If you aren’t familiar with Anciients, you should be. The British Columbia-based band recently took a swing through southern Ontario as part of their Voice of the Void Canadian tour with Dead Quiet. Hellbound welcomed them to Hamilton for their performance at This Ain’t Hollywood – a night of top-notch live metal also featuring local openers Astral Witch. And our own Gabe Hugh was on hand for the bands’ Toronto gig, this time with openers Muffler Crunch. Gabe shares his thoughts on the show below.
The two piece from Gatineau (Hull) QC came onstage in retro or throwback attire from say the 40s or 50s, Luc Lavigne (guitar & vox) dressed in a suit and vest and Angie “The Barbarian” (drums & vox) in a full length dress. The band possesses a range of sounds, all of them loud and heavy, starting with crunchy and then sludgy guitar tones. Lavigne ‘s vocals are catchy but hard to decipher at times (possibly because the venue doesn’t have the best sound in this contributor’s opinion) but there definitely is some classic punky or garage rock vibes that were clearly evident and enjoyed by most. To counter balance Luc’s vocals, Angie’s sound was straight outta the Janis Joplin playbook – clear and ruckus-raising and rocking.
That’s not to say Luc’s style wasn’t good, as he offered many different vocal sounds including unclean vocals, grunts, shouted passages and even vocals coming straight outta the Gothic or Vlad the Impaler notebook with added effects. Using a guitar named “Sparky” the band played loud, fuzzy, doomy and grooving with a minimalist set-up, as Sparky is a Frankenstein mutated acoustic guitar turned in a Les Paul with the right pickup in place. Muffler Crunch’s lyrics are fun and corny, everything from being broke and seeing old friends on the corner and poking fun at modern music and trying too hard to be something your not. Overall the sound was good, including parts that were somewhat like Monster Magnet, Kyuss and Black Sabbath.
Hailing from BC, Dead Quiet play fun loud garage rocking doom. Kevin Keegan (guitar & vox, formerly of Barn Burner) screams very decipherable vocals, sounding somewhat like Ben from Goatwhore mixed with Irish punk à la the Dropkick Murphys. The band plays some very catchy loud thunderous, galloping grooving tunes. The use of keys and an organ just adds more retro substance to the mix of doom / sludge, Maiden and punk garage rock melodies.
Keegan’s new outfit here definitely has some sounds that most would recognize from Barn Burner but Dead Quiet also has a lot of new elements, one being the length of the songs, as this time they are much longer and the head-nodding choruses keep most of the songs over the five minute mark.
This does not mean the band plays slow at all. Their drummer uses lightning-fast beats and fills on the skins akin to something like Des Kensel from High on Fire. The bass keeps right up, delivering some great rhythmic grooves which in turn makes the floor reverberate. When they slow things down the band continues the tight playing with riffs that are Sabbath inspired and regretfully neck snapping for the audience.
The lyrics here have a knack for being about darkness, mysticism and spooky themes. I would say most here tonight were more than behind Kevin when he sang, “The Forests around me were foggy,” even if the words could be considered corny. This is not to say the only focus is darkness because the band has many metal party-worthy tunes and they were a great match for their classic party metal brethren Black Wizard when they toured together last year around Canada.
I would say Dead Quiet’s was a fun very solid set containing catchy songs, sounds, ripping solos (like a hot knife through butter), with powerful, thoughtful, hilarious, emotive songs and playing that would be welcome to come back and play any dive bar, pub or concert hall they wished around these parts.
If you haven’t heard of this group from Vancouver BC by now and you enjoy progressive metal I recommend you immediately stop what you’re doing and go listen.
Fast, crushing, pummelling, memorable metal music isn’t that hard to come by these days but finding a group of four very talented musicians playing creative, landscape and mountain-moving songs is no small feat in the genre of progressive music. Songs like “Overthrone” from Heart of Oak have it all, especially if your tastes in music include bands such as Opeth, High on Fire, Mastodon and classic metal and thrash. So seeing and hearing this material played live is like having the cherry and whipped cream on top of one’s progressive metal sundae.
The band’s strengths are on full display in a live setting, from epic leads lead to catchy over-the-top technicality and memorable choruses. Guitarist Brock MacInnes does a fantastic job trading riffs with Kenny Cook and playing twin leads that would give Maiden and Priest a run for their money even in the classic period of each group. The vocals here are exceptional and unique in their own way, as Kenny uses so many different styles and sounds at one time. In the span of one song or less once hears a guttural, unclean death style meld into a scream that most in the black metal and extreme music community would die to have in their repertoire. Then within this same song he goes into more shouted classic vocals and then even some melodic and soft parts.
It’s one thing to write music like this; it’s another thing to play it, and Aaron “Boon” Gustafson and Mike Hannay do it superbly. Aaron grooves on his bass, keeping the constant time changes and progressive grooves going full steam ahead playing while headbanging and nodding away and he does it effortlessly. While Mike is always keeping things busy, his skins barely have a sec to breathe before they are being used to the max and filled with rhythms that both Neil Peart and Tomas Haake would be excited by.
Even though the venue does not possess the greatest overall sound in Toronto (trust me – I went to each area of the bar listening for the perfect spot, which I never found) the band still sounded good enough to make out all the songs, parts and vocals. And most of all, they made it fun for all in attendance. Most might agree, when you go to see a live metal show you want to hear loud epic tunes that make you move, nod your head and that touch your soul or ear drums so you have the feeling of escape and freedom from the monotonous of our everyday lives and stress. Quite possibly that involves seeing some musicians with long hair rip up the stage, and that is what you get with a live Anciients show, a constant 50-min or hour long set of in-sync headbanging.
For the 100 or more in attendance one could say we all got a very fulfilling set of different sounds, things like melodic classical guitar interludes, sludge and doom metal riffs mixed with thrash and classic metal parts, death metal crunches and even some hypnotic black metal rhythms. The band more than fits the tag of progressive metal and could be considered one the greatest modern Canadian metal bands today, as well as one of the most important progressive metal groups in today’s scene.
Overall, this went down as a great night of metal and rock jams and each band brought something different. I am sure that there were more than a few necks sore after this night and that is the way it should be.