An explosion of talent and skill from the Great White North. I figured, it's about time to do a thread highlighting Canadian music. Not just metal (though, that's what I know best) but everything I know of. See, of late, Canada has been the home of many truly astounding bands and projects, and I thought, why not share them with all of you? Also, if you know any Canadian bands worth noting, by all means, give us a write up in here Corb Lund: God knows I wrote a huge enough rant about Lund (as did moe) but it's needs to be re-stated, former bass player and primary co-songwriter for Canadian legends The Smalls, Corbs solo career is four albums in, and after his latest release (Hair in My Eyes Like a Highland Steer) is well on his way to becoming another name like Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan (who is an ardent admirer of Corb). From his first demo/abum Modern Pain (now re-issued with 6 bonus tracks, including a live cover of the Hockey song, and a cover of the Smalls Waste and Tragedy), through Unforgiving Mistress (his most 'country' album) Five Dollar Bill (a brilliant and rocking release) to the most recent, Corbs sales and publicity have been growing steadily. For anyone with an open mind, this is country done right. Devin Townsend: Chances are, if you are reading this, you are already aware of my fan-boyism. From his earliest days singing vocals for guitar legend Steve Vai, through five solo albums crossing the spectrum of metal. Sex and Religion was one of Vais less powerful album, but did an amazing job of highlighting Devins astounding vocal range, which was followed up by Ocean Machines, a pseudo-concept album about the music of the Oceans, powerful and melodic. After that came Infinity, a spastic trip down the road of a nervous breakdown. The follow up to Infinity was Physicist, often described as SYL-lite, but still a truly powerful album if taken as is. Then came Terria, a powerful, melancholy and amazing Pink Floyd inspired prog-metal album that is an emotional whirlwind. Accelerated Evolution was number five, and is veiwed as Devys most accessible, with tracks that could have gotten radio play without losing any of his edges or intricate musicianship. Also of note, was Devins gag band, Punky Brewster, a single concept album about how the (fictional) Death Metal band, Cryptic Coroner became the pop-punk phenomenon, Punky Brewster. Warped, funny, twisted, and extremely well-crafted pop-punk. Loreena McKennitt: One of Canadas musical treasures, McKennitt is neo-classical Celtic composer with an astounding voice and amazing compositional abilities. Mixing elements like choiral choruses, neo-classical music, gothic highlights and traditional folk songs, Loreena has crafted many a powerful and beautiful (if dark at times) album that should be in the hands of anyone who likes follk musics. With eight albums (one of which is live, and another which is a holiday album) Loreena has a heavy backlog to get to know, but it is well worth the effort. Her first album Elemental was recorded in one week in '85, and shows it, each subsequent album (To Drive the Cold Winter Away, Paralell Dreams, The Visit, The Mask and the Mirror, Winter Gardens, The Book of Secrets) displayed a growing and burdgeoning grasp of production, and composition. By the time her Live in Paris album had been released, Loreena was being watched fro around the world and her up-coming album (as yet untitled) will certainly be of interest to anyone with a taste for folk, classical or just female vocals. I also highly recommend her DVD No Journeys End... Ashley MacIsaac: Some of (many of you I suspect) have atleast heard the name. Ashley MacIsaac is a fiddle genius, he really is. Sure, he's a drug abusing, borderline alchoholic egocentric bastard with a sharp tongue and atemper, but musically the man hits the fiddle like a falling space station. From his earliest work Close to the Floor a tribute to traditional fiddle and east coast musics Ashley got his start for his hyper fast, and amazing talent. The next album, Hi How Are You Today? raised many eyebrows as he mixed in elements of punk, garage rock, country and traditional musics to craft a chaotic and neurotic album, that many people found hard to digest, this was exacerbated by the single (Sleepy Maggie) which gave one entirely the wrong impression about the direction the album had taken. Following it up with Fin Thank You Very Much, he eased back on the wierdness, but kept a strong sense of the expiremental, and it had a more cohesive feel than the previous album. After that came Fiddle Music 101, where he returned to his traditional roots and strove to incorporate outisde influences without losing the sense of history that the fiddle bears. Recently has come Pride, a powerful and eccentric blend of styles, even incorporating elements of metal that expresses the attitudes of said musician. As always, he pushes the boundaries of what people think can be done with a fiddle. I can say this, if a canadian metal band ever wanted to blend in the traditional sounds of a fiddle, they couldn't do much better than listening to this album multiple times. Voivod: It's hard to describe Voivods music. They are legends in the Thrash world....no, they are legends in the metal world. Back in '84, an unknown Quebec Thrash band released an album that would garner instant attention, War and Pain was Voivods first release, and it was thrash, traditional and almost straight forward Metallica-esque thrash that was no nonesense headbanging power. Followed up by Rrroooaaarrr, a Slayer-esque thrash fest that is considered by some to be a step back after their debut, but is also very heavy. Their third album, Killing Technology displays elements of what they would eventually become, a mix of thrash and strange (if scattered) outside influences that earned them many an interested listen. Dimension Hatross is where the band steps forth and earns the name expiremental. Lyrical content becomes deeper and more thought provoking, guitarist Piggy displays an unexpected talent for intricate and powerful work, and Snake opens up with his highly unique and intense clean singing, leaving the shrieking behind with the more sophomoric lyrics of previous albums. The band really steps up and defies conventions here, and this is where it really begins. Nothingface, considered the finest of the Snake era albums really is the ONE. Jazz and prog are layered thickly throughout over thrash and Snakes unique and emotional vocals, the band breaks all preconcieved notions and even garnered much recognition for their psychotically trippy cover of Pink Floyds Astronomy Domine. The follow up Angel Rat is paradoxically both their most accessible, and most mature album, with so much going on under the surface, that repeated listens continuously reveal something new...even now, over a decade later it still continues to impress. Next up was the Outter Limits, an album of intensely proggy and psychedelic metal/rock that is truly and startlingly abstract yet pointed. Negatron was where Eric Forrest took over for Snake on vocals, and it was a major step backwards, almost straight forward traditional metal with death-esque growls. WHile not a bad release, Negatron is a major disappointment from a band that helped redefine metal and music for so many years. Phobos continues in the same vein of the previous album Negatron, and continues to fail to be anything more than decent (except in the European release which includes a Newsted track and a King Diamond cover, both of which stick out like gold amongst lead). In 2003 Snake returned to the fold, and long time Metallica bassist Jason Newsted (now calling himself Jasonic) joined the band. Such a dramatic change in direction they felt could only be represented by a self-titled relase, and Voivod is a powerful, intense, neurotic mix of thrash, prog, psychedelia and even some industrial that easily (and contemptuously) blows Metalicas pathetic Saint Anger out of the water without even trying. Recently, Piggy died, an event that sent shockwaves through the industry, but not before he finished recording his parts of the new album. The band has since continued to finish the album as in Snakes words: "Piggy lived for this, if we quit now, it would be betraying everything he stood for." It promises to be something powerful... Days of the New: From the initial release, the Yellow album, Days of the New were regarded as yet another Alice in Chains style wanna be band. Yet, closer inspection of the album reveals a more down home, country style album that sings with emotions and talent. Yet, it wasn't until their second album, the Green album that they displayed a truly personalized sound, with a mix of Alice in Chains, metal, country and a spattering of prog rock that had a multitude of depths worth plumbing. Travis Meeks voice is eerily like Layne Staley at times, yet mostly has a unique and emotion thick sound of it's own, which is excellently accompanied by a mix of acoustic and electric guitars and bass. The third album, the Red album, is perhaps the band most diverse, ranging across the spectrum of influences on previous albums, but highlighting each influence in it's own way and pushing Travis' voice to new reaches (and sadly a few new lows). It's been 4 years since the Red album, and the long awaited follow up, the Purple album is still hanging in the air with little to no word wether or not the bands difficulties with their label are going to be resolved... The Smalls: Yeah, we all know how much I love these guys. Disbanded or not. From their full length debut, To Each a Zone the Smalls stepped up and broke many genres in their attempts tp create an identity in the muddled and chaotic morass called the Alberta music scene. Swiftly re-releasing their demo with four new tracks (including a cover of the Pretenders - Middle of the Road) The Smalls went on tour, and continued to stay one of Canadas hardest touring bands for over a decade. In '95, they released the brilliant and expiremental Waste and tragedy (this is where Corb began to dominate the song-writing) and followed it up four years later with teir final album, the Faith No More influenced, My Dear Little Angle. Four albums, all of which challenge the very idea of genres, and showcase four of Canadas most uniquely talented musicians. Strapping Young Lad: Back in '95, Devin Townsend released his first Strapping Young Lad album, the rather amusingly titled Heavy as a really Heavy Thing. It's heavy industrial infused death/thrash with a vicious sense of humour and a severe inability to take itself seriously, as evinced by the 'bonus' track, Satans Icecream truck, a demented circus music sounding metal joke that's hard to ignore. Two years later he releases City. City is one of those albums that EVERY single metal fan should own. It's nigh on perfect, all the elements that made HaaRT good are better on this album, it's heavy as all shit, and alternatively mellow and creepy, the vocals are insane in their range and versatility, the guitars are perfect, the bass is godlike and the drums are courtesy of metals drumming legend, Gene 'the Machine' Hoglan. Not only that, the albums production is brilliant, sharp and intense with a wall of sound so perfectly done that you can make out each individual sound. Probably one of the genres seminal albums, City is a must have. Six years later, they come out with the pounding self-titled release, an album crafted to be live anthems. And say what you will about it, I believe that SYL is a brilliant album in that respect, as once you've heard those songs live there is no doubting their brilliance, hell inside the booklet, certain parts of each songs lyrics are italicized, and it says in the beginning, 'the italicized bits are your bits, when we see you live, we expect you to know your parts'. I mean, that is pure brilliance (and pure SYL). This year SYL released the brilliant and disturbed Alien, an album of estrangement and the feelings of an outsider. It's raging, cold, melancholy and demented, with some of the best goddamn musicianship the band have crafted. Not quite City in its impact, it none the less is an extremely deep and mulit-layered album that should be checked out by everyone. Well my hands are starting to hurt, so I will do a series of follow ups over the next week or so..but for now, it is time for me to rest.