Whether you’re noticing your friends with a particularly drippy nose or can’t seem to shake your week-long hangover, it can be hard to remember the passionate discourse and dogma that characterized growing up at hardcore shows. Now that the majority of hardcore kids are dressed like ’80s grindhouse villains, with similar unquenchable coke habits and a love of distant, gothy post-punk, the question’s never been more valid: has the edge gone dull? Not in Canada, my friends.
Crack an ice-cold root beer, kick back, and read about seven new(er) Canadian straight edge bands you may not have heard. And don’t forget to order any and all demo tapes — not only do they sound great in all their ragged glory, but they’ll be worth a fortune when these bands sign to Victory and join Terror and 11 other bands on a package tour through Brazil.
1. The Chain
It’s hard to argue with The Chain, whose demo tape opens with real life chain sounds before kicking into a two-step worthy shuffle. Then, frontman Dereck barks “You can’t break the fucking chain” and you’re suddenly planning your 10-year edgeversary (which, I’m assuming, would be 10 years from today). These Calgarian goons roll with the notorious Garbage of the World crew, playing the city’s Garbage Daze festival alongside Iron Lung, Criminal Code, Omegas and many others. While everyone else was sneaking in flasks, however, they were nursing their slurpees. The demo’s a must have, with classic song titles like “Back 2 Basics” and “Dickhead,” as well as mid-fi production that keeps the guitars beefy while boasting drum cymbals that sound like they were recorded in a storage locker. Their second tape, perfectly titled Steppin Out of Line, sounds like an entirely new band, with stop-on-a-dime dynamics and incredibly crisp guitars. Without question, The Chain absolutely rules.
2. Weak Link
St. John’s, Newfoundland
In keeping with the chain theme, meet St. John’s, Newfoundland group Weak Link. They recently spent all the money they save not getting fucked up and blew it on a van trip across the entire damn country, keeping sobriety alive from coast to coast. And it wouldn’t be an article about straight edge bands without some nitpicking — according to the band’s own Robert Forward on a recent Facebook event, the band is actually only 3/4 straight edge, though “100% hate edge.” Whatever the case may be, the band’s recent LP Promo Tape, a cassette-only demo for their upcoming album, boasts impressive hardcore that’s at once aggressive and clean-cut. It’s so good that I’m getting tempted to cash in my empties and use the money to put out the whole album for them. Weak Link just might be the best new hardcore band in Canada.
3. Out of Sight
To be fair, Vancouver’s Out of Sight have been around a little longer than the other bands on the list. But they’re just too awesome not to include — not only does the music hit hard, but the vocals are gruff as hell, the production is slick, the lyrics transcend the subgenre by tackling important sociopolitical issues with a feminist slant, and they follow a long tradition of great Rain City edge bands that include Burden, Blue Monday, and Keep It Clear. That’s not why I love them, though. I love them because they made their own letterman jackets. Look at that seven-inch cover! Do you think I could still wear one, even though I don’t live in Vancouver and am not an edgeman?
4. Measure Up
Halifax, Nova Scotia
I was starting to think that (aside from Envision, of course) Halifax’s obsession with pop wizardry was all they had going for them. And that’d be okay, because between Moon, Construction and Destruction, Cousins, Old and Weird and whatever other great band gets started this weekend, they’ve got weird Canadiana on lock. Still, there’s a secret cluster of coremen waiting to break free from the shackles of outsider indie pop, and it’s slowly happening. First, they booked Bane to play the Halifax Pop Explosion last year. Now, we get Measure Up, a new core quartet who just dropped their demo at the end of July. And it shows, in all the best ways — while Measure Up’s delivery will one day be slick as hell, the demo offers up a rough-around-the-edges quality that keeps it super charming. Add in some faux-Horror Show nasally vocals and songs called “Don’t Give In” and “Use Your Head,” and this band deserves a cover story in The Coast.
Okay, first of all this band is called Ignorance, which is an absolutely wonderful name for a hardcore band, or really for any band at all. It’s just a great name in general. One day I will name my child Ignorance. The band called Ignorance don’t seem all that serious, considering the fact that their Bandcamp demos are from 2011 and their Facebook page sees them referring to themselves as “4 PIECES OF SHIT.” Either way, Ignorance rep the St. James neighbourhood of Winnipeg and play straight-ahead, tough-as-nails hardcore. Even though they’re going for supreme heaviness, however, the demo recording’s lower quality recording helps it strike a nice middle ground. Their edge anthem is called “Over the Edge,” which is pretty great. Pair that with the barking back-in-the-day anthem “The Realness,” and I’m sold on Ignorance.
6. Raw Style
Raw Style is another one of those band names where, if I’m being honest with myself, listening to their music is a pure formality — I’m completely sold regardless. The self-proclaimed “Capital City Straight Edge” crew have all the makings of a great demo, from a two-for-one opening track called “Conviction/Buggin’ Out” to a wonderfully tinny recording sound. It also has that manic rawness that most hardcore bands have, like they’re all fantastic musicians who occasionally get ahead of one another. Tracks like “Dead Weight” surely get the members of parliament all riled up when they play it at home, but the real gem here is “Don’t Buy In,” a seven-second powerviolence attack that’s more like five seconds when you include the click-in at the start and closing scream “own the fuck up,” which segues, naturally, into closer “Own Up.” It’s pretty shocking to imagine that there’s a straight edge band this good from the same city that gave us this.
Prosecution’s Bandcamp bio reads, “This is basically a demo we recorded in our noisy, noisy jam space. Don’t expect too much.” Okay Prosecution, that’s half fair. But your band name is on some seriously stern judgmental tip, and your demo cover is a gnarly, high-contrast image of two gavels. You’ve set the bar pretty high for yourselves. Fortunately, once you get through the wanky intro (complete with pinch-shifted guitar squeals), the band deliver nine tracks of diverse, pissed hardcore that’s occasionally heavy on the metal (think weird bass chords, more guitar screeches and so, so much double kick) but aggressive and tight enough to stay interesting. If you’re looking for new music from Edmonton and want the exact polar opposite of Renny Wilson, I’d recommend Prosecution.