Some of my younger days were filled with appointments and surgical procedures at Halifax’s esteemed Issak Walton Killam Children’s Hospital. All in the name of ear troubles. Having an earache for me was very painful. My parents dealt with a ton of Doctor appointments and surgical prep. One of the so-called specialists was extremely old school yet incompetent, insisting that metal tubes in my ears would work out well. When my parents raised concerns over it, suddenly they were treated as if they were plaintiff witnesses in a medical malpractice suit. This particular “Doctor” did not end up sticking around for long. Was a good thing given his draconian practices which were eventually called into question.
When I heard of his passing last year, my only thought was the unabashed snicker that I hope he received the same kind of lame effort medical care that he showed to his own patients.
During my late elementary school years I met Pictou County drum legend Chad Mitchell at a bowling tournament where we ended up as teammates. Turns out we had a mutual passion for insanely heavy music. It was not long after we entered junior high school that we discovered an even heavier brand of music through British label Earache Records. Bands like Carcass, Cathedral, Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Bolt Thrower, among others suddenly opened up a whole new amazing world of sonic sound and crushing brutality.
Chad and I would often stay up late into the nights, writing out stories on paper about anything we could think of. Some of my earliest and fondest writing moments were when we would both take a topic and run with it. The topics ranged from science fiction moments of creativity, to war and prejudice, to the girls and women we wanted to chase down. Often when we wrote something, we would then read each others work and then ask all the right questions about it. What were we trying to say? Were we trying to get a message out? Sometimes we would develop short stories and just see where they would end up.
Much of our early writing was comedic oriented. We would try to impersonate characters from sketch comedy shows and make up our own weird ones. The tape recordings which are forever known as “The Funny Tapes” probably contain some of my favourite childhood memories and are worthy of a series of essays completely on their own.
Through a mutual friend we ended up with a copy of an Earache Records compilation called “Grindcrusher”. This masterpiece of mixed metal still has a proud place in my stereo cabinet. Earache records was my introduction to the world of death metal and grindcore.
The naysayers and dismissive types who write off this kind of music as noise do not see the bigger picture. Fact is that many death metal musicians possess ten times the skill that some classically trained orchestral pit dwellers live off of. Even the early grindcore work of bands like Napalm Death was musically inventive and ground-breaking. Most grindcore was to demonstrate the idea of playing fast and furious to an eager group of listeners.
Of the Earache records bands, Entombed was a long-time favourite. The Swedish group and Relapse Records’s “Dismember” pioneered a brutal tone that defined Scandinavian metal. Entombed at one time were considered in my books to be the heaviest band on earth just based on tone alone. Whenever we would play some of their tracks for others people’s jaws would drop to the floor. Hearing that kind of brutal riffing was eye-opening for many.
The great lads from Carcass would also prove to have an influential impact on mine and Chad’s musical development. Carcass drummer Ken Owen is still one of the greatest people to ever take up percussion. Carcass would also go on to influence countless numbers of imitators and modern-day prophets of death metal and grindcore.
Another personal favourite for me was Birmingham doom metal greats Cathedral. Being a Black Sabbath fan, I gravitate towards any group that draws heavily on their influence and impact. Cathedral brought out the best influences from Sabbath while adding their own distinct elements to the compositions. For any metal fan who has not heard of Cathedral, you owe it to yourself and to history to check out “Forest of Equilibrum” and really listen to a modern doom standard.
I fondly recall the very first Napalm Death Song from their debut “Scum” as being inspiration for a short sketch I did on my improv series Seriously Bent, in the third episode.
The sole opening lyric from the aforementioned Napalm record is a track called “Multinational Corporations”. It goes as follows (commas reflect the breaking up of bassist/vocalist Nick Bullen’s singing of the words):
“Multi, National, Corporations, Genocide, of the, Starving Nations”.
My tribute to this track comes in at around the 48 second mark of Seriously Bent 3, located here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em5VwUOESgo .
“Faceless Corporations, we love the money you make. Big Faceless Corporations, you give more than you take”.
To come back to square one, when I think of an earache, I rarely if ever think to my trials as a patient in the IWK Hospital. I think of when I first heard bands on the Earache Records label and my favourite songs. If I get an earache listening to music then it was probably worthwhile.
Note: Multinational Corporations was written by Nick Bullen, Mick Harris and Justin Broadrick. No copyright infringement is intended.