January 2, 2014

Matt's Top 5 Canadian Albums of 2013

Written by Matt Hinch.

I'm a fiercely proud Canadian. There's no place on Earth I'd rather live. Ok, maybe Sweden but it would take being exiled to make me move. Despite the failings of our government I still love Canada. What makes it so great is the people. And some of those people make some pretty awesome metal. Allow me to heap some praise on 5 releases from Canadian bands that really put the syrup on my pancakes this year. Sit back with a fine Canadian beer or 6 (Just not Molson Canadian) and enjoy some of the best Canada has to offer.

Note that although I assigned numbered rankings, those rankings are as fluid as a bowel movement after a big chowdown at that cheap burrito place.

5. Baptists - Bushcraft

See that image of a guy throwing a (literal) axe into a big ole tree? That's precisely what I was doing most of the time I was listening to Bushcraft by Vancouver's Baptists. Their high-potency hardcore is perfect for revving up the adrenal glands for destructive physical labour. Sometimes you gotta get mad to split skulls, I mean hardwood, and Baptists provide ample motivation. Timing the strikes with their furious downbeats leads to maximum results. Baptists are bent on sonic violence. Heaving and vicious hardcore, grind and d-beat, feedback, warped tonality and various other forms of instrument torture strike all the right cords. Pun intended. Favourite track: "Still Melt".

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

4. KEN Mode - Entrench
Sculpture by Ben Bonner

The last album from Winnipeg's KEN Mode, Venerable, earned the trio the very first Juno Award for metal (Grammy equivalent). And the album was indeed venerable. 2013 saw the mathcore madmen back and in finest form. Entrench sends shivers up my spine with outstanding musicianship on all fronts. (Seeing them live damn near put me in traction for a full two weeks. So much bangover.) No album this year caused more fits of uncontrolled epileptic seizure moshing in Casa del Hinch. Complicated riffs collide with sledgehammer blows to tear the hinges off the fragility of sanity. Monstrous hooks and intelligence raise KEN Mode to a level that could very likely earn them another Juno. Oh, and when they utilize a dual bass guitar attack (ex. "No; I'm in Control") it's positively orgasmic. The album title betrays the fact that the album is in constant motion, was will you be. Favourite track: "Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick".

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

3. Shooting Guns - Brotherhood of the Ram

There's a sound echoing across the prairies where the winters are cold, and the summers hot. Carried on the winds across endless stretches of arrow-straight highway is the sound of Shooting Guns. Not literally, but rather the hypnotically psychedelic bliss jams of the Saskatoon group and their brilliant Brotherhood of the Ram.

Repetitive riffs and spaced-out synths transport the listener across the void to places where drugs can't take you. Overdriven guitars and warm-honey bass are interlaced with hardened percussion and fathomless synths/keys. Few albums got more play around here than Brotherhood and even fewer were so easy to completely give yourself over to. This is instrumental psych-rock at its finest. I get blown away every single time. Favourite track: "Motherfuckers Never Learn".

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

2. Pyres - Year of Sleep

Why are we here? Not in the existential sense, but why are we metal fans reading a metal site? Riffs. That's why. And virtually no one can bring the riff like Pyres. Debut album Year of Sleep from this Toronto outfit pushes the riff machine to its upper limit, and then pushes some more. But they still know how to write good songs. Following the path laid down by sludge forbears such as Baroness, Mastodon and High on Fire, Pyres burn their temples to the ground and build them up again in their own design.

While it is all about the riff, Year of Sleep also brings home the bacon in the tone department. Devastatingly thick and chest-caving, maximum volume yields maximum results. Work in skull-cracking percussion and vocals with enough authority to make a grizzly run for his mama and you've got the perfect formula for triumphant and all-consuming sludge. Favourite track: That's like choosing a favourite child, but we'll go with "Atlas Cast No Shadow".

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

1. Anciients - Heart of Oak

Speaking of riffs... Above I stated that virtually no one can bring the riff like Pyres. That's because Vancouver's Anciients put up some pretty stiff competition with Heart of Oak. But while Pyres grip your head in a vice, Anciients are more likely to expand your mind with soaring and epically crafted tunes full of endless riffs.

Intricately arranged and prog-fuelled songs make the elder gods proud. Clean tones and vocals move with fluidity between powerful sludge and phlegm-racked screams. Face-melting guitar harmonies warm the soul one moment while the next you'll be raising invisible oranges to the sky as if compelled beyond a shadow of resistance.

With the shortest proper track still over six minutes, Anciients take the listener on a sonic journey on each and every one. Where the sea and the mountains meet these extremely talented musicians make Heart of Oak as flowing as the waves and as solid and timeless as the Rockies. I'm really surprised Heart of Oak isn't getting more high-level praise this year as this debut is as near to flawless as it gets. Favourite track: "The Longest River".

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

A few other Canadian releases from 2013 well worth checking out:

Funeral Circle - Funeral Circle - Great trad doom.
Adoran - Adoran - Experimental ambient doom drone
Thrawsunblat - Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings - blackened folk metal, or folkened black metal? I'm actually just getting to this one but it's immediately rewarding.
Black Wizard - Young Wisdom - hard rockin' psych metal
Iron Kingdom - Gates of Eternity - straight up NWOBHM worship

  1. What about Molson Golden? That was my beer of choice in college, which I attended in the frozen tundra of upstate New York.

  2. No Gorguts? I'm surprised.

    1. I can't talk for Matt obviously, but Colored Sands ended up being an album I appreciated intellectually without really loving it.

  3. Fair enough, I think many fans of the "old" Gorguts may be of similar if not worse opinion.

  4. Molson Golden? oh man. Had that once. ONCE. And that was in college when I would drink ANYTHING.
    I haven't heard the new Fuck the Facts. Shame on me. But I will be seeing them in March.
    EVERYONE is surprised about no Gorguts. I agree with Max. I really appreciate everything it's doing but it never really stuck with me.