Three Reviews: A Hat Trick of Canadian Thrash
Hello, Readers! Here we find ourselves on another Monday, and I’m sure you all are about as excited to be returning to work as I am. You may have noticed — or maybe you didn’t, I don’t know — that I hadn’t managed to write anything throughout most of last week. Such is the unfortunate result of being busy working extra hard, making sure everything is as caught up as possible, before missing an extra day of work due to the holiday weekend. The holiday in this case is America’s Independence Day, which took place this past Saturday but most businesses were also closed on Friday for its observation. However, while I may not have had time for writing during the week, I spent plenty of time listening to music. Always listening to music.
And I noted that during those days there was another holiday celebration taking place — Canada Day, the celebration of the anniversary of the official formation of Canada as a country (technically, as a Dominion under the British Monarchy), was last Wednesday. Therefore, it seemed fitting to spend the day perusing all of the Canadian music I currently have on my MP3 player. I noticed that this included a handful of recent (within the past month or four) independent releases from Canadian thrash bands. And then I decided to attempt a feat that (as far as I remember) has never before been accomplished on this website: a triple review! It’ll help that two of these three releases are actually three-song EPs, but still, this is an unprecedented level of ambition. So with that in mind, let’s get straight to it….
Psycho – Sickx EP (self-released, 05 June 2015)
With a career spanning most of three decades (founded in 1987), Windsor, Ontario-based Psycho has just unleashed an EP of brand-new material about a month ago: last year’s new single “Generation Death” along with two more newly written songs — all focused on traditional themes of thrash, “death, doom, destruction and world annihilation,” in the words of vocalist/guitarist (and sole remaining original member) “Hard Metal Mike” Meilleur. Titled Sickx (based on the EP being the sixth — or sickxth? — release in the band’s discography), this offering is the band’s first new recording since 2010, and should serve as a great introduction for those who may have missed out on hearing Psycho before.
With catchy shout/sing-along vocals and old-school hard rock guitar leads set against a foundation of chuggy speed/thrash riffs and rhythms, these three tunes (also including “Psycho Killer” and “Annihilate”) will surely appeal to anyone who’s a fan of the classic thrash sound — brought to you by an authentic, original band, rather than one of the many imitators that have popped up over the years!
You can buy a digital or CD of the EP at Bandcamp.
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Meridius – Self-Titled EP (self-released, 20 March 2015)
Named after the main character (“Maximus Decimus Meridius”) in the movie Gladiator, Meridius is a quintet from Ladner, British Columbia. Drawing influence from its members’ backgrounds in thrash, groove, speed, progressive, and power metal, the band — just formed in 2013 — has put out its first official release, a self-titled EP, back in March of this year. Laden with tons of crushingly heavy grooves, but also sprinkled with just a hint of dark humor, these songs put an interesting twist on the classic death-and-destruction thrash formula.
For example, despite the imagery its title may conjure, opening track “Speed Kills” turns out to actually be a cautionary tale about driving under the influence of illicit substances. “Conquer the Throne” seems to serve as an allegory about revolution, but the last song “Walk the Plank” unexpectedly goes in an expected direction, appearing to be a straight-up narrative about capture and execution at the hands of pirates. With all the aggression and heaviness typically associated with groove metal, but a dark and foreboding tone — and perhaps one might say, a more mature and substantial quality than that sometimes associated with bands that fall under the same umbrella — this debut EP seems indicitive of a young career worth keeping an eye on, for fans of older and newer metal styles alike.
You can listen to or download the EP at Bandcamp.
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Titans Eve – Chasing the Devil (self-released, 12 June 2015)
Finally, we arrive at the lone full-length album for today. It’s been just about three years since their last release Life Apocalypse (reviewed here) which had really caught my ear (to the point where I had included it on my list of 2012’s best releases (found over at No Clean Singing), but Vancouver’s Titans Eve have not lost anything in the interim. At the time, I had stated:
Instead of simply trying to copy the sound of classic thrash bands — like so many seem content to do nowadays — it feels more like Titans Eve are drawing on all the same sources of inspiration as those earlier bands did, and then creating something new with it.
…and on the band’s third record Chasing the Devil this seems just as true as it did before. Their signature sound continues to develop, taking hard-hitting guitar riffs and a punchy rhythm section, and combining that with soaring harmony leads — and pairing all of that with perhaps the most laid-back gang-shouted vocals you’ll ever hear. If you haven’t heard Titans Eve, it’s tough to describe, but imagine a group consisting of multiple Dicky Barretts — always gruff and angry-sounding, but never actually seeming to raise his voice above a normal speaking level, and therefore coming across as that much more self-possessed and cooler as a result.
Once again, it’s tough to pick out a favorite song here, because each track is packed with just the right combination of grit and fist-pumping anthemic hooks, from the catchy opener “We Defy” all the way through the last tracks, the somewhat-slower-but-also-more-punch-you-in-the-face-ier “The Grind” which leads through the lengthy interlude “Stranded” filled with serene strings, acoustic guitars, and piano, and finally into the ripping closing track “The Endless Light.” This is a band who aren’t setting out to reinvent the wheel, but they’ve clearly developed their own distinctive way of making high-quality wheels that definitely stand out in a crowd of copycat wheelmakers.
You can check out this album, and either buy the digital download or CD (hint: it’s the same price either way!) right here.
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