Written by Johnny Papan
Photos by Joshua Fact and Mike Elliot
BLOOD FORTUNE CALLS OUT VANCOUVER'S DARK SECRETS WHILE ALSO PAYING HOMAGE TO THE LOCAL MUSIC SCENE
Since childhood, brothers Geof and Ryan have been making a racket. Raised in what they call a “surprisingly noise-tolerant” suburb of Vancouver, the duo had ample opportunity to musically experiment and make noise within the confines of their parent’s basement. When members of their various projects moved on to other things like full-time jobs, having kids, etc, the pair began playing as a two-piece in 1997. In 2015, they finally landed on a project fit for the cataclysmic gusto of their sound, Aanthems.
Aanthems are set to release their 2019 smasher Blood Fortune on vinyl. The record is a catastrophic collection of heavy-rock, dare we say, anthems. The album’s opener, “Bottom Rung”, explodes with the apt lyrics, “I’m screaming at the top of my lungs” over an audibly pounding mix of drums and bass.
“A blood fortune is basically wealth amassed at a heavy cost to others, often their lives,” says Ryan. “A major theme of this record is commerce versus humanity so we felt that was a good fit. On another level, we want to acknowledge the privilege of being born in a safe part of the world, into mostly stable circumstances, and how that's not a guarantee for everyone.”
The album highlights the impact of financial debt on people’s well being. The experience of being consumed by the overwhelming feeling of “going under” while others are seemingly reaching their pinnacles.
The city of Vancouver also inspires elements of this album. It’s advertised as one of the most beautiful places in the world, and it’s cost of living ceases to disagree. However, the people who were raised here are fully aware of an ugly truth hiding beneath the city’s glossy exterior.
“‘Fake City’ is a pretty pointed callout about money laundering and the negative effects it's brought to Vancouver,” Ryan explains. “It's definitely something that's brought our dirt to the world stage. For most people in this city, life has become quite a bit more difficult. Geof started writing this one and it really seemed like an issue we shouldn't ignore. ‘Seen A Ghost’ is about the fentanyl death toll in the Downtown Eastside and how easy it is to ignore when you're not down there.”
Like many artists in Vancouver, the guys of Aanthems have a love/hate relationship with the city. The housing crisis, growing homeless population, gang activity and corrupt politics. You name it, Vancouver’s got it. However, beneath the muck is an underground culture of thriving artistry. A vast collection of talented musicians, filmmakers, performance artists and more.
“We have families and jobs so we're not trying to make a living at this, which takes off all the pressure,” says Ryan. “The music industry as a whole is a losing game and it's no different here. That said, there is a very good crop of local bands and promoters who care enough to keep it alive and a scene that is gaining momentum. ‘Pure Fire’ is a love letter to the Vancouver punk scene and how lucky we are to be a part of it.”
In conclusion, Blood Fortune is a social comment; not only on Aanthems immediate environment but society as a whole. An observation and callout on that which we don’t often speak conveyed through the lens of musical aggression.
“Imagine you're really angry with someone you love and you're holding them by their shoulders and shaking them to get their shit together. We try to be the musical equivalent of that.”