporaries in Thorazine, Red Tide, Dead Jesus, Cremation, Putrefaction and Casket all left a unique mark on the burgeoning metal scene, but none achieved the level of crossover appeal. Notably, they were once signed to the now defunct Fringe Records, infamous for being the label at the receiving end of an obscenity lawsuit thanks to the distribution of Dayglo Abortion’s Here Today, Guano Tomorrow (1987). This not only enabled DoP to open for Corrosion of Conformity, D.R.I., Sacred Reich, D.O.A., Anvil, and countless others, but also play at the legendary Blasphemy reunion in 2001. Sadly, they called it quits less than a year later after In Dust We Trust, their fifth full-length, was released.
It was a conclusion that saw a promising band never quite reach the audience it should have or mainstream credit it deserved. Longtime friends also parted ways, formed different bands, and, at least in one case, found God. The messy dissolution saw founding member and guitarist Hart Bachmier publicly denounce the group and literally apologize for its existence. This ugly ending never sat well with drummer Dean Relf, who decided to get the crew back together for a victory lap in 2012 after a large demand from the group’s old and new fans alike.
“The band ended on terms that weren’t really justifying what the band did and stuff like that. It ended on a bad note. At first, I never thought about trying to put the thing back together out of respect to Hart, but we kept hearing it from different people about putting the band back together and hearing the tunes again,” explains Relf.
The 2013 incarnation of Disciples of Power includes longtime guitarist Wes Sontag, original bassist Chris Chapman, vocalist Shane Hawco and new addition Ben Harbak on guitar. Harbak – a long-time fan – is formerly of Begrime Exemious and Acantha and currently in The Numenon and brings with him tenacity and fresh legs.
Excited as the group is, Relf points out it still doesn’t feel quite the same without Bachmier, whose absence will deter the band from ever writing new material. Hawco also expresses trepidation about moving forward without the former main man’s consent. Correspondingly, many metal old timers are hesitant to celebrate the reunion without the member whom they feel is Disciples of Power’s lifeblood.
“My concern to Dean and Wes instantly was, ‘Well, what does Hart think and is he OK with this?’ because if he’s not down then I can’t be a part of this,” says Hawco.
Bachmier generously gave consent, which led to rehearsals beginning in November of 2012 after fleshing out the lineup.
“It was really good. It’s been fun to play the stuff again. Obviously, it’s been like 20 years or more for some of it and, like I say, we’re not young anymore. It was a little tough, and it still is, just doing all the stuff and getting back into form again,” says Relf.
Hawco agrees and emphasizes how ecstatic that the group is to be back at the grind.
“It’s been pretty awe-inspiring, to be honest. The jams have been surreal and the music’s as tight as it was back in the day — it’s going to be incredible. It’s going to be an interesting experience”
It’s a form that has much of the Alberta metal community frothing from the mouth. Disciples of Power’s lasting legacy is impressive. They were one of Western Canada’s first bands to take the technical aspect of metal to new heights and few had the opportunity to witness it in a live environment.
“It was pretty impactful. They were getting a lot of airplay on MuchMusic, they were on Fringe and getting distributed and there were all kinds of radio stations playing them because nobody ever sounded like that. It was this new progressive thing,” says Hawco. “They weren’t trying to replicate bands that they heard from other parts of the globe, they were just trying to come up with something for themselves.”
The past is, in a way, also where they plan to keep it. In addition to Bachmier’s situation, the over-saturated metal scene is also a deterrent from creating new material. The older material, however, held everything from in-your-face thrash approach on the debut, Power Trap (1989), and follow-up, Ominous Prophecy (1992), to the maniacal, progressive metal attack of Invincible Enemy (1993) and onwards. As the years passed, they evolved to incorporate tempo changes, squealing tremolo picking, off-time beats, jazz-based scales and more, which was then a relatively uncommon approach. Now… not so much.
“In this day in age, there [are] so many bands that are playing that type of stuff. Back in the day, there wasn’t a lot. That technical kind of speed metal stuff, like Atheist and stuff like that. I think if we we’re to make a record these days it would end up falling into that same pit as everything else,” agrees Relf.
Hopefuls may hold out for a change of mind from Disciples of Power, but, for now, it’s about having fun and celebrating the existence of one of Alberta’s first cutting-edge metal acts. Relf steadfastly agrees, pinpointing that it’s back to the basics. They really just want to get out there again.
“Really, it’s about a bunch of buddies who made music together. It sounds cliché, but it’s the truth.”
On Friday, April 19, head to the Pawn Shop (10551 – 82 Ave.) in Edmonton for Disciples of Power with Villainizer, Kataplexis, and Display of Decay. The following evening, go to Heavy 420 at Dickens Pub in Calgary. The show will feature Disciples of Power, Xul, Villainizer, Kyoktys, Blackest Sin, Burning Effigy, Throne of Vengeance, Vile Insignia, Bloated Pig, and Lordosis. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.
By Brandon McNeil
Photo: Kylee Thompson