Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shooting Guns - Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976

I kept hearing great things about this Shooting Guns band but never really paid much attention. Most of the praise came from a resident of Shooting Guns' home base of Saskatoon. Therefore, I assumed a local bias was at least partially responsible. Much like the way I fawned over Kingston's I Hate Sally (RIP) and Guelph's Arise and Ruin (also RIP)(I lived in Guelph for 3 years). I might never have known how wrong I was about that bias had Born to Deal in Magic :1952-1976 not shown up in my inbox. I love being wrong.
Drinking deep from the well of doom (anti)luminaries Black Sabbath ("Dopestrings") and Electric Wizard ("Harmonic Steppenwolf"), this instrumental quintet has conjured a gem of an album from the ether of those cold prairie nights. Born to Deal's fuzzed out jams flow with hypnotic grace, lulling the listener into a state of total bliss. Sharp angularity has no place here as the smoothed edges of the groove transport you to a land of complacency. No need to worry about anything as you let the swell of psychedelia wash over you in waves of calming vibration. The wall of sound created is anything but oppressive. It feels more like non-violent explosions of warm light blooming in the darkness, the riffs floating on a sea of synths. EW and Sabbath aren't the only tributaries feeding these dark yet tranquil waters. Streams of Clutch ("Public Taser"), the almighty Sleep ("The Last Great Depression") and Karma To Burn ("Liberator") filter through the bedrock to augment the effectiveness of Born to Deal until you're neck deep in numbing coolness. Overdriven and delay-soaked, Shooting Guns drown the listener beneath texture and layers of sonic serenity. Not merely content to wallow in subsonic frequencies at an easy pace, "Stay Awake Forever" is a Hammond-drenched ride down a space highway with a Steppenwolf patch on its jacket while album closer "Cheater's Justice" sounds heavily informed by early Monster Magnet. And we can all use more Monster Magnet influence in our lives. It may sound like a lot of name dropping but this is no album of ripoffs. Shooting Guns merely take a queue from killer bands and reconfigure those methodologies into something unique and wholly satisfying.
It's been a while since I've heard something I'm so comfortable in labeling "stoner rock". But not even in the sense that it's music for stoners as much as music that makes you feel stoned. It's cantering rhythm and "bathed in smoke" feel pull the listener away from the physical sensations shackling them to their Tellurian existence to transcend dimensions on a cosmic trip. Pack your (dime)bags and bongs my friends, this is one journey you can't afford to miss.
Any band that can take a handful of my ALL TIME favourite bands and sew them into an album of considerable greatness is worthy of all the praise I can throw at them. I can't get enough. Get some. NOW. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012


I meant to post this a while ago but internet issues put a kink in that plan. So without further adieu, here's a new track from the upcoming EP Anthology of Terror Vol 1 from thrashers AXESLASHER!! Mark of the Pizzagram - Invasion of the Babe Snatchers!!

Mark of the Pizzagram - Invasion of

And don't forget to go to www.axeslasher.com to order your Pizzagram shirt!! Click the Tweet button and 50% off!!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mortor - Shoot 'Em Up

I find myself typically listening to a lot of doom, sludge, black metal, death metal and various mutations and mixtures of said genres. So, when this Mortor album turned up in my mailbox, I was struck with a refreshing change of pace. These Ottawa death-thrashers play a straight up, no frills, headbangin' style of metal on Shoot 'Em Up  This album is another notch in the bedpost of what is turning out to be a stellar year for Canadian metal.  What Mortor brings to the table is much like a home cooked meal. You pretty much know what to expect (death metal and trash) but all the same it's wholly satisfying and nourishing. This is not to say that Shoot 'Em Up is bland or lacking in excitement (like mashed potatoes EVERY FUCKING DAY. Sorry Mom). What I mean here is that Mortor is not out to dazzle with a flashy display disguising a lack of substance.
Founded by rhythm guitarist Dave Paquette and rounded out by drummer Jay Cross, Bassist Jonathan Boulay, lead guitarist Antonin Perras-Foisy and vocalist Yolin Lafreniere, Mortor packs that meal for the road and carries it through 14 tracks of solid and muscular metal sure to put hair on your chest. Part of the appeal of the album is while Mortor draws influence from some of thrash and death metal's best, they don't sound like they are ripping those bands off. The familiarity of the overall sound puts the listener at ease and let's them connect with the music in an effortless way. However, the lyrics aren't likely to put anyone at ease. Lafreniere's death metal bark is all about the violence, war, guns, guns and more guns. But that much should be obvious given song titles like "Locked and Loaded", "Trigger Happy", "For Glory" and the title track. His vocals may not be the most dynamic but I'm a sucker for good death metal vocals. In this case, they remind me of early Cannibal Corpse or even Nathan Explosion of Dethklok, but my initial thought was of Krisiun's Alex Camargo.
Comfortable at a range of bpms, Shoot 'Em Up never sounds like the same song over and over. From the blistering "Trigger Happy" to the chugging parts of  "Clusterfuck", and the mid-paced banger "Infidels", your neck should get a varied work out. While you're busy giving your chiropractor fits, the shotgun spray of catchy riffs will bury themselves deep in the flesh. With almost all of the tracks clocking in at less than four minutes, Mortor is a very efficient unit. Each song a well-planned mission bent on accomplishing the goal without compromise and no prisoners. Perras-Foisy's slick leads, Paquette's pummeling rhythms, Cross's concussive percussion and Boulay's rock solid bass combine to create a well-trained force fueled by the meat and potatoes of classic death metal and thrash. There's even some hardcore punk flavour thrown in on "Let's Deflagrate" (that bass lead is sick! Pardon my slang.) just to throw the enemy off.
Produced by Augury's Mathieu Marcotte and mixed and mastered by Cryptopsy's Christian Donaldson, the album is crisp and clear without sounding overproduced. I usually don't comment on production but in this case it really stood out for me. In addition, Marcotte and Donaldson lend their shredding talents to the solos on "For Glory" and "Point Blank" respectively. Shoot 'Em Up is a full clip best unloaded at full volume. It fires on all cylinders and finishes in a blaze of glory. No need to ration as Mortor serves up a full meal between an appetizer of Six Feet Under's Undead and a dessert of Testament's Dark Roots of the Earth. Eat up, Soldier.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ponderous Chain - Shackled

While I might not use the word "burgeoning" to describe the Kingston, ON metal scene, there are a number of talented bands around town. "Promising" sounds like a more apt descriptor. One of those promising young bands is Ponderous Chain and their self-released debut album, Shackled. I've seen the band perform a number of times and have witnessed the band's live show progressively improve. Unfortunately, I've yet to see them play while I was not in an "altered state". So it wasn't without a certain sense of excitement that I undertook the process of evaluating their work properly. The biggest and most obvious difference between the live, intoxicant-addled experience and the recorded material is the ability to actually hear everything. This is important because this progressively-minded five-piece packs plenty of nuance into their sound. Having the time to let those subtleties sink in helped to change my admittedly neutral perception of the band.  
It might be easy to play cut-and-paste with the band's influences, but not for this writer. Many of the influences either listed by the band or picked up by myself or others are somewhat out of my comfort zone. Progressive is usually a term I approach with caution. Maybe it's an attention span thing. But Ponderous Chain and progressiveness are inextricably linked. The band eschews traditional song structures, incorporating instrumental breaks (sometimes more than one), and neck-snapping tempo changes. Meshuggah are the most obvious band to have rubbed off on PC with their sharp, chugging riffs. Other influences (Opeth, The Ocean Collective) may be apparent but I have no tolerance for either of those bands (Don't hit me!). So any comparisons to them goes right over my head. But that's okay. I prefer to let the open, flowing passages between pummelling assaults wash over me without trying to draw parallels. 
While I would assume that jamming has some part to play in the process, the songs seem too "written" to leave much to chance. I'm not saying this in a bad way. In fact, it's what I expected when I first saw Ponderous Chain's lineup. I was familiar with guitarist Zach Aylesworth from his previous band, Rozea Haven. Having seen them perform a few times, Aylesworth struck me as a perfectionist. The few times he missed a note (which I couldn't hear) a pained expression would cross his face. Like he was coming as close to kicking himself in the ass as he could without actually doing it. So it was only natural that the intricacies found in Shackled would bubble to the surface. Teamed with fellow guitarist Colin Sinclair, the duo have crafted songs that can ground and pound one moment and challenge the listener the next. The songs have movement. Speaking of movement, the rhythm section of Jim and Dan O'Handley (bass and drums respectively) are well versed in dynamics, albeit in two different ways. Jim's rubbery basslines course through the album with fluidity. The phenomenal drumming Dan displays at times left my jaw agape. Not to be outdone, vocalist Christian Wolf's delivery lacks any stagnancy. I've seen many young bands with vocalists afraid to vary their bark/growl/roar to any degree. Not so with Wolf. Mixing the harshest of harsh with spoken passages and (almost) clean singing, he melds fittingly into the mold Ponderous Chain has made with lyrics on subjects such as the war on terror, revenge and sociopolitical ills. 
I'd be remiss if I didn't offer the band some constructive criticism. My points are minor and easily remedied. First, at times the lyrics sound forced and somewhat behind the music in terms of maturity. I expect that will evolve with time. Second, and this may be totally personal preference, but the five minute ambient piece ("Liquid Oracle") right in the middle of the album is a major buzzkill. Two relatively minor issues is really no big deal. Those points are overshadowed by the things that Ponderous Chain do well. The songs are well written and well performed. The songs are deep and layered enough that the listener is pushed to actually pay attention rather than let the album pass by as background noise. And while the progressiveness of Shackled is the main impression it leaves, the band still employs memorable riffs and the strong musicianship to really sink those hooks in. The band is young and eager. The fact that Shackled is as good as it is as a debut speaks volumes about how much potential is lurking behind Ponderous Chain. Do your self a favour and come out to experience them for yourself. You might have to come down here to Kingston to do it, but they usually open for some pretty serious acts so it would be well worth it. And besides, you might get to hang out with me.