Written by Ana Krunic
Once a year, the quiet Northern Okanagan town of Armstrong draws together hundreds of headbangers for a weekend of camping, heavy metal and many shotgunned cans of beer. The locals seem used to it by now, asit's been eleven years since Armstrong MetalFest’s beginnings as a backyard party. In that time, the festival's turnout gets continuously bigger and bigger. The festival is not only a showcase for smaller Canadian bands, it has also hosted internationally acclaimed acts such as Suffocation, Cryptopsy, Cattle Decapitation and 3 Inches of Blood and more.
Bringing the European festival experience to Western Canada, the campground outside of the indoor (and air-conditioned) Hassen Arena has the same atmosphere you’d find at bigger festivals overseas, but with a very Canadian bent to it. Barbecues, truck-bed pools in the parking lot and yearly events like Thrash Wrestling, the Beer Helmet March and of course, the 100-man Shotgun. It’s safe to say that by the end of the two-day festival no one is a stranger.
The festival will be held on July 12 and 13. Here are our top picks from this year's lineup:
Pushing the limits on speed and technicality, watching Origin live is to be pulled into a maelstrom of gravity blasts and flying limbs. Though they developed a cult following with their earlier work such as 2002’s Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas, the 2008 release of Antithesis is what saw them achieve recognition in a wider sphere. Their brutal, grind-tinged take on tech-death regularly pushes 300 bpm but maintains some groove, rounding out the blunt force that is the core of their sound.
Most people stumble across Nekrogoblikon when they find one of their music videos online, featuring their frontman and downtrodden protagonist John Goblikon navigating the trials of everyday life as a goblin in a human world. Called the “pioneers of goblin metal” (though likely the only band of that particular subgenre), Nekrogoblikon blends melodic death and folk metal as well as a bit of theater into their hilariously self-aware act.
Calgary’s Wake makes grind for people that are tired of the same old, same old that the genre can sometimes produce. Hardcore d-beats weaved in with minor-key black metal dissonance, Wake plays on the edge of grindcore with a sound that harkens to their Vancouver contemporaries Baptists.
Entheos came on the scene as a bit of a supergroup, having featured former members of the Faceless, Animals as Leaders and Animosity. Their 2015 debut, Primal, made quite an impact despite only being a 20-minute long EP. Mathy and progressive, no one in Entheos is dragging their feet skill-wise. This lends them the versatility to play around with their sound and not focus on simply being brutal or fast but on songwriting, making them stand out against some of their tech-death counterparts.
BETRAYING THE MARTYRS
Recently finding themselves managed by Lamb of God’s Chris Adler, France’s Betraying the Martyrs came out of the woodworks with metalcore that sounds like it’s from the early 00’s screamo era. Think chugging guitars, and growls broken by choruses with classic emo clean vocals. If you’re nostalgic for the Myspace era they’ll bring you right back.
If you want to show someone what modern deathcore sounds like, Slovenia’s Within Destruction would be a fairly spot-on example alongside bands like Ingested and Vulvodynia. With a sense of humour and absolutely no shortage of pig squeals, they don’t reinvent the wheel but stick to what’s tried, tested and true: slam.
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