Saturday 16 February 2019

V/A: Trapped Under Ice Vol. 1 - The New Face Of Canadian Heavy Metal

Labels: Temple Of Mystery Records
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital
Release Date: 25 Jan 2019


1. Traveler - Betrayer
2. Metalian - Streets Of Fire
3. Cauchemar - Comme Un Poignard
4. Occult Burial - Fight For Survival
5. Starlight Ritual - Demons
6. Freeways - Heavy Rescue
7. Barrow Wight - Morgul Blade
8. Spell - Silent Towers
9. Blackrat - From The Tideless Sea
10. Emblem - Fast Rocker

Heavy metal (the genre, not the term) has come full circle in the face of.all of its evolving sub-genres and is healthier than ever. Canadian label Temple Of Mystery feels the same and has recently released a compilation featuring some of Canada's best heavy/speed metal bands. To celebrate both the release and the bands that have contributed to this comp, there even going to a short "Trapped Under Ice" tour in April, taking in four dates across Canada, featuring Metalian, Barrow Wight, Occult Burial, Freeways and Cauchemar, as well as special guests Chainbreaker (Toronto only). I'll post links to the shows and flyers etc below this review.

I love comps, though I don’t feature a lot on here. Trapped Under Ice Vol. 1 caught my eye though thanks to the artwork of Rob Vomitor and also the OBI-style strip on the side of the cover, featuring the band logos. I thought that was a really nice touch! It’s also a cool opportunity to check out ten bands that I’m not familiar with. Opening up the record is Traveler with Betrayer. Melodic guitars, clean falsetto vocals and a twisted take on Iron Maiden is all you need to kick this off. Obviously, there’s much to it than the aforementioned genre forefathers, as you’ll find out. Metalian brings the speed with Streets Of Fire, which is full of neck-snapping thrash and gloriously fantastical vocals. It’s very catchy, sometimes threatening to cross over into cheesy territory but always being saved from that by awesome lead guitar.

With the label’s home of Quebec being French Canadian, it would have been strange for them not to feature any bands that sing in French. Enter Cauchemar and Comme Un Poignard. They’ve nailed the true old-school sound on here and the French language vocals make it all the more authentic and it’s tempo is perfectly restrained. Mixing up the tempos again is Occult Burial who also fly the flag for speed metal on Fight For Survival. Unlike those before it, it starts of in an oddly menacing way with more of a bass-heavy sound and continues with harsh vocals, that sit somewhere between Venom and Immortal, without being true black. It’s a change that reminds you of how diverse the traditional heavy metal scene is. 

The movie sample that kicks off Starlight Ritual’s Demons only hints at the theatrical nature of the band and their music more than does the rest. The vocals sit a bit deeper in the mix on this one, allowing the galloping instrumentation to take hold. It still have bucket loads of attitude though. As the mid-point passes by, you’re greeted with the twin-guitar harmonies of Freeways and their classic hard-rock/heavy metal. Heavy Rescue is mid-paced and slightly less gung-ho than it’s predecessors here, but it’s still great for a singalong and will get buried in you head. Actually, it reminds me a lot of Queen.

From there you’re transported into the seedy underground thanks to Barrow Wight and Morgul Blade. Again, it’s on the heavier side but instead of leaning towards black metal this time, it’s got a goth/horror punk edge hiding amongst it’s dark thrash. The instrumental opening to Silent Towers by Spell, suggests there might be progression in their chops and things certainly get a bit weird at times. The vocal effects and off-kilter time signatures are at odds with some of the more straightforward metal on show here, but then again so were Voivod back in the day and they’re cult legends now, so Spell need not worry. 

As well as Spell before them, Blackrat also takes some cues from the more progressive ends of the genre, though there’s also plenty of black thrash on From The Tideless Sea. The reverb and buzzsaw guitars keep pace with the pounding drums. It’s super exhilarating. It’s left to Emblem to close things out with the aptly titled Fast Rocker, which once again is a more than solid slab of occult hard rock. It rounds out a comp that’s been full of variation and great bands. There’s more than enough here to suck you in and make you crave your fix of heavy metal madness!

You can stream and purchase "Trapped Under Ice Vol. 1" via Bandcamp below:-

Physical copies are available here -

The flyer for the up-coming "Trapped Under Ice" tour is below too:-

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