Staff Picks: Favourite Canadian Metal Songs

Two years ago we picked our favourite Canadian metal albums to help celebrate Canada’s birthday on July 1st. Last year we did a massive Rush spectacular with staff picking their favourite albums, songs and some reviews of their documentary for Canada day. So for our third kick at the can, we’ve polled our current writing staff as to what is their favourite Canadian metal song of all time and their picks follow below with a brief write up.

Special thanks go out to Adrien Begrand for compiling and helping me edit these together for the site. We hope you enjoy!

BILL ADAMS

Swamp Baby – “Sonic Reducer” (Hard Core Logo (soundtrack), 1998)

ADRIEN BEGRAND

Razor – “Evil Invaders” (Evil Invaders, 1985)
When stacked against bands from the UK, the UK, and Europe, pretty much any good Canadian metal band in the early-’80s sounded like it came from another planet, and Guelph, Ontario’s Razor was no exception. While the majority of nascent thrash scene played up the metal aspect of its sound, Razor didn’t hide its hardcore punk influences one bit, and their strange knack for creating songs that sounded equal parts sloppy, taut, and hooky quickly set them apart from the rest. I didn’t hear Razor until 1985, when the band made a video for the title track from their second full-length Evil Invaders, and I was transfixed, albeit not in the way you’d expect. I was thinking, how can something this repellent be this catchy? The verses were too fast, too punk, the lyrics were garbled with far too many words, and you couldn’t comprehend what the hell Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren was singing at all. But egads, the chorus! It was all so spartan compared to the rest of the song: a two-note palm-muted riff so stupidly simple that anyone could play it, with Sheepdog snarling the only two words in the song you could understand. It was, and still is, one of thrash metal’s most glorious hooks, and that alone compelled me to keep listening to the song over and over, slowly gaining an appreciation for Dave Carlo’s wicked, nimble yet commanding riffs during those punk-infused verses, not to mention McLaren’s one-of-a-kind voice. 26 years later, “Evil Invaders” remains one of my all-time favourite metal songs (Canadian or otherwise), and hilariously enough, to this day I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics are. And I don’t ever want to know.

CARA CROSS

Devin Townsend Project – “Hyperdrive!” (Addicted, 2009)
My favourite Canadian metal song is Hyperdrive! by the Devin Townsend Project. I love the energy of this song, and the 2009 version benefits greatly from the addition of Anneke van Giersbergen’s melodic vocals.

STEVE EARLES

Voivod – “Tribal Convictions” (Dimension Hatross, 1988)
When Sean asked me to pick the Canadian metal song that meant the most to me, deciding was a positive no-brainer (a distinct advantage in my case). Tribal Convictions was, of course, the stand-out track on a outstanding album, Voivod’s fourth, Dimension
Hatross
, a badly needed explosion of originality in a thrash metal scene that was collapsing under the weight of too many bad bands, and too many gimmicks (reaching a nadir with Anthrax- the Kiss of the thrash metal world).

I was, of course, already a fan of Voivod, having worked backwards from Killing Technology (and being surprised to find how much the grindcore scene had taken from them). Ravenous Medicine (with it’s mind-blowing video, I’m surprised with the thrash revival that no band actually covered this, but maybe it was too original) pointed to the future, but Dimension Hatross went several light years beyond. In it’s own way, very similar to the impact that Noise label mates Celtic Frost had previously had with Into The Pandemonium (in a further connection to the mighty Frost, Voivod had organised a festival in Montreal called World War III, Frost played there and brought Voivod’s demo back to Noise, gaining them a contract in the process. Here we see the spirit of the age, bands helping each other out, and also, in a pre-internet age – the internet is an ironic invention that isolates people in their own reality while giving the appearance of drawing them together – we have a Canadian band having their demo brought by a Swiss band to a German label). While the previous three Voivod albums had expanded on the concept of the creature created by Away called The Voivod (The idea was a story told in eight chapters, the last chapter has been demoed but never released, now that would a worthy release for the surviving members of Voivod ,including Jason Newsted, who did so much for the band and shouldn’t be forgotten, to complete), Dimension Hatross really took the idea to new heights :The inner notes of the album explained the concept: ‘In a giant particle accelerator, a beam of protons, travelling at near the speed of light meets a beam of antiprotons moving equally fast in the opposite direction. The protons and mirror-image protons annihilate each other, creating the fiery chaos of a parallel micro-galaxy. Experiment one complete, the VOIVOD goes into a new dimension, meeting different civilisations and psychic entities, extracting knowledge and energy in the eight programs of this project called: DIMENSION HATROSS.’ They were also one of the first metal bands to incorporate electronics and samples and so were a huge influence on industrial and cyber metal. The album’s concepts were miles away from Judge Dredd and
Satan, dealing instead with totalitarian governments and the nature of religion. The album was recorded in Musiclab Studios (located near the Berlin Wall) with Harris Johns at the helm. Away brought the influence of Einsturzende Neubauten to the table. He got the whole band into experimenting with certain sounds. There was utterly no reference point for the album when it was released, and Voivod should have been huge (in some alternative dimension I hope they are!). Certainly the huge popularity of progressive metal, and such fine bands as Mastodon and Opeth owes much to the attitude (if not the unique sound) of Voivod. To give the world one genre-breaking band (Rush) is amazing, but to give two (Voivod), is incredible! Canadian Metal! Hell Yeah! I salute you!

JAY H GORANIA

Cryptopsy – “Cold Hate, Warm Blood” (Whisper Supremacy, 1998)
At the time, this brutal death metal machine was fronted by American Mike DiSalvo, but we don’t need to take our pride to an unhealthy level of nationalism, do we, fellow motherCanuckers? (Please don’t. Yours truly now lives south of the border). True of numerous Cryptopsy songs, “Cold Hate, Warm Blood” storms forward with an unforgiving approach that’s completely non-linear and consistently over-the-top. Abrasive and seemingly chaotic, there’s actually a well-structured route the band takes, likably referencing traditional heavy metal laden with evocative melodies. If eclectic weirdo Mike Patton smoked dope and listened to Disincarnate, this is probably what he would dream about after passing out.

GRUESOME GREG

Dayglo Abortions – “Proud to be a Canadian” (Feed Us a Fetus, 1986)
Fuck Celine Dion, Bryan Adams and all that other CRTC bullshit. The essence of our country can be summed up in less than two minutes by the Dayglo Abortions.

“I’m proud to be a Canadian/Pass me another beer/I’m proud to be a Canadian/Hold my seat while I go to take a piss”

One of my favourite Canadian beer stories is when the Gates of Slumber played the WreckRoom on their tour with Weedeater, and Karl Simon said to me “Man, I heard rumors (no ‘u’ cuz he’s a Yank) about Canadian beer having 5 percent alcohol, but I didn’t know they were true…”

“I’m proud to be a Canadian/Pass me another welfare cheque/I’m proud to be a Canadian/Hold my seat while I go to ca$h it”

Okay, you could just as easily replace Canadian with American here, I suppose. Then again, these guys are from Vancouver, where Christmas comes once a month in East Hastings. 😉

“I’m proud to be a Canadian/Pass me another Eskimo/I’m proud to be a Canadian/Hold my seat while I fuck her up the asshole!”

I’m not even going to touch this one, except to say that I foresee another last place finish this season for the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL’s Western Division.

ALLAN GRUSIE

Rush – “2112” (2112, 1976)
Yes – I know , it’s not rip-your-nuts-off metal, but hear me out. A seven part track, taking up the whole of side one, “2112” is one for the ages. While most of the progressive rock genre featured lighter subject matter, with the likes of Yes, Genesis and Emerson Lake & Palmer dominating. But with 2112, Rush proved that epic progressive music could also flat out ROCK. One could argue that 2112 was the first “heavy” progressive rock track, and hence, the roots of progressive metal.

To me, this one is obvious.

KYLE HARCOTT

Strapping Young Lad – “S.Y.L.” (Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, 1985)
While it’s not overtly Canadian in its lyrical content, ‘S.Y.L.’ is nonetheless, to me, distilled-down heavy metal Canadiana at its finest.Consider the source: Strapping Young Lad represent unto themselves a vehemently Canadian face of heavy metal, and through the latter nineties, I’d dare say they were probably Canada’s most popular, most well-known metal band. Aside from all that, though – the song’s narration positively revels in its bloody-knuckled work ethic, a quality I consider to be very Canadian at heart. As well, the song’s unmitigated workaday rage at the boss man is also something I consider to be very working-class Canadian as well. All this and it’s catchy as fuck, too, eh? In fact, pretty much all that’s missing from Devy’s ‘Welcome to A&W” outro in the song is a ubiquitous ‘aboot’ (see SYL’s DVD for that) and maybe an off-the-cuff reference to Old Style Pilsner. But subliminally? The song friggin’ reeks of Molson, mack jackets and back bacon. So for all you metal Canucks (honorary Canucks, too), when you’re celebrating Friday (even if it’s just the stinkin’ day off you’re celebrating) make sure you crank ‘S.Y.L.’ and sing along. Happy Canada Day, eh!

ROB HUGHES

NOMEANSNO—“Real Love” (Small Parts Isolated and Destroyed, 1988)
Nomeansno may not be metal, but they are heavy, and never more so than on this tower of a song. “Real Love” is the ten-minute climax to 1988’s Small Parts Isolated and Destroyed, a love song that presents its subject as a relentless and—above all—frightening entity. Only Nomeansno could deliver this truth in such a chilling fashion. They bolster the song’s musical gut-punches with unforgettable images; two or three to a verse. I’ve always liked the line about real love being “a crow on a telephone pole with something to say,” but now that I’m older, in love, and feeling very mortal, the line “you feel like someone has just walked on your grave” hits me much harder. Musically, here’s punk in the song’s three-chord bombardment, but I hear just as much metal in its ominous atmosphere and multi-climax dynamics—I can imagine a nascent Neurosis taking notes as Nomeansno toured up and down the West Coast. There’s no question that the underground music scene has caught up with Nomeansno’s pioneering spirit of genre subversion. To “Be strong, be wrong” was the right approach all along.

ROB KACHLUBA

Kick Axe – “Cause For Alarm” (Vices, 1984)
One of my fondest songs is Kick Axe’s Cause for Alarm. Being born in Regina, we didn’t have too many metal bands back then unless you call Queen City Kids metal. Also my older brother dated bass player Victor Langen’s sister, [she] had a huge set of nuts that I always remember staring at when I was a wee lad…..

Also Sacifice’s Reamination and them being the lead off song for the Power Hour was cool as hell.

ALBERT MANSOUR

Anvil – “Metal on Metal” (Metal on Metal, 1982)
Considered one of the greatest Canadian riffs of all time, a powerful song that stands out the most in my mind would be Anvil’s “Metal on Metal” from 1982. Stood the test of time of a whooping 30 years and still sounds killer. Definitely one of the top 100 metal anthems of all time. The song itself is in fact about the whole METAL scene & Metalheads.

Metal on metal
It’s what I crave
The louder the better
I’ll turn in my grave

Metal on metal
Ears start to bleed
Cranking it up
Fulfilling my need

 

Metal on metal
Shakin’ the place
Blows back your hair
Caves in your face

OLA MAZZUCA

Anvil – “Metal on Metal” (Metal on Metal, 1982)
The most vivid anecdote that resonates within “Metal On Metal” is the scene from Anvil: The Story Of Anvil where Steve and Lips are eating a corned beef sandwich at good, ol’ Pancer’s delicatessen on Bathurst. If you have been to Pancer’s before, I’m sure you would agree that the joint is pretty rad, and if you haven’t, make it a point to visit the North York haunt of our Canuck heavy metal heroes. Anvil’s title track from their sophomore release is an anthem on the power and strength of the world’s greatest music genre to the purpose and symbol of the basic tool, with a clever sound sample of steel at its closure. Well-written to be a “feel good” track for skids around the world, it’s astounding that it has taken over twenty years for Anvil’s reception of proper recognition today.

SEAN PALMERSTON

Witchkiller – “Day Of The Saxons” (Day Of The Saxons, 1984)
I’ve picked a bit of a curve ball here by choosing a rarity from Ottawa ON, Witchkiller’s “Day Of The Saxons”. They might have only managed to released one five song EP before dropping off the face of the earth, but wow, what a great EP it was. Released by Metal Blade, but surprisingly not picked up by Banzai Records for Canada, I knew all about this release long before I ever saw a physical copy of it. The title track is one of those songs that is classic traditional heavy metal. A little like Priest, a bit of Manowar in there too, there is nothing thrash-y or speed metal about this, just a no-frills, catchy as hell song that sticks in your head for hours and hours after you hear it.

A super close runner up song for me would be Sacrifice’s “Reanimation”, but since I am involved with that band on a professional label I didn’t want to pick it. Sorry boys!

JONATHAN SMITH

Strapping Young Lad – “All Hail the New Flesh” (City, 1997)
It’s no accident that my favourite track is named often a slogan taken from David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. It merges my favourite Canadian musician with a soundbite from my favourite Canadian director. The first track on the now defunct Strapping Young Lad’s album City, “All Hail The New Flesh” is quite simply one of the most crushing and soaring songs I’ve ever heard. It’s here that Devin Townsend’s version of a futurist industrial metal sound (and the near limits of his voice!) can truly be heard. While I am thrilled with the directions in which Townsend has moved as of late, what made SYL special was their frequent throwing themselves over the line of bombastic aggression and into the realm of delightful self-parody. Melodic choruses mixes with intense ferocity that I routinely rediscover, usually when I’m feeling annoyed about the direction that the country is going in. If people want to experience an example of Canadian awesomeness, then they would do much worse than to go back to early Strapping Young Lad and this song, which for me will always be one of their anthems.

KEVIN STEWART-PANKO

Beyond – “Standing Outside of Myself” (Staircase demo, 1989)
Drexell’s Eye – “Monolith” (Always Room For More, 1994)
I haven’t seen the final list of Hellbound’s favourite Canadian songs, but judging by most favourite Canadian album lists, chances are there’s a fair amount of Sacrifice, Voivod, Slaughter, Razor, Exciter and Devin Townsend comprising the list. Or not. Like I said, haven’t seen shit and it’s still a few days before deadline, so I could be totally wrong. Judging by some of the non-Canadian reaction to our motley list, a lot of people who don’t live here seem to think this country has spawned little more than those six bands/artists. I’m not saying there are songs by those folks that aren’t worthy; there are, but songs from those folks are also what most people expect. Therefore, let’s step off the beaten path a bit – not so far as to claim some unheard thrashing garage band from Coquitlam wrote the greatest metal anthem since Confederation and that I’m more underground than the rest of the country because only I know of it – but c’mon everyone knows “Reanimation” fucking rules already!

This is why I’ve selected Beyond’s “Standing Outside of Myself” as my favourite Canadian metal song and nominated it in a tie with Drexell’s Eye’s “Monolith.” My preferred version of “Standing Outside of Myself” comes from the band’s 1989 demo, Staircase (thought the version on the Quantuum Bummer album ain’t no slouch) and is a masterful blend of progressive rock, adventurous thrash and baritone high forehead vocals. Man, that stuttering shuffle in the songs’ main riff gives me gooseflesh to this day!

As for Drexell’s Eye and “Monolith” (taken from their 1994 Always Room For More album) the reason I choose this track was it happens to be the album’s lead-off tune. There are easily four or five absolutely stunning mixtures of thrash, crust punk, noise rock, Rush-like prog rock and NOLA stomp before anyone outside of NOLA had attached a sound to the city. As well, I always love it when it sounds like a band is about to collapse into a heap of musical disrepair but manage to keep it together with sonic bubblegum and toothpicks and this Edmonton trio were fucking kings at that. They were and remain one of the most original bands to ever come from this nation and it’s too bad there’s no link and that it’s harder as fuck to find any info about this band. Even online, as any search will just direct you to Hellbound’s top Canadian album list. Just take my word for it.

RENEE TROTIER

Bison BC – “Two Day Booze” (Dark Ages, 2010)
Like so many of us in Canada, Bison B.C. seem to have a love/hate relationship with the city that birthed them. Having grown up in the small, lakeside town of Cobourg, Ontario I can certainly identify with the sentiment. I can’t tell you how many fond memories I have of sun-drenched days spent barefoot on the beach, and as I got a bit older, boisterous nights as well. But as you grow up you realize that for all it’s natural beauty and all it’s quaintness and charm, your town has a dark underbelly as well. As you grow up, natural beauty isn’t enough to occupy your curiosity. It seems that small towns have a way of sustaining themselves on high school moms and dead end jobs, and if you’re lucky you can make it out alive. This is why when I was asked to discuss my favourite Canadian metal song, “Two Day Booze” sprang to mind almost immediately. If the intricate layered guitars in the intro, followed by crusty, down tuned riffs weren’t enough,
vocalist James Farwell’s bleak-yet-heartfelt lyrics are what really resonate. Describing their hometown of Vancouver as an “empty bottle” and “a broken city for dreamers” resonate with me so perfectly that they might as well have been talking about my life, my broken city. It’s this level of emotional understanding that makes this song a favourite. Well, that and the fact that it kicks all kinds of ass.

JASON WELLWOOD

Anvil – “Metal on Metal” (Metal on Metal, 1982)
I’m willing to bet that since chief cook and bottle washer Sean Palmerston sent out his challenge, there has been a lot of internal debate about this, or in certain writer’s cases, external debate whilst downing copious amounts of alcohol and probably standing on a table. You know who you are, and we do too. In any case, this was actually an easy choice for me. When people say ‘Canadian Metal’ to me the first band that pops in to my head is Anvil, and the first song that pops into my head is “Metal On Metal”. Sure, it’s probably an easy choice given the band’s recent resurgence and that it’s one of their most popular songs, but seriously, how much more Canadian does it get? It’s a fist pounding ode to the music we love so much done by some of the most serious yet goofy fellas I’ve ever met. There is nothing overly intellectual about the lyrics, the musicianship isn’t mind numbingly intricate, but it’s catchy. Damn catchy. Anyone who has heard this song remembers hearing it, and I’m willing to bet that many of you have also pounded a fist or a stubby or two to this track. Also, given that the album came out when I was 11, I’m willing to bet that Metal On Metal was the first real Canadian Metal song I’d ever heard.

Happy Canada Day all, Keep On Rockin’, Keep On Rockin’ To This Metal Tonight. Keep On Poundin’, Keep On Poundin’, Join The Heavy Metal Fight!

LAURA WIEBE

Devin Townsend – “The Death of Music” (Ocean Machine: Biomech, 1997)
When Sean sent out the call for this year’s Canada Day feature my mind immediately jumped to the Ocean Machine album, with a sideline through Terria (how could I not think of the song “Canada”?). Then I said to myself, “Hmm… that’s too obvious. Devin Townsend is your automatic ‘go to’ musician for Canadian awesomeness. If we’re just talking about songs here, not full albums, isn’t there anything else that you’d rather hear, or couldn’t live without?” I guess, unless I’m suffering from amnesia, the answer is no, because I couldn’t think of one other Canadian metal song (by or about…) that moves me more – despite the long list of Canadian metal songs and bands I could listen to over and over.

When I first heard Ocean Machine, probably not long after the record’s 1997 release. It took nearly four years (so much wasted time!) before the album eased its way toward regular rotation for me and then suddenly, one afternoon, I stopped everything I was doing and just listened, spellbound. The magic had been building through the entire record, melodic aggression, subtle proggishness, thick atmosphere, and tidal momentum all working toward an emotional and musical climax. “Bastard” nearly takes you all the way there, but the wave doesn’t truly break until “The Death of Music.” The opening moments feel almost empty – electrically charged beats and samples only gradually, almost reluctantly, transforming into song. And that sense of song breaks through in waves and swells, surfacing and flowing toward a dramatic crescendo. Then the current takes a sideways turn and you’re carried into an elegy to music itself. As the piece winds down the music drifts back in a self-referential withdrawal, fading in a wash of beats, barely heard speech, and surf. There’s no heavy metal battery here. The loudness and intensity of “The Death of Music” takes shape through less obvious weapons, and the song is all the more
powerful for its indirect attack. (I, for one, am conquered.)

ADAM WILLS

Devin Townsend – “Canada” (Terria, 2001)
When discussing a favourite “Canada” song, it only seemed fitting to choose a song from my favourite Canadian album, especially when the track is entitled ‘Canada’.

The song takes you on a long and lonely journey through the Canadian Prairies, while Devin’s trademark wall of sound fills out the soundscape with mountainous tones. This album (and this song in particular) really hit home during my first road trip across Canada, especially the references to the immense and often desolate “Canadian freeway”. Memories of the amazing landscapes still come to mind whenever I hear this song.

“It’s oil! It’s wheat!…It’s beef!”

NATALIE ZED

Strapping Young Lad – “Polyphony/The New Black” (The New Black, 2006)
I decided to go with the “favourite metal song by a Canadian artist” option presented by our illustrious editor for Hellbound’s Canada Day spectacular. I realize that with this selection I am cheating a little bit. Technically, “Polyphony” and “The New Black” are divided into separate tracks. However, they are composed in such a way that they fit together seamlessly, two halves of a musical whole. I adore the wistful beginning, the pattering of rain woven into the song, the soft, yearning plaintiveness in the vocals. Gradually, However, “Polyphony” grows darker and heavier, as the melancholy deforms into anger. This intensifying emotion crescendos and finally bursts open, shifts from introspection to aggression, and then “The New Black” begins. This song has a furious gallop to the rhythm, all softness burned away. The vocals come in the form of a howling invocation, demanding rather than pleading. I love how the song(s) pairs thought and action, gentleness and violence, creating a fantastic binary. Finally, the song breaks through to a bright, slightly psychedelic finish, ending on the sound of flapping wings. The emotional storm has passed and the weather has cleared. Every time I listen to “Polyphony/The New Black,” I feel renewed.

Thanks for reading along! Happy Canada Day, no matter where you may be on this entire planet!

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.

Bill Adams

Bill Adams is Editor-in-Chief of Ground Control Mag.

Steve Earles

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (http://toendallwarscomic.wordpress.com/writers/).

Gruesome Greg

Seahawks/Stamps/Flames/Zags/Jays/Raptors fan and lifelong metal head with a beer gut and a self-deprecating sense of humour. Reviewer/blogger (Yon Senior Doomsayer) for Hellbound.ca.

Kyle Harcott

Curmudgeonly freelance-hack shit-talker of all things metal | Drums for (theonetrue) DEVICE.

Renee Trotier

Renee is the woman behind the words over at Throwing the Horns, as well as being a concert-going foodie and well-known adorer of cats.

I am the station manager and loud rock director for CILU, 102.7fm in Thunder Bay. I also host four weekly ‘loud rock’ shows: Blowing Up The Lakehead: Monday 10pm-1am EST which plays loud rock from around the world, regardless of genre, subgenre or label affiliation. CanKnuckle Tracks: Tuesday 10pm-1am EST, plays Loud Rock by ONLY Canadian Independent bands.Anarchy In The TBay: Wednesday Midnight-1am, all punk. The Happy Go Lucky Old Time Metal Hour: Thursday Midnight-1am, old school loud rock, nothing newer than 1990.

Laura Wiebe

Laura is managing editor of Hellbound.ca and co-host of weekly metal show Kill Eat Exploit the Weak on CFMU 93.3 FM.

  • Maureen M.

    The Beyond song is very good!

  • Jay H. Gorania

    Just realized. Everyone here is a poser for the fact that no one mentioned Blasphemy or Infernal Majesty.