Words and photos by Sara Osmanovic
I often go into shows with little to no knowledge of the bands that are playing that night. However, upon hearing Deathsticks was playing Pressed, I knew that that was a show not to be missed. Although the show started a bit late, it didn’t have an effect on the length of each set.
Dark Plains, a local band, ripped through the murmurs of the crowd as they began their set. A steady and prominent bass line with a heavy tone dominated the room and the guitar creating dissonant riffs. One of the first things that caught my attention other than the obviously booming sound slicing through the silence was the ability the guitar had for carrying the songs while the drums rattled in your chest. It was almost as if one would take the song apart while the other put it back together and it created a unique dynamic that was easy to get wrapped up in.
Some songs would start out with a drum solo instead of with the bass, and it really set the tone and mood for the rest of the song. The atmosphere was dark but the energy was high in these moments. The uniqueness of the drums struck me, they were loud but in a few places they’d go off beat only to jump back on beat and flow and meld together with what the rest of the band played.
During the guitar solos, the bassline would be the backbone, seeming as if everything would wrap around it and this is a factor that didn’t allow the solo’s to punch you in the face with high intensity. It rather pulled people into it and allowed them to immerse themselves in the soundscape that they were presented with. Sometimes you’d hear notes that were off key but that just pulled you into the intricately orchestrated songs more because it made everything that came after sound that much better.
The vocals are almost a contrast to the music being played. They take a more mellow approach and create an overlay to the aggressive drumming, bass, and guitars; but when unified in harmonies they can pack a punch and emphasise themselves above all else. The combination of vocals mirroring the aggression in the written music got me to move my feet and nod along but it also seemed to get people to lurch their bodies in choppy, staggering, and abrupt motions.
WLMRT burst through with a fiery passion, the aggressive sound making itself present and known despite the songs being relatively short. I noticed people thrashing to it, throwing their bodies into those of others without a care and that goes to describe what the music itself is. It’s an overpowering bassline, reverberated guitar riffs, odd electronic sounds via soundboard, and the drumming that packs punches in quick succession.
Vocals cut right through the medley of sound and it’s something you try to decipher through the reverb – and maybe you manage to, or you don’t, but it’s enough to grasp your attention and drag you in by the collar of your shirt. Shrill when the songs progress and unfold but they’re no strangers to a more melodic approach. Delivered with a twitchy but fun-loving carefree attitude, the vocals really help loosen you up and get you into the weighted sound of the bass, the fuzz of the guitar, and the manic drumming.
WLMRT is a band that smashes everything together in ways that you wouldn’t imagine. It’s like that one weird combination of food that you never thought would work but does. I find that this is because there’s so much going on and because everyone seemingly marches to the beat of their own drum but that’s very far from the case. It’s something that’s so close to old school punk—pure distorted noise that throws you dead centre into the scene that they’re creating, and that’s something that keeps drawing me in.
Don’t even bother trying to deconstruct any Deathsticks song because it’s not something you’ll ever be able to do. The Ottawa band is confusing, aggressive, and beautiful, and brings genuine meaning to the name Deathsticks. By the end of the night, I’m sure only one pair of drumsticks didn’t end up broken in half.
The band sounds like a fully formed band, and I suppose they are, but if you’ve never heard or seen them, you’ll be shocked to know that they’re a duo. Every component of their music is well timed that it shocks the listener, you can’t try to listen to them, just listen, observe, and let yourself be swept away by the aggression and anger.
There’s not a single aspect that seems traditionally composed. Every musical “rule” has been rejected—from the very first song they played, where Matt rubbed the guitar strings with his hand, a technique that is seldom used to the very end of the set. Deathsticks strayed from any rules that would have been imposed and transformed intros into messy white noise.
The drumming is chaotic and the guitar steady but completely unstable. Laura knows exactly what to do and how to keep it in control, almost as if the instrument is just an extension of an arm or a leg. It seems to come as second nature and watching it is mesmerising. The consistent use of the ride and crash cymbals adds a contrast to the deep boom off the bass drum and the rattling of the snare.
Spoken words or off-beat screaming, the duo have seemingly mastered the music. The feedback, crashing drums, roaring power chords and screaming solos, all contributed to something that I had once stated would happen if they were to play in a dingy bar—that’s right, a mosh pit. Not only does the music grow wild but the crowd with it.
The set may leave you wondering “what the fuck was that?” the first time you hear them, but truly the only way to answer that question is with the simple words “controlled chaos”.
So maybe next time that you find yourself in a rut and itching to do something with your night, find a show any one of these bands are playing and let the music drown you. You won’t regret it for a second – not even when you wake up the next morning with your ears ringing just as much as the previous night.
Deathsticks and WLMRT have recently released a split LP with Nushu and Nightbummerz which you can listen to here. Check out the show photos below.