Ev has synesthesia, and they incorporate their sensory experiences into music reviews. Synesthesia is a condition in which the brain links a person’s senses together in a rare manner, prompting unusual sensory responses to stimuli. People with synesthesia, for example, might see a certain color in response to a certain letter of the alphabet. Those who experience synesthesia “hear colors, feel sounds, and taste shapes” in a remarkably consistent fashion.
The first band to go on was one called Trigon and they did not hold back on showcasing their talent. Vibratos and tremolo picking included, wicked solos, a fusion of classic rock with metal components, this band goes all out.
Sweeping the crowd with a cruel energy, the guitar drives most of the soundscape. Carefully crafted and straight out of old-school metal, the guitarist shreds riffs with a passion unlike any other. Tremolo picking and vibratos seemed to play an important role in the construction of each song. Expanding upon preexisting riffs only bulks them up and adds an angrier more agitated edge as the songs progress. Each strike of the notes paints the scene a mellow yellow as a contrast to the chords that seem to paint the atmosphere deep blue.
The vocals were steady and stable, having tonal differences and holding a power behind them. They built anticipation and kept it peeking. The only downfall being that I found the vocal buildup leading to a dead end. As much as the sound traveled and bridged from mellow to aggravated, I would have loved to see a more developed vocal technique. While the agitation and red tones are prominent, my ears yearn to hear the release in forms of screams. Evenly toned and well controlled, the singing does rub off on you and you let it swallow you due to the way it falls in time with the instrumentals.
The drums resonate in a shallow and colder manner. While dry, they don’t come crashing down and don’t reverberate as much as the typical drums do. Having full control over what they’re playing, the drummer manages to tame the cymbals. Not letting a single beat get away, the soundscape created is almost as cold as you’d imagine Hoth – a planet from Star Wars – being.
Present but just barely is the bass. Most prominently heard in ‘Nightmare‘, it adds a masked stability to the piece, a grotesque and nightmareish vibe. Adding deep pools of burgundy and maroon to the soundscape when heard, the bass seems to have few peak moments. I may have a bias towards basslines but I believe that if it were overdriven and more pronounced it would really drive home the songs. Granted, blending into the soundscape provides that support when the guitar is toying with feedback. Allowing for a more natural transition, it backs the illusion of the guitar being continuous.
CeVilain drummer rocking out at Mevericks in Ottawa, ON.
CeVILAIN, from Carleton Place, was next up. This was my first time seeing them as a full band and as the rock band that they’re meant to be. The band is not static and they truly immerse themselves into what they’re doing, losing themselves in their performance. Peeling your eyes away is a task and a half with this band.
Mellow and unrestrained, pooled with a passion are the vocals. Given their all, there is an asphyxiated edge to the vocal stylings. Emotionally pitted with inner turmoil, the lyrics tell a story. Watching the performance is what drives home what I’m saying – closed eyes, the facial expressions, the vocalist loses himself in each and every song. While there isn’t harmonization or melodies sung between members, this almost makes it more intimate, adding various tones of greens to the overlay of hues.
Soft picking, aggravated chords, the guitar playing covers a range of stylings. Overdriven and higher pitched but with heavy weight, it stands out against the rumble of the bass. The room is overtaken by a deep magenta accented with bursts of a pale sky blue. The riffs are ever so present and accentuate the otherwise beetling chords. Despite the hard edge, the guitar-work fans out into soft tones before picking back up into an angry, choppy, overdriven aggression.
The bass rumbles and supports the guitar playing to the very end. It doesn’t play the backbone, it’s its own and could take on a role more primary than in the present. Despite this ability, the fact that it holds a position more secondary adds a sense of volume and makes the sound that dominates the room a fat one. It borders on a scarlet red and dances with those magenta undertones.
The drums are warm and loud without a thing held back. They radiate a heat that paints various shades of sunset orange across the scene. The heavy use of the tom and snare creates that soft and hollow heat, with contrast being brought in by the high-hat. The amount of rambunctious energy brought to the kit boils over. The music sweeps through the drummer and pulls him into the performance allowing the emotions to spill into each song.
Fallen Heirs showing their chops at Mavericks in Ottawa.
Pumping out proper hard rock was Fallen Heirs. Featuring a light show to be remembered, a restless spirit, and intense love for what they’re doing, the band did not disappoint.
The guitars bit at one another from different ends of the stage. Bitter and violent, the riffs fell heavy and quick. The overlay of solo work with the intense chords accentuated each component. The solos conjuring higher pitched sounds – superimposed onto the lower pitched chord progression. The solo work was quick and absolutely shred.
The vocals came with an undertone of grit to them. With a bit of an edge of a metal vocalist, it really drives forth the emotion and tone of the songs. The few growls that found themselves present took me by surprise and gave a sense of completeness to the performance. Harmonisations came in the form of screams and emphasized the choruses. The vocals drenched the room in pale reds and worn down rusty colours, creating a soothing atmosphere despite the angst of the instruments. Imagine the muted tones of The Scream – that’s what it looks like.
The drumming is staccato and full. It has frigid and boneless crashes but the rest is so dense that it adds to the array of reds painted by the vocals. It sets the pace and timing for the near complete and abrupt stops that the rest of the instruments follow. The drumming holds power but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t know when to make room for others. Known to mellow out, it creates space to emphasize the qualities of everything around it. Featuring rolls to add effect, it’s clear that the structure and technique are well practiced.
Lost deep within the vivid soundscape is the bassline. It follows with the guitar progression, allowing a deeper and more resonant rumble, however, it would have been more intriguing had it been more prominent. Due to blending into the soundscape I find that it gives off a burnt sienna colour as a subtle overlay. It’s muted and almost drowned out.
Iconoclast shredding on stage at Mavericks in Ottawa, ON.
The last band to absolutely wreck the stage was Iconoclast. Rumbling, strong-willed, and with pronounced energy, soaking the room in crimson and scarlet, the band goes at it full on.
The drum lines stick out the most, crashing and bordering cool tones but still painting the room red with cold undertones. They crash with hollow sounds – almost with emptiness. As soon as the tempo picks up, that hollow sound fills up and generates a strong personality, welcoming headbanging.
The guitar chugs forth, eighth notes muted before being let loose for choruses. Intricate solo pieces are known to be played over the resentful chords to create a mellowed out and melodic aspect to the songs. The solo work gets your body moving, at least for me. It grabs your attention due to the way it’s played and refuses to let you go. The riffs spread through the length of the songs in a nature similar to that of metal songs and twist themselves in and out of chords.
The vocals compliment the guitar work well. Grit and harmony come with a fiery spirit and tie the pieces together. It’s incredible how the grit of the vocals comes naturally as opposed to being forced. While holding a rough edge, there’s an aspect smooth as honey to them. Even without powerful screams ripping out from the vocalist’s throat, the vocals feel complete due to the nature of the riffs being played around them. Deep and resonant, you hear a single low rumble of a scream come from the very back of the vocalist’s throat during the song Nothing Owned.
The bass is hard to hear but the performance was given it’s all. The bass smoothly blends into the background, offering a camouflaged sound, supporting the guitar playing. Personally, I would love to hear the bass boom and resonate. I would love to see how a bassline that rattles one’s rib cage would sound with the intensity of the performance put on. No doubt that soul has seeped into the performance, and I was dumbstruck by it.
Each of the bands breaks off parts of themselves and put them into their performances. Passion driven, hardworking, and high energy – if that’s what you’re looking for in a show, I recommend checking these bands out. Their acts don’t disappoint in the least and watching them all is mesmerising.
For those who don’t know of Avant Garde Bar, it’s a very cosy and intimate venue where you can chose to show up for the art, the music, or simply for the drinks. It’s a bar and a gallery rolled into one.
On the 9th of September Avant Garde hosted a show that was well, a little avant garde. The show consisted of five different bands and each had pulled out of their comfort zone to one degree or another to play this acoustic show. Four of the bands are rock bands with four or more people and aren’t as used to the acoustic setup but they made it work very well. The fact that these individuals played their own rock songs as acoustic ballads really presented the audience with the sheer talent that the individuals possessed.
The first act was a performer who goes by the stage name of Vee Nella. She used to play in a band called The Cowards but has since pulled away from the music scene. Despite this, her sister called her in when the actual opening band dropped out, and she happily replaced them. She had informed me that it was her first time taking the stage completely alone.
With nothing but a guitar and her vocals, she captured my attention. Her voice is a very strong and powerful one and it really dominates the room it resonates in. It really shows that her influences have stemmed from early Gwen Stefani and the 1990’s grunge band Hole. Her lyrics are directly from the soul and they’re not only catchy, they’re also meaningful. It’s very clear that a piece of Vee is placed in every single song, and each is sung with such raw emotion. It’s out in the open, like a diary open to the public.
The guitar is very powerful but it takes a mellow tone due to the show being acoustic. It’s a contradiction all on its own but because it’s a stripped down show, and because the lyrics are so raw, it melds together like no other combination. The emphasis was heavy on the lyrics and less on the techniques used while playing the guitar.
The second band was composed of two members from Arms of the Girl and a temporary but very endearing member who goes by “Butters”. The performance was by Cee Cote and her band member Dave. The two played intricate riffs over an acoustic melody all while Butters played the Cajon.
A Cajon is essentially a percussion box. You hit the surface of it with your hands, fingers, mallets, and it will produce a sound similar to that of drums but with a more hallow sound.
Arm of the Girl is usually a four piece rock band but had to tone it down. Similarly to Vee, Cee (Vee’s sister) is an open book with her lyrics. Ranging from topics like breakups to life experiences, she covers it all. Her voice is raspy but with a country feel to it, especially when performing an acoustic show and she captures the attention of those around her not only with her soulful voice and harmonies with Dave but with her well humoured banter and upbeat energy.
Cee is an artist that you need to really listen to and not just watch because it’s all in the lyrics and not the act itself. The impression she gives is cheery but when it gets down to the deeper aspects, her lyrics are known to be like an excerpt torn out of a diary. They’re raw, emotional, and don’t hold much back.
From Carleton Place, CeVilain took the stage with their two acoustic guitars. The band is heavily inspired by the band Thrice and has mentioned that inspiration was also drawn from MUSE. CeVilain is a full band but only Marty Strong (Kurtis) and Cliff played the show on the 9th. The two play around with blues sounds and scales and they bring it all together with ease. There isn’t a doubt that the two are incredibly skilled musicians.
You can’t compare the vocal stylings to that of another musician, CeVilain has a unique vocal styling and it gives off a unique vibe that can’t seem to match up to anybody else’s. Cliff doesn’t strain his voice but instead puts a clear passion into it. Watching his stage presence makes it seem like he gets completely lost in what he’s doing, and in turn it’s hard to peel your eyes, and ears, away from the performance. The transitions from various parts of their songs are smooth and well executed, almost as if there couldn’t be a flaw in there.
The pair had mastered their acoustic performance and swept me away with the variety they presented. Energy went into every song, note, and chord and every song played on a different sub-genre of rock. They covered a broad range in the time they had and really made the best of it. Although there wasn’t much harmonizing, there was a sense of life brought to every song. They weren’t pushing to be anything they weren’t.
Tay Sera was the next band to play and the duo took over the stage and radiated a calm energy that is only described as easy going and light. The band is an easy one to listen to, and draws influences from Hey Ocean!, Norah Jones, and a variety of other bands such as Sam Roberts and Alicia Keys. Their lyrics touch upon love, heartbreak, and stumbling and falling only to pick yourself back up. They’re a folk band that comes from Oshawa, Ontario and not only to they use typical instruments such as acoustic guitars and Cajon to get the airy and whimsical sound they desire, Taylor actually plays the ukulele for the band. Her vocals demand your attention because they’re light, and reach soprano ranges but mainly keeping to more alto tones.
They’re upbeat and certainly funky but without elements of funk. While she sings lead, Justin adds depth and more dimension to the song with his backup vocals. Not as prominent on records but certainly in his stage presence, he adds to the songs in a positive fashion. The two balance each other out and create a positive dynamic that seems to bring not only the two closer, but the audience together as well.
Taylor has a voice that sounds like that of Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine but with her own unique stylings to it which is what really makes this band one worth listening to. It grabs your attention. It’s new, it’s old, and it’s everything in between and you’re left thinking about it. The familiarity draws you in, but the uniqueness of it is what gets you to stick around. They band manages to tie everything together through its light tones, vocals harmonizing with it and flowing smoothly and without the grit that you hear from singers who often touch the same genre. What I’m getting at is that you should probably grab a pair of comfortable shoes and come let the music sweep you from your feet as you sway to the sweet melodies and harmonies that Tey Sera composes.
Despite every single band bringing an intense amount of pure talent, my favourite was Crossing Jane, an Ottawa band for the soul purpose of the grit that came with the vocals. They reminded me of the late Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, and the band is in fact influenced by Linkin Park. They played a tribute to the recently deceased lead singer, and genuinely encapsulated the emotions of the song near perfectly. If any band were to do the same cover, they would need to work very hard to get the same feel out of it and Crossing Jane.
The band is clearly one that puts thought and effort into every song, the placement of each note, and how they would accentuate the vocals and at what point during the song. They know how to play with the emotions of a crowd and really put their hearts into what they’re doing. There’s the saying “go hard or go home” and quite frankly, this has been one of the best representations of it as far as I see. The band has taken an acoustic set and turned it into a nitty, gritty, out of the gutter grunge performance and has made it sound amazing.
With backup vocals from Andrewto bring out some more mellow bits and even it out, and his drumming to accompany the guitars, it was truly astonishing. The vocals parts are in general by Joel but they are shared between all the members as four piece harmonies and all vocal aspects are equally distributed. Joel has a very unique vocal styling and it’s gritty but he can mellow it out as he wishes. The control over the vocals and feedback from the single electric guitar used are quite astounding and perfected especially when paired with the two acoustic ones. With little to no feedback coming through, it was clean and heavy.
The band creates an audio masterpiece unlike any other acoustic performance I’ve witnessed or heard. They know how to work the crowd and they certainly know how to compose. It’s very difficult to give you a good representation of what they’re like, but I’ll tell you one thing, and it’s that there’s no doubt that the band puts their hearts and souls into the work that they produce. It’s raw, emotional, and very real. It sways the crowd and adds a fiery energy to the atmosphere all around, and it certainly leaves you wanting to hear more.