By Josh Wood
A grim gift guide to some of best Western Canadian metal releases of 2018
It’s a horrible time of year to be a metal fan. Each Christmas headbangers across the globe are subjected the seasonal sounds of Kenny ‘n’ Dolly duets at the company holiday party, exposed to B-B-B-Bing Crosby crooning carols on TV and forced to cringe along with The Boney M. Christmas Album at the local shopping mall.
Despair not! I have the perfect remedy – a whole satchel of brand new releases. Shiny gifts bestowed by underground metal bands from the prairies to the B.C. coast. A Western Canadian Metal Advent Calendar, if you will! It’s like “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” but with yours truly sending you a dark dozen frosty Western Canadian metal albums to stave off the holiday doldrums!
“On the first day of Metalmas my true love sent to me…”
Apprentice The Strength of Mortality – Vancouver, BC (Independent)
They may only have ONE album to their credit, but this progressive power metal outfit has generated a lot of buzz in the underground. At the head of their class, this astute blacksmith’s debut is an adventurous six-chapter epic packed with meditations on classic metal.
Assault Kill for Your Life – Vancouver, BC (Scrape Records)
After 31 years of fermenting, this distillation of TWO old demos and other such dark matter is faster, heavier and thrashier than their 1987 debut Survival in the Streets. For those who remember it the good ol’ days, this was worth the wait. Here’s a tasty trove of rare gems for fans who still cherish them three decades on.
Blackrat Dread Reverence – Calgary (Shadow Kingdom)
Wise beyond their years, Blackrat have captured the intensity, drive and attitude of some of the early masters on album THREE. The tumultuous trio churn and burn like Venom, Tank, Hellhammer and old Motörhead but with an utterly modern desire for speed and pressure dispensed with devastating fluidity.
Ye Goat-Herd Gods Ashes Shall Be Made of Them – Calgary, AB (Independent)
This effort was years in the making and during that period the flock has expanded to FOUR members. Chaotic yet somehow melodic, this death meets black mash-up is bred for extreme temperatures. Scaling rocky terrain with top-notch musicianship and well-conditioned songwriting, they flex their excellent production values and rule the wasteland with an iron staff.
Leah The Quest – Vancouver, BC (Inner Wound)
It’s another win for songbird Leah as she continues to proves why she embodies Canada’s answer to Nightwish. Loaded with cameos from no less than FIVE Euro-metal guest stars and treated with lush production, this mellowed instalment explores symphonic Celtic metal soundscapes with great success.
Solborn Dark Lights of Delirium – Edmonton, AB (Independent)
Alberta spawned, Solborn exemplify Capital City’s virtues with their flawless form of operatic, female-fronted, progressive, metal. Did I mention how symphonic and epic they are? I know that is a lot to digest, but thanks to some sleight of hand and genius genre wrangling it totally fits. Strap in and let the SIX fold Solborn spirit you away to their delirious dimension.
Dethgod Disease Called Humans – Morley, AB (Independent)
Arguably the heaviest band on our twelve-fold naughty list, this skull-crushing debut EP is the SEVEN day heavy hangover helper you’ve been searching for. Breaking rules comes easily to the bat-swinging threesome whose gritty play on traditional death metal comes across with a face-smashing mean streak that reads as pure evil!
Arctic Circle Where Ice Meets Ocean – Brandon, MB (Independent)
Rumbling and roaring across the frozen tundra, Arctic Circle strips it all down with this lean 24-minute release. The three-piece’s boundary-probing third effort sees them crashing through the wilderness while wielding behemoth riffs. As harsh and relentless as the elements they embrace, this band of string slingers hunted through snow and sludge to claim these EIGHT hybrid doom-groove trophies.
Haiduk Exomancer – Calgary, AB (Independent)
This is the third invasion from Lukas, the one-man army. And, believe me, Virginia, one is all it takes. A swirling, all-consuming, snow globe vortex of blackened death – this package is just what the magi ordered. Camel-up, Dante. You’ll follow the arcane star of Haiduk’s dark metal order down through all NINE Circles of Hell.
Into Eternity The Sirens – Saskatoon, SK (M-Theory Audio)
One of the most successful bands in the region returns after a TEN year hiatus to deliver album number six. A bit of a super-group, now with dudes from Untimely Demise and Death Toll Rising on the roster, Into Eternity’s new singer Amanda Kiernan’s (Order of Chaos) incredible vocal talent is on full display and instantly embedded into the carbonite maelstrom of their technical death throes…
Untimely Demise No Promise of Tomorrow Saskatoon, SK (Independent)
These guys are probably the purest example of true ‘80s thrash in Western Canada and the ELEVEN cuts presented on No Promise of Tomorrow finds them deep in the stacks of brain-frying, old school nostalgia. Shredding with fierce vocals, blazing solos and sound-barrier ripping velocities their timing is actually quite impeccable. Your true metal love will dig the awesome Ed Repka cover art too!
Mongol The Return – Edmonton, AB (Sliptrick)
Edmonton’s favourite marauders are back! Sweeping across the grassy steppes with the thunder of TWELVE drummers drumming, the barbaric raiders behind the folk-fueled death metal entity known as Mongols are not to be underestimated. A grand concept record in the truest sense, the warrior hoard’s Return recalls the era of Genghis Khan with a furious sense of humour and a reckless abandon that the Blue Wolf himself would surely celebrate!