Boreal Brutality

Bison b.c. (courtesy The Obelisk)

Heavy Metal is a powerful international culture that features a wide array of genres and voices. A fan of heavy music can find a wealth of diversity in everything from sludge to grind to black metal originating from the Americas to Europe to Asia. Canada is home to some very strong and unique music with metal roots and influences. I enjoy all kinds of music, but today I find myself listening mostly to some of the modern heavy metal this country has to offer. Here is a potent dose of noteworthy Canadian bands you should know about:

KEN mode
Every song by this three-piece from Winnipeg is a sonic assault. Their music is loud, complex, and distinct. Heavy, intriguing and unconventional rhythms lay a foundation for intense vocals and guitar leads and riffs that erupt from a fierce core. Earlier this year, they won the inaugural JUNO award for metal/heavy music.

Bison b.c.
The riff is the essence of metal and this Vancouver band has more than mastered that tradition. Their songs mushroom into epic masterpieces of force that are often tinted with slight hints of psychedelia. Powerful and intricate, their music becomes even more immense when played live.

They started as a punk band in rural Manitoba in the 1990s, but their sound has since evolved into something much faster and heavier. It’s an intriguing blend of traditional punk and thrash metal. Their left-leaning lyrics may not be for everyone, but their most recent album is the best I’ve heard this year.

Fuck the Facts
This brutally fast and loud outfit from Gatineau, Quebec defines grind metal and pushes it beyond the realm of physical possibility. The technical prowess of all five members is truly something to behold, and to see them live is a sheer spectacle. They also embody a commendable do-it-yourself work ethic and that dedication paid off this year with a nomination for the aforementioned metal JUNO.

The Great Sabatini
Some of the strongest examples of contemporary metal incorporate the more favourable elements of rock n’ roll and make them their own. These Montreal dudes tie heavy riffs to all kinds of tempos and top it off with a massive vocal onslaught. Their live shows are compelling, interactive performances that everyone should experience.

Disclaimer: one of my brothers is in this band, so obviously I’m a little biased. But for me being a fan goes beyond family ties. They capture a massive guitar sound and seamlessly go back and forth between the slow droning of sludge metal and the ferocity of grind. Their latest EP is free and features one of my favourite songs of the year, “Kingmaker”.

Barn Burner
As far as more traditional-sounding metal goes, it doesn’t get much better. This Montreal band is fast, loud, and catchy, and above all, their guitars shred. They wear their influences on their sleeves, and metal pioneers from the 1970s are audible throughout their powerful packages of songs. At the same time, they’re one of the most unique contemporary Canadian bands.

When done well, metal music can also be beautiful and soothing. This Ottawa three-piece has effectively carved out a sound of their own based on intricate guitar and bass melodies and slower, more hypnotic rhythms. They also complement that more ambient sound with a tidal wave of intensity.

The emotional core of good metal music is sheer aggression, and few bands embody that better than these guys from Toronto. That intensity is especially prevalent in some of their more hardcore-punk sounds, but their ability to take the listener to all kinds of sonic realms in just one song is their forte.

Swarm of Spheres
Monster riffs and tight, heavy rhythms make this Ottawa trio impossible to turn down. Their sound is reminiscent of both 1970s riff-rock and stoner metal of the 1990s and today. Perfect driving music.

Click the bands’ links above for music and videos. What are some of your favourite Canadian metal bands?


2 thoughts on “Boreal Brutality

  1. I followed metal much more closely in high school, so I’m a bit out of touch these days. I’ve still got a big soft spot for Cryptopsy, Quo Vadis, and uneXpect.

  2. West of Hell from Vancouver make some killer thrash. I also love Striker from Edmonton. They’re like Judas Priest but faster. Even though they’re an older band and this article is about newer Canadian metal, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Annihilator. You also already mentioned two of my absolute favourite Canadian metal bands: Bison BC (Dark Ages is an INCREDIBLE album) and Barn Burner (Bangers II: Scum of the Earth is a straight up, in your face metal album that I never get tired of).

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