As soon as I join a Skype conference with the members of one of Western Canada’s most striking metal acts, The Weir, I was immediately bombarded with boisterous laughter and brazen hip-hop beats. After being brutally rebuffed for not owning a Dell computer, the band begins to talk about the impending hard copy release of their debut full-length monolith, Yesterday’s Graves (2013).
Nearly a year after the album’s digital debut on the band’s bandcamp page, the Calgary quartet are finally gearing up to release their full-length properly through local Calgary label, Pint Sized Records. And it’s about darn time.
“It’s hard to get your shit together,” guitarist and vocalist Jim Hudson (formerly of electro grinders Breathe Knives) explains. “It was harder than we thought and we are not that organized,” he continues. A laundry list of steps and process impediments lead to the album’s delay, but anyone who has visited the band’s virtual home knows it was well worth the wait.
Yesterday’s Graves strikes a remarkable balance between an overwhelmingly dense wall of mid-tempo sludge with eerily catchy melodies designed to transfix and annihilate in tandem. This is the heavier side of The Melvins crossed with elements of post metal à la Cult of Luna. This duality is weaved with intelligence and taste throughout the record and adds complexity and depth upon repeat listening.
“When we first started this band, we kind of joked about how it’s like a riff clearing house,” says bassist and vocalist Alex Kurth. This collection of riffs from each member had no place in their other projects, but fit perfectly in The Weir’s craggy mire of thick fuzz. The album’s post-metal apex is found in the centrepiece track, “La Belle Curve,” a slow burning and intangible web of spacey guitars that stands out from the rest of the tracks offered. However, the band is at its best when the distortion is high, the amps are irresponsibly loud and drummer Mark Schmidt (of Milne Custom Drums) is given free rein to punish his kit. These massive moments form the core of the Weir, so much so that the band has referred to this loud and heavy ethos simply as “blaow” and it has permeated nearly every aspect of the band’s writing approach.
The album’s coda is found in the relentless “Bonestorm,” a bludgeoning single riff that revels in its simplicity spanned over the length of the six-minute song. The unrelentingly slow pace of the track is perfectly underscored by the three-part vocal ordinance of Kurth, Hudson and guitarist and vocalist Sergey Jmourovski (formerly of WAKE). This primitive hive mind expels indiscernible grunts of aggression and raw emotive power.
“Such a ridiculous song deserves such a ridiculous title,” chuckles Kurth, nodding to the deliciously obscure reference from The Simpsons. The working title that was too good to pass up.
Kurth’s involvement reached beyond his contribution as a bassist, he was responsible for recording as well.
“He wasn’t afraid to tell us when we were fucking up,” Schmidt says. “It was super comfortable because we are so used to jamming together — it just felt really natural having him record us.”
Kurth has ample experience recording and producing music, as he has been involved with his own progressive punk experiment, Monkey, as well as the post-hardcore force of La Luna, among others. The finished recording was passed off to Craig Boychuk, of CB Audio, for mixing and mastering.
“He took an obvious basement recording and made it passable as an album,” says Schmidt.
As exciting as it is to be releasing the album, the band has had almost a year to move on and create and the enthusiasm for the writing process was hard to ignore.
“The new songs are super burly, we kinda had to rearrange our set list to help make the old songs not sound kind of limp next to the new ones. It was different enough in tone, at least to me, that we had to think about and not just mash them together,” Hudson says.
“They are meaner, slower and really long,” Schmidt agrees. While Yesterday’s Graves marks the band’s first true collaborative process, Kurth maintains the band is still working out their sound.
“We talked about doing less pretty things and get a little bit heavier… a little bit slower. These are just the types of riffs these guys are writing,” Schmidt finishes.
The pedigree and passion on display on Yesterday’s Graves is undeniable and the band’s enthusiasm for what’s to come – although it may take much time to come to pass – is contagious.
“The new songs we’re working on definitely bloaw. They were written in the key of blaow,” Hudson laughs. The Weir will be unveiling some of these new tracks as well as playing cuts from Yesterday’s Graves live in direct support of Bison later this month.
Buy a vinyl copy of Yesterday’s Graves from Pint Sized Records. See The Weir with Bison and Temple on Thursday, March 6 at Broken City.
By Tanner Wolff
Photo: Sarah Kitteringham