The Kelpie water demon is a shape shifting horse whose mane and tail are seaweeds, its skin adhesive. A weary traveller navigating the water-soaked landscape might happen upon them, thankful for the promise of a river passing. Instead, the malevolent spirit drags them into the water and drowns them, devouring their bodies, leaving the heart and liver.
This folklore was popularized in Scotland, where one particularly ubiquitous version of the tale ends in the death of nine children and the amputation of a finger on a slightly cleverer tenth child. Instead of conforming to that particular cultural trope, Calgary’s Hammerdrone and their Scottish-born vocalist, Graham Harris, parlayed the horrifying imagery of this malicious spirit and the burden of being dragged to your watery grave. The track “Kelpie,” the eighth on their upcoming full-length debut, Clone of Europa, chronicles this. Their new t-shirt design, created by ex-Calgarian Nathan Navetto, depicts it as well.
It’s not the only mythological or heady subject matter to be found on the record. The lyrics address Prometheus, the economic theory of Jevons paradox, a nightmare the vocalist had about the world transforming into a frozen, hostile wasteland, and more. The audio accompaniment to such existentialist commentary is crystalline death metal. This is well executed and excellently captured, comparable to Kataklysm, Amon Amarth, or Dark Tranquility. To learn more, BeatRoute met up with Harris, new bassist Teran Wyer and guitarist Curtis Beardy to discuss astronomy, apocalyptic dreams and what it took to achieve their massive, groovy sound.
“We wanted something that was raw, that was organic and that felt real. I don’t know — [something] that wasn’t overproduced,” says Beardy, who has been with the band since their formation in October 2010. Recent band member addition Wyer (who also plays guitar in Krepitus and is not featured on the album) adds, “You forgot heavy as fuck.”
To capture the follow-up full length to their 2012 EP, A Demon Rising, and their 2013 single, “Wraiths on the Horizon,” they returned to Alex Wilkinson at Signals Audio in Calgary. He already had captured their debut, which was well received by metal publications around the world. The entire recording process took several weeks and was completed by the lineup of Harris, Beardy, bassist Steve Greenough, guitarist Rick Cardellini and drummer Vinnie Cardellini. Mixing and mastering took several months. The end result is impressive and consistent, showcasing the band’s songwriting abilities and inclination for metronomic, massive drumming.
“Our music is all about power. Not in a power metal way, but it’s intense,” says Harris. “I think what we do that is a little different than what other people do, is that most people who go for heaviness it’s kind of crunchy, crunchy, you know what I mean, heaviness, or it’s really technical. That’s not what we are about. It’s about songwriting. Having that level of intensity over seven minutes is where we seem to be going.”
Available for streaming or purchase on bandcamp, and at their release party in hardcopy CD form for $10, Clone of Europa will fulfill your melodic death metal desires. While you’re at it, be sure to pick up one of their brand new shirts as well, as they lost their last batch in the flood. Your back and ears will thank you for each.
See Hammerdrone at their CD release party on Friday, April 11 at Lord Nelson’s Bar & Grill with Hellrazer, Hellborn Death Engines, and Haiduk. They will also perform at the Wacken Metal Battle on April 26.
By Sarah Kitteringham
Photo: Stephen Hillier