Don’t be afraid of Death Toll Rising – be very afraid

GigCity Edmonton Death Toll RisingThings can get a little awkward when you try to explain to someone why your band’s last album was called “Defecation Suffocation.”

Of course, for those well versed in extreme metal, such titles are par for the course. Edmonton band Death Toll Rising, which dropped the aforementioned album in 2010, doesn’t expect anyone to take its lyrical content too seriously.

“It’s almost 90% dark humour,” says guitarist Drew Copland. “Our lyrics, on the surface, of course, are gory or violent or whatever. But it’s almost always some sort of satire. There’s always little hints in the lyrics that you have to get to understand it.”

A good chunk of extreme-metal bands follow the same philosophy. As vicious and intimidating as Cannibal Corpse might sound, you can rest assured their song “Meat Hook Sodomy” is not based on real-life experience.

Defecation Suffocation’s bludgeoning title track contains a small circus-like bass passage that injects a briefly comical touch, before a face-melting solo leads the song back into blast-beat drums and guttural, mostly indecipherable screams. Still, songs like that and blistering death-thrash numbers like “Visceral Remains” and “Babyslitter” could be frightening to the uninitiated.

“If I’m talking to my grandma, then I’m not going to explain to her what kind of metal I play. I’m going to say I play loud, noisy music,” says Copland, who also plays in local thrash-metal band Villainizer. “Lots of times, if I do have to go so far as to say album titles or song titles, sometimes I’ll get a weird reaction, or eyes rolling or something like that.”

Death Toll Rising GigCity EdmontonDeath Toll Rising will play its 10th anniversary show at Pawn Shop Live Friday night with support from Eye of Horus, Ides of Winter and Cult of Self. The show will also be the Edmonton debut for new bass player Michael Puff, who’s played with Ides of Winter, Civil Savage and Sonorous Odium.

Copland says extreme metal is “far more accepted” on a global scale than it was when Death Toll Rising started out. The Edmonton scene reflects this, as the number of intensely heavy and technically adept metal bands here continues to grow.

A few local metal bands – notably Weapon, Striker and The Order of Chaos – have signed with record labels outside of Canada. Still, metal remains isolated from the rest of the local music scene in some respects. While venues like Avenue Theatre, The Studio, Rendezvous Pub and the Pawn Shop love all things heavy, other facilities won’t touch a band like Death Toll Rising.

“As an extreme metal band, you kind of learn who will book you and who won’t. We know, certain places, not to even try. Which is fine, because there are venues around town that are amazing that will,” Copland says. “And that’s all the metal scene needs. You could argue that there’s almost too many venues.”

Musicianship reigns supreme in metal, and Death Toll Rising has sharpened its chops over its decade of existence to earn its place as one of the tightest and heaviest bands in the city, plying its trade on the road throughout Western Canada.

“Obviously we’re way better musicians than we were. Which is probably the biggest thing, at least for me, is that we’re so much better as a band now at playing,” Copland says. “I watch old videos of us from 2003 or 2004, and it’s almost a joke listening to how we were playing.”

Drummer Bryan Newbury does double-duty in Saskatchewan prog-metal band Into Eternity, along with The Order of Chaos singer Amanda Kiernan. Death Toll Rising has been holed up writing and recording its second full-length album, due out in a matter of months, and two weeks ago hit Red Deer to play its first show in nearly a year.

Local headbangers are no doubt itching with anticipation to get the pit going Friday night.

Says Copland, “We think we’re going to pretty much destroy people.”