Destroyer – Defiance

destroyer666After seven years, Destroyer 666 has released a new album with increased musical complexity. The guitar riffs are more brutal and crunching than their last album; the vocals are dry mid-range growls echoing as if they came straight from hell; the overall mood is angry and dark. This is not to say that the album doesn’t leap away from consistency; in fact there are some quite melodic guitar riffs especially on the sludgy “Blood for Blood” and the depressive “Human All to Human.” But watch out, because immediately after that your face will be ripped away by the blasting machine gun anthem “The Barricades are Breaking.” The album ends in a triumphant epic with choral-like vocals and a repetitive Burzum-esque guitar riff. This album is for anyone who enjoyed the more depressing mid-’90s black metal, not because it was depressing but because the melody was captivating. (Season of Mist, Paul Nordin

Dead Letters – The Dead Letters EP

deadlettersConsisting of long-time collaborators Jim Demos and Alex Janusz (National Monument) and recent addition Jill Winzoski on the violin, the Dead Letters are an instrumental trio that pay homage to the likes of Ennio Morricone and other spaghetti western composers through original compositions. From the riding-high tones of “Ghost of a Thousand Battles” to the graceful and spellbinding “Cathedral of Leaves” and finally the haunting and masterfully conceived “War,” each epic track is loaded with atmospheric tension and beautiful dramatic intensity. Although some of their previous live material was a lot more loud and rockin’, this three-song EP is no less powerful or enchanting as any of their live shows. (Independent, Kent Davies

Youthanize – The Color of Violence


This band lost most of their members to the hardcore group From First to Last. After a few years’ hiatus, the two remaining members began writing songs again and putting them up on the band’s MySpace page. Soon after, the demand for an album was high and the duo promised that they would bring one. I am here to tell you that it was worth the two-year wait. This may be one of the most well-crafted screamo/grind/rock albums of the year. Every song has heavy guitars, pounding drums, deranged screams, and something catchy enough to make each song stand on its own. The lyrics are mostly literal and deal with unpopular political standpoints (example: Recycling is wasteful.) This album never loses its intensity, which is rare for the genre. Usually bands like this have some sad song in the middle with a slow tempo and a singing voice so injured sounding that you can actually see the emo comb over. The only time this album slows down is in the hidden song, and even that one feels just like another heavy track. All in all, this album sounds like only listening to the really fast and scream-y songs by the Blood Brothers and Showbread. (Epitaph, Paul Nordin

Castanets – Texas Rose, the Beasts, and the Thaw

castanetsThe simplest way to describe this album (other than garbage) is to imagine if Pink Floyd decided to record a country album. Castanets creates mixture of space-y soundscapes with traditional country vocals and acoustic strumming, which attempts to evoke the image of a cowboy riding in a sprawling desert. I’m making this album sound a lot better than it actually is. This is a country album created by a hipster, for hipsters, who are upset that a large majority of people like country music, and hate the pretentious crap associated with their scene. Listening to this album, I felt like I was being punished for actually enjoying country. Despite clocking in at 39 minutes, the album felt more like three hours. I could actually hear my brain sizzle as I tried my hardest to stay awake while listening. This album is such a bore, I don’t even think the hipsters would enjoy it. (Asthmatic Kitty, Charles Lefebvre

Blitzen Trapper – Black River Killer EP

blackriverkillerThis EP’s namesake, one of the best tracks from last year’s breakthrough, Furr, is given special treatment here and allowed to kick off a new batch of songs. While it proves worthwhile to revisit a fantastic track like “Black River Killer,” that darkly whimsical tale of a killer who can’t help but evade redemption, this EP feels a little thrown together and lacks the propulsive energy that made Furr so likable. Here, Blitzen Trapper show a willingness to branch out and expand their influences. “Preachers Sisters Boy” features a synth line that has to have been stolen from the Cars, but still sounds like more of the same. The mid-tempo “Going Down” sees Blitzen Trapper starting to recycle their melodies, while “Shoulder Full of You” could pass for one of Beck’s more sentimental acoustic numbers. At this point, Blitzen Trapper appear to have settled on a formula that’s worked quite well for them, but this EP leaves me wondering where they can go from here, whether they have the ability to take their classic rock Americana to the next level. (Sub Pop, Jonathan Dyck

The Antlers – Hospice

This remarkably assured album from the Brooklyn-based band The Antlers is all about space and atmosphere. What started out as a lo-fi solo project for Peter Silberman has evolved into an epic collaborative project over two years in the making. Though not a particularly difficult record, Hospice rewards patient listening with a tightly bound narrative about isolation and terminal illness. Melodically, it’s a pretty straightforward chamber-pop record, and at times it even sounds a bit formulaic, but on a song like “Kettering” (which, on its own wouldn’t be all that interesting) there’s so much going on thematically, and such a careful texturing of sound, that the track takes on a new life, slowly building into something almost raucous, almost hopeful. “Bear” features the same sort of upbeat flickering, with a cutting chorus (“We’re too old / We’re not old at all”) that disappears as quickly as it emerged. This haunting quality is the most powerful aspect of Hospice, which teeters between vacuous drones and lush flourishes, and finds The Antlers at their best in the echoes and whispers of songs like the beautiful “Shiva” and the inspiring “Wake.” Hospice is pretty heavy and perhaps a bit too serious. As one critic has said, it’s “music for people who like hospitals,” which doesn’t strike me as a compliment. Indeed, it will be interesting to see where yhe Antlers go from here, to see if there is, after all, life beyond hospital walls. (French Kiss, Jonathan Dyck

The 2009 WCMAs

Stylus heads to Brandon, avoids fights

By Michael Elves

They say you can never really go home again, but since Brandon hosted this year’s Western Canadian Music Awards, I returned to the Wheat City—where I haven’t lived for over a decade, but where I spent my formative years—to take in the sights and sounds at showcases and sessions held during the weekend of September 17-20.
While much of Brandon remains the same as when I left, there have certainly been changes in the intervening years; 18th Street North now looks like Kenaston at McGillivray, with its big-box stores replacing what was once a great tobogganing hill. The Keystone Centre has been re-branded the Westman Communications Group Place and fused to Canad Inns like a conjoined twin.

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Chad VanGaalen

By Jonathan Dyck

Chad VanGaalen may be many things to many people, but one thing is certain: he embodies the do-it-yourself aesthetic at every imaginable level. From self-production and designing his album artwork to building instruments and animating his own music videos, it’s difficult to think of something VanGaalen isn’t good at. Now, after three diverse albums of homespun folk rock, the Polaris Prize-nominated Albertan has released his electronic side project, Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz, under the moniker Black Mold (on the Calgary-based label Flemish Eye). Stylus caught up with Chad VanGaalen to discuss his musical alter-ego, his artwork, and why it’s unlikely that he’ll be invited back to perform at the Winnipeg Folk Festival any time soon.

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Right Through

By Taylor Burgess

It isn’t uncommon for young bands to be some combination of reckless and precise, but Winnipeg indie quartet Right Through seems to be the inverse of metal and hardcore bands, opting for the lo-fi sounds of ’90s indie rock instead. Rather than worrying about specific scales, these boys worry about harmonies and rocking hard.

The band started about two and a half years ago when Jesse Hill, 19, was playing in the Fo!ps, and Cole Woods, 18, and Rob Gardiner, 18, were in the Playing Cards.

Over a coffee in the Exchange on a soon-to-be bitter autumn evening, Jesse said, “We played shows with each other, and then we became friends, and we started jamming.”

Woods added, “And then Rob and I have been friends for a long time, been playing together in bands for a long time.”

“Well, he was just Rob’s brother,” said bassist Alan Gardiner, 16. We all cracked up.

Tease each other as they might, they still have faith in each other. Jesse said, “If I’m stuck with a song, that’s like the perfect time to bring it to Right Through, because I’m really confident in these guys’ abilities to take something I have and make it way better.” They can most definitely read each other, and when they play, they’re in the same mind-space. I picture them swinging their arms and pounding their guitars among mostly barren trees and snow-dusted ground , much like a world presented in their promo photos.

They’re careful not to–or perhaps it never even crossed their minds to–name-drop any influences, but their brand of loud-quiet-loud indie rock is somewhere between Pavement and post-rock, limited to two guitars, one bass and a drum kit.

Late in October, the band will be releasing their first full length album, titled the sun hot. They recorded it themselves, with the help of Jesse’s brother, getting all of the instruments done in a couple of days, but then doing the vocals over a much longer stretch–the next six months.

It was quite vexing for Jesse. “I’m a pretty big perfectionist, so just the fact that I was on my own recording my vocals, over and over again, I got really obsessive about it… It was just really stressful. And it probably would’ve been less stressful if… uh… we were in…”

“In a real studio?” Cole offers.

The CD release will be on October 23 at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church, a venue the band plays frequently. If you’ve never been there, you should also know it’s one of the better venues in the city. The sound carries like a dream, full and dramatic, and always compliments Right Through’s drastic shifts in dynamics, from slow strums and muttering to gut-wrenching and screaming. As Hill says, “We try to be as quiet as we try to be loud.”

Live at the West End

By Jenny Henkelman

As the weather starts pushing Winnipeggers back indoors for the winter, a new televised concert series is set to bring live, local music to your home television set. Live at the West End captures six performances by Manitoba-based acts and is the brainchild of Johnny Marlow. He’s been a record store owner and an indie label rep. Now he’s working in a new venue: on-demand TV.

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