By Gareth Watkins
CALGARY — The cover of False Flag’s 2013 debut EP Orobas sums these four Calgarians up nicely: there are skulls, horns, guns and an occult design that readers who spell magic as ‘Magick’ might recognize as the seal with which King Solomon allegedly bound the demon Orabas. Orabas, as False Flag’s vocalist and guitarist Russ Gauthier notes, is something of a anomaly for one of Satan’s minions: he is incapable of telling lies or betraying whoever summons him and can tell you whatever you want to know about the past and future.
“He seemed like a more positive demon, and I really liked that because demons are seen as bad things, but there are different kinds of demons with different traits.”
Occultism has been with metal since the beginning, but so has politics. False Flag’s name refers to the act of fabricating an attack on your own country in order to justify an attack on one’s enemies. There are real examples of false flag operations in history, but Google the term and, as Gauthier says, “you’re going to find a lot of weird shit,” mostly from the fringes of the American right, who use it to describe every terrorist attack, school shooting and dangerous weather condition that happens; literally, every single one.
False Flag may not be a political band, but they acknowledge their genre’s debt to political imagery.
“What would Megadeth write about, and would Rage Against the Machine even be around if there weren’t any political topics to discuss?”
The band themselves also blend the different aspects of the metal genre into a satisfyingly heavy, groove-based whole. Gauthier acknowledges a debt to Meshuggah (who they “try not to rip off too much”), Pantera, Nirvana and Crowbar. They were originally a two-piece and have recently expanded to four, with two of their members sourced from the local band Meggido (Gauthier among them). The change resulted in their full-length album Suffer in Silence taking longer than expected. Not only does the band’s ethos ensure they don’t make unfair demands of the members’ time, but it also took longer than expected because it deals with dark, personal subject matter.
“This album is coming from a very personal place, my life more than the other guys, although we share a lot of experiences in common. This album was almost a therapy thing to record, because I was going through some things while recording it,” explains Gauthier, who does not elaborate further.
The science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once cynically noted that critics have come to the “conclusion… that 90 per cent of SF is crud.” Sturgeon flipped this back onto critics, countering, “90 per cent of everything is crud.” The optimistic addendum often added to the phrase is that “the remaining 10 per cent is worth dying for.” Gauthier describes his band in the same terms, as a musical entity that doesn’t confine to a genre because they would inevitably become just another sludge, thrash or deathcore band. We have those. What metal is lacking is more bands like False Flag who realize how vast the genre is, how much imagery, lyrical themes and sounds are available, and who take only what is right for them to make their music, without being embarrassed or strident about the boundaries.
Watch False Flag on Saturday, October 18 at Lord Nelson’s Bar & Grill at the Suffer in Silence album release party.AB, Alberta, False Flag, Lord Nelson's