Classic death metal titans Obituary go on and on and on and on

Obituary has endured thanks to a classic formula of simple, family made death metal. Death produced amazing records, but was firmly in the technical death metal camp by their third album. Carcass and Cannibal Corpse have gore; Deicide has Satan. Possessed actually invented the genre but only stuck around for two full-lengths. All are great, but Obituary is definitive old-school death metal, sticking with cacophonous guitar tones, whip fast integrations of ‘80s thrash and lumbering sludge, and gurgling howls juxtaposed by piercing screams. Throughout their 30-year history (26 if you don’t count the time they spent as Xecutioner, 20 if you consider the hiatus) they’ve recorded nine albums and played host to 14 members. They are, all told, a huge fucking deal, and their fans love them for it.

It was those fans who Kickstarted the band’s forthcoming ninth studio album Inked in Blood, funding the entire project in less than 24 hours and going six times over the band’s $10,000 goal. At $20,000, those fans got videos of a live set recorded over three days at the indomitable Morrisound Recording (another family institution) in Florida, the centerpiece of the regional phenomenon. At $35,000, Obituary put out a making-of for the album that didn’t even have a title. The total kept on rising until topping out at an eye popping $60,000. Take that, Orgy!

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Review: 2:54 – The Other I

It’s never good to point out the single element that ruins an otherwise good record, and it’s even less fun to point out that this element is the vocals and lyrics. Guitarists just have to have their fingers in the right places at the right times, drummers just have to hit things, but lyricists have to look at life and say something interesting and original about it. That’s hard, but people do it every day. On The Other I, London-based sisters Hannah and Colette Thurlow don’t, despite being able to coax some beautiful sounds from guitars and bass.

Collette’s vocal delivery recalls her home country’s trip-hop genre, not exactly somewhere to find exceptional vocalists aside from Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, who could sing the “Chicken Tonight” jingle and still make you cry. The lyrics are just … lyrics. When Garage Band gets sophisticated enough to write words to go with auto-generated music, they’ll sound something like 2:54.

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Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused

This was never going to be easy. Two cowl-wearing experimentalists from the farthest reaches of metal, one former member of a sunshine pop quartet that was once bigger than the Beatles who has spent the past 30 years making some very difficult music.

Though the combination of venerable singer-songwriter and metal titans may at first recall Metallica and Lou Reed’s abysmal Lulu, this is a record of startling imagination that sees everybody involved pushing themselves far from their comfort zones, which were hardly comfortable to begin with. I won’t even try to describe it: there is literally no other record that sounds like Soused, not even the heavier moments of Walker’s Drift or the contemporary-classical passages on Sunn 0)))’s Monoliths & Dimensions. Not even those two records, masterpieces on their own, somehow spliced together.

It is fitting that the cover of Soused depicts a thermal vent in the deep ocean. These boiling, toxic environments are fertile and in many ways beautiful, but completely inhospitable. You can marvel that such things exist, but you’ll never visit one. The album itself is much the same. A single playthrough will confirm that two artistic powerhouses have come together to make something greater than the sum of their parts, something that is Art with a capital ‘A,’ but will you want to play it again? I doubt it. This is very much a record to own to position oneself as a patron of Serious (with a capital ‘S’) music. This isn’t to diminish the artists’ achievement, just to pose the question: why?

 

 

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Review: Davila 666 – Pocos Anos, Muchos Danos

The only thing wrong with this album is its timing. I needed this in June, when it was finally warm enough to be on the veranda at Julio’s with a Bulldog (a Corona immersed in a margarita, if you haven’t had the pleasure.) The Puerto Rican seven-piece is pure sunshine, but the kind of sunshine that helps you to start drinking at noon.

They cite the Stooges as an influence, but Iggy and his boys were defined by an ugliness and darkness that’s absent here. The Stooges plus pop hooks isn’t The Stooges, and that’s OK, because the results here are beautiful. There’s a fuzz over it all that you won’t have heard since early Elephant Six recordings, and there’s a sense of fun that’s palpable. Their cover of Blondie’s “Hanging on the Telephone” is pure joy. Pure, unrefined joy that’ll have you wanting to learn Spanish so that you can sing along.

It’s a shame that despite support slots with the Black Keys and King Khan BBQ Show, Davila 666 won’t gain the recognition that they deserve outside of their own country. The Anglosphere has proven remarkably resistant to anybody not singing in English (Phoenix had to ditch French before they could break through.) Don’t be one of those people. You’ve made it to the end of a short review of a Spanish-speaking band, and with a quick Internet search, it’d be easy to just look up one of their live shows on YouTube or listen to an album on Spotify. Listen to it with the heat turned all the way up.

 

Wordfest 2014: Naomi Klein at Knox United Church

There’s a line around the block outside the Knox United Church to see somebody talk about how the world is coming to an end unless we repent of our sinful ways and enter a glorious new world of love and brotherhood. The preacher is Naomi Klein, a small and unassuming woman with an uncanny knack for finding the hottest-button topic of any age and writing the books that future history professors will assign to students looking to understand the anti-globalization movement of the ’90s (No Logo) and the recent financial crash (The Shock Doctrine). That is, if there are colleges in the future, and if there are humans. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that we’ll survive this century, and although we’re always one mutated virus away from the next pandemic, one inattentive astronomer away from an asteroid cracking Earth open, our extinction will likely come about as a result of climate change.

Klein addressed a congregation that is mostly old enough to have been old when No Logo was released – there are no aged Battle of Seattle veterans here. Despite moderator and oil-sands activist Andrew Nikiforuk’s promise that she’d be “rabble rousing,” there’s not much fire here, and very little brimstone unless you count the sulfur dioxide that geo-engineers would like to use to cool the Earth (Klein is emphatically against this proposal, and paints a picture of a geo-engineering conference she attended as a fraternity of tech dudebros congratulating each other).

 

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Station Eleven Cover

Wordfest 2014: Future Imperfect at Theatre Junction GRAND

There’s a lot going on at Wordfest this year – literary deathmatches and clothing swaps and drawing classes – but the meat of any literary festival is always going to be one or more writers reading from and talking about their work.

One of the earliest readings in the lineup features two Canadian writers – now transplanted to Brooklyn, because everybody in literature is in Brooklyn – with two roughly similar novels out now. In Adam Sternbergh‘s Shovel Ready, a dirty bomb in Times Square causes the collapse of the city’s tourist economy, then everything else. Across the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey, a garbage man whose wife died in the attack embraces nihilism, then a career as a hitman in the newly dystopian Big Apple. British Columbian-born Emily St. John Mandel‘s Station Eleven proceeds from the onstage death of a Shakespearean actor to a pandemic that wipes out 99 per cent of the human population and follows the members of the remaining one per cent who form a travelling theatre company.

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Witch Mountain

Classic doom mongers Witch Mountain walk in the hallowed halls of Lord Iommi

Doom metal was a total accident, an accident involving blood and steel and grey northern skies, but still the result of one guy fucking up. Anthony ‘Tony’ Iommi, working at a sheet metal factory in Birmingham, England, cut the tips off his ring and middle finger on his right hand. His guitar playing days were over. He wasn’t willing to start over with his left hand. However, he learned that Django Reinhardt, jazz legend, had suffered a similar injury and developed a way of playing with only two fingers. Still, playing hurt. Thin-gauge strings were still a ways off. He tried banjo strings and crude homemade thimbles, but the real difference came when he down tuned three semitones below standard guitar tuning. Iommi’s band, Black Sabbath, subsequently became the thickest and heaviest band around, spawning the metal genre we hold dear.

More than 40 years later, metal has differentiated into unthinkably divergent realms. However, that guitar sound – along with a few other Sabbathian standards – define doom metal. The lyrical themes of despair, dejection and the occult continue to this day.

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Wordfest: All things literature

A literary culture is one of those really basic elements that make a city livable rather than simply habitable. Good coffee, a thriving gay scene, dog walking parks and the ability for a man to get a close shave with a straight razor from somebody who only speaks Italian are also important, but we’re here to talk about books.

Wordfest has been bringing literature and the people who write it to Calgary, Banff and the Bow Valley for the past 19 years, curating a series of talks and workshops by international writers at venues across the area. Think of it as a quieter Sled Island, and, like a music festival, it’s a mix of essential headline acts and smaller artists who you and a handful of other people will discover buried deep in the event’s program who nonetheless will be life-changingly brilliant.

 

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False Flag does everything but suffer in silence

The cover of False Flag’s 2013 debut EP Orobas sums these four Calgarians up nicely: there are skulls, horns, guns and an occult design that readers who spell magic as ‘Magick’ might recognize as the seal with which King Solomon allegedly bound the demon Orabas. Orabas, as False Flag’s vocalist and guitarist Russ Gauthier notes, is something of a anomaly for one of Satan’s minions: he is incapable of telling lies or betraying whoever summons him and can tell you whatever you want to know about the past and future.

“He seemed like a more positive demon, and I really liked that because demons are seen as bad things, but there are different kinds of demons with different traits.”

Occultism has been with metal since the beginning, but so has politics. False Flag’s name refers to the act of fabricating an attack on your own country in order to justify an attack on one’s enemies. There are real examples of false flag operations in history, but Google the term and, as Gauthier says, “you’re going to find a lot of weird shit,” mostly from the fringes of the American right, who use it to describe every terrorist attack, school shooting and dangerous weather condition that happens; literally, every single one.

 

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Floatation Therapy

Float Life in Kensington offers aquatic respites for the mind

Let’s start by dispelling a myth: you’re not going to hallucinate while floating. In the pitch dark, naked and immersed in warm water, there’s just your thoughts exposed like a disassembled watch. No spinning mandalas or sage wisdom from your spirit guide, just the absolute absence of anything. It’s pretty great, actually.

Isaac Neubert and Dustin Ryan are two Victoria, B.C., transplants who have opened Float Life in Kensington, outfitting an austere-looking concrete space with two imported top-of-the-line “Iso-pod” floatation therapy tanks (also used by the New England Patriots and the Navy SEALs), each the size of a family sedan, with three more to come soon. For 90 minutes at a time, you can be cut off from everything, receiving relief from anything from back pain to PTSD – though the majority of customers will just want a brief respite from the modern world.

 

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