Portland heavy metal kings Spellcaster breathe new life into treasured genre

Monday 02nd, May 2016 / 09:54
By Breanna Whipple
Portland’s Spellcaster weaves mystical heavy metal magic. Photo: Daniel Cole

Portland’s Spellcaster weaves mystical heavy metal magic.
Photo: Daniel Cole

CALGARY — The ‘80s was ruled by heavy metal. An oversaturation of talented musicians produced some of the best albums metalheads have ever been graced with. In present day, our former idols have been replaced in the spotlight with menial, mindless pop acts. Is that to say metal is no longer as powerful as it once were? Not even close, and Portland’s heavy metal kings Spellcaster are a testament to that.

With two releases under their belt and one upcoming in the late summer of 2016, the five-piece band have transitioned their sound slightly and positively. Bassist Gabe Franco elaborates, “We definitely started as a speed metal band but on the second album we started putting more songwriting, definitely got poppier with the structures and stuff. This new album I’d say we’re definitely getting you know, like more mainstream pop songwriting style… verse, chorus, verse, chorus, that type of stuff is what I mean, not like glitter pop bubblegum vocals and stuff.”

Bringing a set list spanning throughout their entire discography, the group looks forward to road testing three brand new tracks off their upcoming release. When asked what to be expected of the new material, Gabe expressed much enthusiasm.

“I would say if you took our last album and gave it much better production quality that’s what our new album is. Basically we added a lot of harmonies to our choruses this time, the rest of our releases we don’t really have any vocal harmonies, this one just is covered in them. And the songwriting is basically the same as the last one, its just the production is much better. We recorded it through Zack Ohren down in Oakland, and he has done a few releases for Prosthetic [Records] as well, like Ex-Mortus and he’s done a lot of death metal bands too, the guy just knows his stuff. Like a wizard behind the mixing board, so it turned out amazing, a lot of credit to that dude.”

The demonstrable influence of both speed metal and melodic music is apparent throughout their previous works, and when asked about the influences amongst members it became apparent why the group’s sound is so unique.

“Myself? Right now I’m listening to a lot of Sisters of Mercy and Rush, and obviously all the classics like Metallica and Judas Priest, you name it, Iron Maiden. But uh, I enjoy a lot of black metal myself, too and I know a lot of the band actually does. One of the band favourites is Dissection, but we all have varied influences. Bryce [VanHoosen, guitar] is huge into glam rock and glam metal and stuff like that, and he is like a shred master so he just listens to a lot of the shredders. Our drummer [Colin Vranizan] is a death metal guy. I just, I like depressive music, sad music mostly.” Gabe continues, “We all have our own genre, like I said there’s death metal, glam rock, you know, I like kinda sad music, Cory [Boyd, guitar] is into like goth and a lot of ’80s dance music and our singer [Tyler Loney] likes a lot of southern style stuff like Pantera, and shit like that but we all definitely have our across the board bands that we all love like any group of metalheads does. You know, I’ve always said I don’t think you could be a metalhead and not like, you know there is a few bands that no metalhead can not like, like King Diamond, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, you know?”

Rejoice, for Spellcaster pounds out pulsating metal in a way lovers of the old have been craving for years.

Spellcaster performs in Calgary, Alberta on May 2nd at Dickens; and in Winnipeg, Manitoba on May 4th at the Windsor Hotel.

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