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Calgary, Canada fastcore/powerviolence unit Rape Revenge was only around for a brief three years. In the timespan from 2009 to 2012 they released two albums (which accounted for an EP each), of which “Rape Revenge” was the first. Shunned in their own region because of their outspokenness on a variety of socio-political subjects, straight edge/vegan lifestyle and DIY ethos Rape Revenge was the Canuck equivalent to incendiary Michigan, Detroit band Cloud Rat. This self-titled debut is a loosely conceptual, 10 track effort about animal rights, feminism, gender politics and egalitarianism.

Rape Revenge was formed in Alberta in 2009 by frontwoman Samantha Trees and drummer Matt Elbows, with a revolving cast of guitarists and bassists. On its debut recording Rape Revenge had a mostly female line-up consisting of Keaton Pridham (guitar), Arielle McCuaig (guitar) and Gwen Morgan (bass guitar). For its second EP saw both replaced by male members. Pridham fronts his own post-rock band Whale Mountain and experimental hardcore band Deformer. McCuaig and Morgan would resurface in garage rock band The Shrapnelles and pop-punk trio The Throwaways. Elbows has his own vegan powerviolence band Lab Rat, whereas Trees cut her teeth in indie rock band Eyes Full Of Stars and hardcore band Self Rule.

tumblr_inline_n92wrpyiy01rw72h2Much like defunct Slovakian grindcore outfit Idiots Parade simplicity and a brevity are Rape Revenge’s fortes. The band is squarely on the grind spectrum of the fastcore genre. The pace is utterly relentless and unforgiving. Trees easily matches Idiots Parade’s Petra in sheer ferocity and pitch. Like many of their contemporaries the bass guitar features prominently in the music. The riffs balance between punk, hardcore and sludge without pinning themselves to one specific genre. Only two songs come close to reaching the one-minute mark. Like most bands of this ilk it are the vocals and drumming that truly sell the record. Trees and Elbows are no slouches in their respective departments. Rape Revenge, both band and album, are inexorably aggressive, chaotic and violent.

‘Car Ride With A Vivisection Intern’ is about animal lab testing. ‘I’m Not Your Fucking Mother’ is about misogynist attitudes, mutual respect among the sexes and socially conditioning and gender roles. ‘I’m So Gay’ is a protest song against homophobia. ‘Dear Date Rapists Of St. Albert, AB’ is about rape culture, male domination and the culture of violence that inhabits the hockey teams in and by the more affluent parts of Alberta. In the track Trees makes no mistake about her intentions with such perpetrators, ‘If I find you / I’m going to fucking kill you’ she screams horrified. ‘Fuck Your Gender’ is about gender binarism and - identity. ‘Beauty Myth’ concerns body image, and has Trees screaming ‘it’s a lie!’. ‘Women’s Studies’ is about breaking away from established gender stereotypes and supports elagitarianism. ‘More Mosh, Less Macho’ deals with chauvinism and patriarchal attitudes in the hardcore scene. ‘Burn These Bridges’ is about overcoming oppression that women and girls face in modern day society.

Its confrontational, thought-provoking lyrics and frank outspokenness on a number of socio-political subjects led to Rape Revenge being shunned in the Calgary underground scene. Trees, who works as a counselor to sex workers, speaks with a degree of authority on the subjects she tackles as she experienced them first-hand or through her employment. The minimalist recording, and the band’s taut delivery of its stripped down and abrasively direct music, put all the focus on Trees and her politically-motivated lyrics. “Rape Revenge” is no easy listen, aesthetically as well as sonically - and that’s exactly the point. Grindcore, like punk and hardcore from whence it came, is about socio-political awareness and protest. Rape Revenge take the genre’s objective to heart and this EP is proof that the band wasn’t afraid to put its money where its mouth is.

Surely there are other, more marketable, bands just like it in various parts of the world – but seldom does a debut record crystallize the sheer essence of a genre as well as “Rape Revenge” does. What “Scum”, Napalm Death’s 1987 debut, did for the genre at its inception Rape Revenge does for the genre today. Explosive, subversive and relevant to the problems of its age and constituency – the record drags the tired and often imitated genre kicking and screaming away from the pangs of commercialism and back into the hands of the disenfranchised, the disillusioned and the dismayed. “Rape Revenge” has no ulterior motives except to confront the listener with the nasty underbelly of a male-centric society. They won’t stand for it, and neither should you. It’s time to act.

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On its independently released debut album Category VI, Newfoundland’s only female-fronted traditional metal combo, are on the verge of unlocking their blooming potential as a veritable creative force. Built upon the foundation of electrifying traditional metal with a dash of rugged thrash – and technical chops “Fireborn” oozes with old school charm, and proves conclusively that female vocals can be an asset when used properly. Even though it hardly reinvents its genre of choice, its proclitivity towards genre purity and traditionalism make it a record worth hearing. There’s definitely room for improvement on a few minor issues, but overall it is one of the more promising debuts. On the basis of the independently released “Fireborn” and its tireless DIY promotion campaign Category VI recently signed with German label imprint Killer Metal Records.

Category-VI-promo-photo-1While Canada has always been a good provider of extreme metal, it is the country’s underground that outshines its established and more mainstream brands. From the once-relevant Kataklysm, the everchanging Neuraxis to the notoriously inconsistent Cryptopsy to name a few of the most established outfits, the Great White North has a pedigree in all branches of metal. A fairly new addition to the traditional metal pantheon is St. Johns, Newfoundland-based Category VI. Like the phoenix amongst the flames on its cover, Category VI rises among the crop of forgettable retro metal acts as a signpost of hope in a genre that is now rapidly becoming saturated by mediocrity and shortsighted hero-worship. “Fireborn” is a breath of fresh air in the increasingly stale growing traditional metal scene.  Along with Crucifliction and Ironstorm they are among the most conceptually realized of the current crop of retro metal acts in the region.

According to the bio on the band’s website they are the only traditional metal and female-fronted outfit of the city. The band is fronted by auburn haired songstress Amanda Marie Gosse (vocals), although the true creative force is guitarist Geoff Waye who co-wrote all the material with valuable input from the rest of the band. All the bass guitar parts were written and recorded by Tristan Adey, who Keith Jackman (who appears in all the promo shots, and subsequent music videos) went on to replace post-recording.

Gosse has a considerable range, and sings with as much power as the late Ronnie James Dio, and Bruce Dickinson. Especially her higher register wails are the best she has in her arsenal. There’s a prominent place for the bass guitar in both the music and the production, and the funky licks add a lot of character to the rather typical sounding riffs and chord progressions. Category VI is at its best when it steps out of the expected traditional metal conventions, and truly shows where its passion lies. Most of the album remains in a steady midpace with occassional faster and slower tempos to keep the songs dynamically varied. It would be interesting to hear Category VI tackle faster material, especially since “Fireborn” doesn’t contain a ‘Run To the Hills’ to speak of. It’s fairly obvious that UK stalwarts Iron Maiden (especially the 80s output up to and including “Powerslave”) is the main influence, although the band will occassionally venture into more adventurous and technical territory. The throbbing bass guitar licks excellently play off the well-realized guitar riffs and solos. One can only hope to Category VI will expand on this in future recordings because this is where its strenghts lie.

The songs deal with a variety of subjects. ‘Vinland’ is about the discovery of Canada by Leif Erikson as told in the Icelandic Sagas. ‘The Raven’ and ‘Fireborn’ are about determination, self-reliance and overcoming strife and adversity. ‘Real Lies’ and ‘Silence Befalls the Crowd’ are about questioning authority and the influence of the media. Some of the longer songs tend to plod on without much of a payoff. While the band clearly grasp the traditional and NWOBHM concept, a good deal of the songs lack that spark to truly set them apart from the many competitors in this field. That defect is thankfully complemented by the strong atmospheric – and technical sections that occur through out many of the songs. All three tracks of the “Vinland” EP from 2011 were re-recorded for this session making it a complete package. While there are no weak songs to speak of, the record does seem to miss a signature song or two, as each of the songs is strong – but none of them really stand out in any meaningful way. The closest to signature tracks are possibly ‘The Raven’ and ‘Reborn’ as the former is the most dynamical song on the album, and the latter the most aggressive. ‘Reborn’ was also the subject of a promotional video clip which the band used to further promote the album post-release, as was ‘Silence Befalls the Crowd’ in a much later stage of the album’s promotional cycle. A case could be made for ‘Descent Of the King’ as a stand out track but it arrives near the end of the album.

“Fireborn” was engineered and mixed by Rick Hollett. The drums were recorded at Stagehouse Recording in St. Phillips, while the vocals were laid down at Redhouse Recording in St. Johns. The elaborate cover painting was rendered by Jeremy Smeaton. One can only hope that Category VI continues to hone its organically sounding production on the next record, and maybe commission a painting by Andreas Marschall, Jean Pascal Fournier, or Jowita Kamińska. There’s a definite potential for greatness here as Category VI eschews the genre’s usual tenets for bombast and cheesiness. The record by no means reinvents the traditional metal genre, but within the strict perimeters it sets for itself it is a wonderful genre exercise. It is also completely bereft of any pretentiousness, or delusions of grandeur. Unlike the Hammerfalls and Rhapsodys of this world the band doesn’t lose itself in pompousness and excess. Sidestepping that obvious rake there’s a blue-collar appeal about the record that a lot of the established and professional bands in this genre have lost over time. Only time will tell whether Category VI will be able to live up to the promise they are on the verge of unlocking here…