Edmonton and the Canadian Underground Metal Scene

Edmonton and the Canadian Underground Metal Scene
© Photograph by EPK

Since a large measure of my fieldwork has been in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, I will spend some time here talking about the Edmonton underground metal scene. Edmonton has an interesting, unique and vibrant underground extreme metal scene with some obscure yet pivotal acts.

According to my interviews, two historically significant acts from Edmonton set the tone for the city’s underground scene — Disciples of Power and Revenge.

Disciples of Power and Revenge was a very proficient, technical, serious band that formed in the mid-1980s and performed a mixture of thrash and death. Always on the verge of mainstream success, Disciples of Power and Revenge became legendary in Edmonton and was well known across Canada for their atypical technicality and ferocious performances.

Disciples of Power and Revenge officially broke up in 2003, but they have since performed live and on the internet.

Coming out of this style of death thrash is Death Toll Rising which formed in 2002, and has released one demo, one EP, and two full-length albums — ‘Defecation Suffocation’ (2010), and ‘Infection Legacy’ ( 2013 ).

Death Toll Rising has developed a strong following in the Edmonton scene in their 13 years of existence, playing Edmonton regularly and drawing relatively large crowds. Initially performing in blood-soaked clothes with their lyrics in the style of gore and horror-focussed death metal, the band moved into a more serious technical and progressive death thrash, especially on their last album.

‘Infection Legacy’ has made the rounds with the major international zine and magazine reviews and received positive reviews based on their technical skill, their speed and precision, and their brutality. The vocals range from death style false chord vocals to high scream fry vocals, similar to the US death metal band Exhumed. The drum work is particularly impressive, talented, technical and frenetic.

Another important band in the Edmonton Underground scene is Revenge, an international underground, blackened death metal band. ‘Blackened’ refers to the influence of black metal sonic and musical components and lyrical themes within a death metal framework. A blackened band makes increased use of tremolo picking and harmonic chordal patterns with explicitly anti-Christian and satanic lyrics.

While only performing once in Edmonton (January 2015), Revenge has toured with the likes of legendary black metal acts such as Mayhem and Watain. Prior to the forming of Revenge in 2000, lead member James Read had joined a few other important acts in the scene including Cremation, which released four demos in the early 1990s.

This band developed into Conqueror, which also included Ryan Förster (under the pseudonym Deathlord of Abomination and War Apocalypse), a member of Blasphemy, the pivotal Canadian black metal band from Victoria of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

James Read then played with Axis of Advance between 1998 and 2007, releasing two EP’s, two full-length albums and a split. Read meanwhile formed his own band, Revenge, for which he writes the music, sings and plays drums. Fellow bandmate in Axis of Advance, Vermin, also serves as a session musician on the Revenge project.

Revenge can be described as somewhat ideological in the sense that each of their albums follows a consistent aesthetic, conceptual, and sonic structure, producing music that incorporates jarring, brutal, and abrasive musical and aesthetic elements.

Revenge’s lyrics follow militaristic themes including a might-is-right and the-strong-eat-the-weak attitude. Revenge, however, prefers to remain obscure with few interviews, lyrics that are not printed in their liner notes, and limited exposure in Edmonton. Tim, now bassist for Revenge, recounted to me his experience of coming to Edmonton with the expectation that Read would be worshipped in the scene. Instead, he saw people at metal shows migrating past Read, a doorman at the local metal venue, Mead Hall, unaware of his significance within the genre.

There are many other underground blackened death metal bands in the scene that have received some recognition such as Warmarch, with singer and guitarist Paulus Kressman, previous member of Sacramentary Abolishment. A very active member of the scene, Kressman also fronts the talented blackened death metal band Rites of Thy Degringolade. He previously performed with Weapon, Ouroboros, and others.

Coming out of a similar aesthetic, Antediluvian is an Edmonton based underground, blackened death metal band that has also seen international recognition, touring throughout Canada and the United States, as well as a recent tour of Europe.

Formed in Ontario in 2005, they have released three demos, four split albums, two EP’s and two very well received full-length albums entitled ‘Through the Cervix of Hawaah’ ( 2011 ), and ‘λόγος’ (2013).

Their music can be described as brutal, primitive, dark, bleak and suffocating. Initially, in the vein of death doom bands such as Incantation, Antediluvian has been more recently compared to a more aggressive, bleak, and dark Portal.

Very low and indecipherable false chord vocals, dissonant chordal patterns and solos, and destabilizing tempos and drum work characterize Antediluvian. Tim, playing under the pseudonym Haassiophis, described his reason for forming Antediluvian as growing out of his dissatisfaction with the conservative second wave Scandinavian black metal he played previously.

As such, this music is a mixture of the philosophy of black metal with the likes of Beherit and Mystifier and the slowness and heaviness of US-style black and death doom metal of bands such as Demoncy and Incantation.

Antediluvian uses lower tunings, a low B on the lowest guitar string, and employs black metal style pendulum picking but with less of a focus on the full-chorded tremolo strumming of the Scandinavian styles. Instead, they focus on quicker power chord progressions, selective use of dissonant chords, and chromatic scalar structures.

Death Toll Rising and Antediluvian form the foundation of the musical analysis later in this study when I analyze the various modalities of the structuring the sounds, themes, and ideas expressed within extreme metal.

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