Updated: Feb 28, 2021
-By Mark Allard-Will
(Editor's note: We originally ran this in our very first issue but felt that an issue about metal in Sask without mentioning Into Eternity would be folly. So here again, for your reading pleasure is Mark's fantastic article!)
Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Mark and I am a Saskatchewan resident, recent Canadian citizen and writer best known for his work in the comic book medium; but I’m also a worshipper. A worshipper to a monotheistic deity? No, a worshipper of something louder, for I worship at the altar of Canadian Metal.
I was a young nineteen year-old, living in the rural England I grew up in when my jaw dropped, my eyes widened and my short hair blew as far back as it could, when I first heard the blistering guitar solos of Jeff Waters of Annihilator. From that very moment, I was a convert to the church of Canadian Metal. Canadian acts such as 3 Inches of Blood, Protest the Hero, Kittie, Devin Townsend, Kataklysm and Threat Signal filled my twenties and even in to my thirties I still prefer listening to Annihilator’s Never, Neverland.
As a Metalhead that came of age in the climate of Britain and Europe’s juggernaut open-air Metal festivals, whom often begin with a minimum of 50,000 attendees, I was flabbergasted to learn that the Canadian acts who headlined these behemoth events in Europe, were lucky to fill a bar in their homeland. It seems that the heyday of Canadian Metal to a homegrown Canadian Metal fanbase began and ended with the glory days of the late ‘80s when the Canadian Big Four (Annihilator, Razor, Sacrifice and Voivod) could rake in sales in our vast land.
But, what of Saskatchewan? How do we as a province compare with the national scene? Well, it’s not as if Saskatchewan has been without its claims-to-fame. In recent memory, Saskatchewan Metal was put on the map when Stu Block, the first front person of Regina Thrash/Power band Into Eternity, was snapped up by American Power Metal giants, Iced Earth, for which his first efforts as the new recruit on 2011 release Dystopia are often considered a modern masterpiece of the Power Metal subgenre.
To gauge a sense of how Saskatchewan Metal fares not just in Canada, but against that of the world stage, I caught up with Tim Roth, lead guitar of Regina-based band Into Eternity:
MARK: Hey, Tim, thank you for joining me. Let’s kick things off by asking how do you feel homegrown Metal is fairing in Saskatchewan?
TIM: Playing Heavy Metal in Saskatchewan has always been a challenge throughout my history of playing music from the early 90's to our present day in 2020. If we would have chosen to play R&B/Blues or better yet, Country music, then our journey would have been much easier in our home town of Regina. I love Metal so much that it was my only option, but to answer your question, I think things are going fairly well for Metal music here in Saskatchewan. We have a great booking agent, Zandra, who runs the Metal scene here and she does an excellent job bidding on and bringing in every Metal tour that she can. There are so many awesome musicians and local bands, so that has stayed consistent over the years. There are always more bands than gigs, so a lot of people play as a hobby. Audiences have remained pretty consistent as well. If a band has a lot of hype, then people will come out to the gigs. Overall as a scene, we are doing great and we have a lot of support for all the bands that pass through here.
M: The fanbase for Metal here in the province is small, but incredibly dedicated and the same guys and girls turn out for a local Death Metal show as they do for a big arena hard rock band and I'm wondering if you can speak to just one or two of your favourite memories of engaging with the Saskatchewan Metal fanbase at shows throughout the province?
T: You're right on the money. Even though Metal music has a lot of extreme acts such as Death Metal, fans still come out and support, even if it is on a smaller level. We always engage with the local fans at our gigs and usually we are still at the Merch booth selling our own t-shirts and records. On our 3rd album, we got a small budget to film a video for the song, Spiralling Into Depression. We filmed the audience parts at a gig we had played at a club here in Regina, so we engaged with our local fans on that video and it was awesome. That was one of my favourite memories for sure.
M: Have you played overseas? And if so, what differences did you notice between playing a Metal show overseas as compared to within Saskatchewan?
T: We have played overseas, yes, and it's always fun traveling around to different countries around the world. Playing Japan two years in a row was amazing. China, Taiwan, Iceland, Mexico, USA and in Europe are all places we have been lucky enough to perform. The crowds can differ, but generally it's very similar from country to country. Japan was a bit different, as the audiences were very respectful and almost quiet during the gig, but in between songs you'll hear the crowd loudly and then it's awesome. We love playing everywhere and representing Saskatchewan Metal music. One of my fondest memories is playing for 25,000 fans, at The Gods Of Metal Festival with Judas Priest headlining.
M: What kind of responses do you get from people outside of Canada, when they find out you create Metal in such a remote part of Canada?
T: Luckily we have a great response from people outside of Saskatchewan and outside of Canada for that matter. It can be extremely tough for a Canadian Metal band to attract attention outside of a hometown, but we did it thankfully. People do find it strange that we play this type of Hybrid Extreme Progressive Metal and that we are from the middle of nowhere. Now with the invention of the Internet, bands do have a hope of being heard now finally and without all the traveling! Things are better than ever that way. Thanks for the interview! Keep it Metal!
So, in conclusion, while Metal in Saskatchewan may be smaller and more lowkey than our European compatriots, the small, dedicated core of musicians and Metalheads that we have here are keeping those fires burning and those heads banging.
*Comic book drawing of Mark by Elaine M. Will
* Into Eternity photos courtesy of Tim Roth