Death-tech metallers visit from Quebec
In the imagery-heavy world of death metal, a good indicator of a band’s scene-climbing power is its merch.
Newly available wallpaper for iPhone? Check. Work shirts? Check. Girls underwear? Check.
This is just a taste of what was on Montreal tech-metal band Augury’s merch table as they played the Annex Wreckroom last week while on tour with God Dethroned and Abigail Williams. So, it was odd to see that while the latter bands jetted out in their massive tour buses, the dudes from Augury went back to their measly van-trailer set-up.
“We have no money, so we have to sleep in the van,” says drummer Antoine Baril in his thick Quebecois accent. “But it’s rock and roll,” he shrugs.
But if Quebec’s penchant for spawning progressive and technical legends Voivod, Gorguts and Cryptopsy has any bearing, Augury is on its way up. Case in point: The recent release of their sophomore album ”Fragmentary Evidence” and signage to Nuclear Blast records (behind death heavyweights Immortal, Suffocation and Nile).
And the girls underwear seems to be selling — not at all creepy given the fact this was an all-ages show, nor that the lead singer works as a school teacher.
“When we play Montreal I see some of their (students) faces in the crowd, and their parents as well,” says vocalist/guitarist Patrick Loisel, who teaches physics, geography and history at high school.
Apparently, what he teaches isn’t totally divorced from the world of long-haired teens forming violent circle pits.
“When you look at the mosh pit, they’re more like atoms smashing into each other … like a nuclear reaction it can explode,” he jokes.
“All-ages crowds give us a chance to renew the public (their audience),” says guitarist Mathieu Marcotte, though the band doesn’t necessarily prefer playing to younger crowd. It’s more of a necessary demo with new heavy metal. “This generation between 16 and 20, I think they’re regaining an interest for deeper music, or more technical whereas before some of the generation before there was a little ‘drop’ in the mid-nineties, with grunge.”
“I was giving guitar lessons in the early ’90s, and I had students who were shredders. Then from one day to the other, ‘Oh, Green Day doesn’t play it? We’ll I don’t want to play it anymore.’ They play three chords, try to pick up girls – they forgot everything else.”
Though he no longer teaches guitar, Loisel tends to combine both his book smarts and his musical talents in Augury — sometimes coined tech death or math metal, which is huge in Quebec. Tapping techniques, tempo shifts, and “experiments that turn into main ingredients” are mainstays of the genre which includes successful area bands like Neuraxis and Martyr.
“The taste for progress dates very far back,” says Loisel. “Quebec was one of the few places left where prog music remained big while it was disappearing everywhere else.”
All members of the band grew up in different regions of Quebec and joined in Montreal because it has one of the best metal scenes, they say, though they are hard-pressed to understand why. Really, any area near water (think Bay area thrash, Florida death metal) should be ideal.
“We find on the west or east coasts there is a good eye for metal,” says Loisel. “Maybe the closer you are to the sea, the closer you are to different cultures where you are more apt to repeat many different influences, whereas remote places far from metropolitan areas are more into their tradition.”
Augury isn’t just experimenting musically, as you’ll also find complexity in Loisel’s lyrics. You only have to listen to Fragmentary Evidence to appreciate that.
“There’s a basic concept about the real extent of human knowledge and the real human history, like our civilization is among many others, that current humans are, say, farmed by something higher or bigger,” he says of his lyrical themes, though he prefers not to elaborate. Loisel said you could find this civilization vs. technology “conspiracy theory shit” all over the Internet. “It’s all there, but I take the most plausible elements of any theory, none of them I think are (fully) true. We all believe in some parts of them, but no one in Augury is a firm believer that this is the truth. We’re not a preacher band.”
Like the title of their latest release, Augury says it’s up to you form your own conspiracy based on all that fragmentary evidence.
Catch Augury with Poland’s Vader in Toronto Nov. 10 at Mod Club.