Regardless of circumstance or enterprise, true dedication to one’s craft is always a noble and commendable pursuit. Whether it’s building your own home, painting a self portrait, or hell, I don’t know, performing a sold-out show on knee pads because both of your goddamn feet are broken, you have to admire commitment. That last example happens to be Trap Them lead singer Ryan McKenney’s current reality. After breaking both feet during Trap Them’s performance at Bloodshedfest in the Netherlands, McKenney not only finished that show, but continued on through a European tour and the band’s current North American trip. Regardless of injury, Trap Them remain one of extreme music’s most volatile live acts, so the Bucketlist crew wasn’t going to miss their sold-out show at Turbo Haus in Montreal, which also featured a stellar line up of supporting acts.
Speaking of dedication to craft, myself and fellow Bucketlisters Liz and friend Kev got off our bus at the wrong stop, forcing us to miss awesome local openers Hashed Out, whose brand of crusty metallic hardcore no doubt delighted the steadily growing crowd. Thankfully, our photographer Danny is an actual professional and was at the venue on time, so there should be plenty of great shots!
Having seen and written about Montreal’s Dark Circles numerous times over the past year, you’d think I’d have run out of glowing superlatives to hurl their way, but Jaime Thomas & Co. brought to bear another excellent, concussive performance. The band tore through the first half of the set, which mostly featured material from their self-titled EP and 2014’s MMXIV almost without pause, allowing drummer Matt Tremblay’s thunderous D-beat enough time to mash the audience into submission. Midway through the set, Thomas announced that the group would perform new, as-yet-to-be-recorded material. The new tunes were still rooted in Dark Circle’s signature crusty, epic D-beat, but they featured a far greater dynamic range. Blasting grindcore sections morphed into subdued, mid-tempo punk rock before quickly galloping off to D-beatland, the whole affair sprinkled liberally with wonderfully abrupt, time signature-bending transitions. To say I am excited to get my sweaty palms on a copy of that forthcoming record is an understatement of galactic proportions.
If, like me, you are a sucker for that caustic 90s death metal guitar tone that sounds so gnarly that it instantly induces Todd Jones Face, then your head would have been banging in lockstep with mine for Nashville, Tennessee’s Yautja. The band takes suffocating sludge and destructive grind and layers that frothy mix with gratifyingly meaty, DM-inflected riffs. While that satisfying tone remained a constant throughout the set, the songs traversed a vast spectrum of styles and concepts without feeling disconnected from each other. Straight forward ragers like “Blinders” and “An Exit” flowed seamlessly into the undulating, uneasy weirdness of “Processed” and “Teeth,” and mid-set slow burn “Faith Resigned” felt Melvins-esque at times while retaining the set’s overarching vibe. Drummer Tyler Coburn’s amazingly complex playing is a key component to Yautja’s sound. Beyond exceptional technicality that colours the songs with loads of flourish, Coburn’s drumming ensured that all of the bizarre time shifts and syncopation connected with a satisfying wallop.
After witnessing Ryan McKenney’s signature self-harm acrobatics during Trap Them‘s set at last year’s Obscene Extreme America, I was unsure what to expect from this evening’s performance. Is a Trap Them set really a Trap Them set if McKenney is confined to a single post on the stage? Thankfully, the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes, idiot.” The band began their set with a collection of songs from new LP Crown Feral, opening with the slow lament of “Kindred Dirt.” While certainly not as kinetic, McKenney’s performance was oddly fitting to the fatalistic nature of Trap Them’s music, as if McKenney were simply compelled to fall to his knees and yell at the sky. While McKenney stayed mostly in one place, the massive audience most certainly did not. Midway through propulsive second track “Hellionaires” the crowd was set to spin cycle, and remained that way for the rest of the evening.
Part of what makes Trap Them’s music so explosive is the razor-sharp precision of guitarist Brian Izzi’s songwriting. Every riff is perfectly placed for maximum impact, leaving no room for complacency or meandering. Clearly appreciative of the audience’s warmly violent reception, McKenney said that he wished he could crawl up to look everyone in the eye to thank them. After playing through the first half of Crown Feral, the band skipped across their discography, playing a variety of fan favourites including “Slumcult and Gather,” “Evictionaries,” and “Guignol Serene.” After a brief pause at the end of their set, the band returned for an encore that included “Habitland” and “All By The Constant Vulse.”
The life of a touring musician is an existence plagued by suffering for one’s art. Long hours cramped in a van to drive to an uncertain and most likely insufficient paycheque, weeks or months away from friends and family, and a constant uncertainty about one’s future are almost par for the course these days. So imagine all of that while both your broken feet are coated in plaster. In short: buy that fucking t-shirt and LP bundle the next time you’re at the merch table.
Written by Jesse Gainer
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Kate Erickson