Monday, July 1, 2019

Top Ten Canadian Metal Albums

In honour of Canada Day, here is a list of the best metal albums from our friends in the Great White North. [It's aboot time, eh.]

Gorguts - Obscura

After spending time in a music conservatory, Gorguts founder Luc Lemay put his music school training into re-imagining what a death metal album could be, reinventing the genre as a result. Obscura is a forward-thinking and confounding deconstruction of death metal that remains unrivaled, even as the number of "dissonant death metal" bands that follow in its wake keeps increasing.

Cryptopsy - None So Vile

Led by drumming wunderkind Flo Mounier, it didn't take Cryptopsy long to establish themselves as leaders in the death metal pack. Their second release remains their most concise, one-upping Morbid Angel and Suffocation with its ludicrious speed and fretboard pyrotechnics. Plus, this album contains the best performance from the band's original singer and beloved invertebrate-eater, Lord Worm.

Voivod - Killing Technology

Canada has a long history of influential thrash acts, but - despite what the makers of The Story of Anvil would have you believe - none were more important than Voivod. With their third album, the band refined their frantic punky thrash style, sowing the seeds of the progressive thrash scene that would emerge at the end of the Eighties, as well as "sci fi metal' as a whole.

Strapping Young Lad - City

Devin Townsend's transformation from second-stringer in the Steve Vai Band to venerated metal auteur really begins with Strapping Young Lad's career-making second album. Both a wry commentary on OTT metal tropes and a gleeful embrace of them, City stands as one of the heaviest and most unique albums of its era, thanks to a powerhouse performance from drum god Gene Hoglan (who bailed on Testament to focus on SYL - a seemingly insane move at the time, but one that proved prescient as Townsend's popularity exploded).

Mitochondrion - Parasignosis

One of the pioneers of the dissonant death metal style, BC's Mitochondrion revelled in speed and discordance, returning the genre to its chaotic roots. Their second album added some black metal grandiosity to the band's confounding attack, which seems intended to replicate the feeling of being trapped in a cement mixer. I can't pretend I always understand what Mitochondrion are doing, but I appreciate it all the same.

Kataklysm - Sorcery

Montreal's Kataklysm have gone through several iterations - from early pioneers of "hyper-blast", to their black metal-inflected rebirth, and their most recent groove-oriented incarnation. But they were never more fearsome than on their debut album when -  aided by the inhuman vocals of Sylvain Houde - they emerged as one of the heaviest bands to come out of Canada.

Neuraxis - Trilateral Progression

The French-Canadian provinces are a hotbed for technical death metal. Picking a favourite is tough, but I'm going with Neuraxis, whose hook-heavy take on the genre was always engaging. I can't think of a better example than Trilateral Progression, which combines speed, melody, and flawless performances to craft memorable songs - something tech/death as a whole always struggles with.

Slaughter - Strappado

Taking their cues from Venom and Celtic Frost, this Toronto band (later called Strappado to avoid confusion with the cock rock band also called Slaughter) put out one of the earliest and rawest versions of Eighties thrash, anticipating the reckless abandon of grindcore. Chuck Schuldiner briefly moved up north to join the band, who influenced the likes of Sepultura and Napalm Death (the latter of whom paid tribute to Slaughter on the EP Leaders Not Followers).

Infernäl Mäjesty - None Shall Defy

Similarly, though Vancouver's Infernäl Mäjesty never attained widespread recognition, their evil thrash would prove influential on the black metal bands that emerged out of Scandinavia in the early Nineties. One such band was Sweden's Dawn, who recorded a faithful cover of "Night of the Living Dead" on their EP Sorg Pa Svarte Vingar Flogh.

Fuck The Facts - Die Miserable

I have a special place in my heart for Quebecois grindcore band Fuck The Facts - their gig with Psyopus was the first show I saw in NY after returning to the city in 2008, and the last one I saw at the original Knitting Factory. With Die Miserable - their sixth album in a ridiculously prolific discography - they streamlined their genre-hopping approach, crafting songs that integrated band's wide influences with an increased awareness of dynamics and flow.