By Will Yannacoulias
Photos by Alexandra Miller
Fast, relentless and overwhelmingly heavy, Exsang's Reactionary Dismemberment is a clinic on the classic grindcore sound, and the latest contribution to a legendary scene that has a long tradition in Saskatoon. Intersecting the brutality of extreme metal and the efficient minimalism of hardcore punk, their 9 track debut captures all the suffocating speed and energy of a live show that immediately won the band fans and supporters. Longtime friends Bobby Cleveland, Matt Danttouze and Lane Huculak came together after the pandemic with one shared goal; channel classic influences to create the best record of their musical careers. Cleveland spoke with NSMZ about the band's origins, influences and whether Reactionary Dismemberment accomplished that goal. Enjoy!
A native of Saskatoon, Cleveland relocated to the west coast in 2009 but returned to the prairies during the pandemic. Huculak, who had been living in Edmonton, had also recently returned to Saskatoon and approached Cleveland about starting a crossover thrash project inspired by Lee Dorrian's Septic Tank. "My first show out of the house after the restrictions were lifted was Bitter State in Saskatoon in March 2022" Cleveland recalled. "Lane and Matt were both at that show. I bumped into Matt and he suggested that it would be cool to start a band. I said 'hey I know a drummer, hold that thought!', went and grabbed Lane and said 'there’s three of us; I guess we’re a band now.” Exsang spent much of the next year developing their style and writing songs, playing their debut show in March 2023 with a full set of originals and a distinct, developed sound. "We wanted to make sure we didn't jump into anything too quickly, we wanted to be really comfortable and have a good idea what we were doing" Cleveland shared. Exsang workshopped a much faster, heavier style as they played and wrote together, channeling an older, aggressive, breakneck grindcore sound. "We had talked about starting as a crossover thrash band but as we all got chatting and playing we started to explore this idea of combining Repulsion and Extreme Noise Terror as influences" said Cleveland.
Exsang's lean, furious songs immediately won over audiences, and by the end of that first show Cleveland knew that they were doing something right. "After our first show" he shared, "Shane Anderson (of extreme music label Attack With Force Productions) came up to us and asked 'so when is Exsang recording?' I replied 'oh I dunno, when we get to it.' Shane said 'no, WHEN, because Tony and I are putting out your fucking record.'"
Over a three day weekend in June 2023, Exsang recorded their eight original songs with Derek Orthner, an Edmonton artist known for playing in the band Begrime Exemious as well as recording independent punk and metal bands. "Lane had lived in Edmonton for a while and made friends with Derek" Cleveland explained. "Derek's in the scene, he knows and plays this music and knows how to record it and what it should sound like." The songs were ready, the band was rehearsed, the producer had been brought in from Edmonton and everything was in place when the band unexpectedly discovered there was no power to their rehearsal space. "We were going to just thank Derek and send him home because we had no space to record, but Matt reached out to our friend Kris Webb of the band Off The Top Rope and Kris saved the record by giving us their space for the weekend."
Along with the eight original tracks, Reactionary Dismemberment features a cover of the Dead Kennedys punk classic "A Child and His Lawnmower". Cleveland spoke about the choice to include a Dead Kennedys cover on the band's debut, revealing that it had been planned for years, and sharing the formative role that the Dead Kennedys played in his trajectory as a songwriter. "That's a song I've always thought would lend itself really well to a grindcore cover, I'm a huge Dead Kennedys fan. My mom was a punk in Saskatoon in the late 70’s & 80’s and I remember seeing her old leather jacket with a Nazi Punks Fuck Off patch on the back of it. I remember it really stood out to me, there were bad words and it was such a huge statement! When I got a little older she showed me Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, and that record kind of set me on the path that I’m on now. Dead Kennedys oddly enough is also how I got into grindcore; back in the Napster-Limewire downloading days I was looking for Dead Kennedys stuff and I came across Napalm Death’s cover of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off", and it completely changed my life- when I heard it I decided 'this is the path I'm going down now'."
October 17th all Exsang's hard work bore fruit as the three friends released their debut album and were immediately overwhelmed with the positive response from friends and listeners. "Everyone has been so supportive, but that's always how this scene is" Cleveland shared. "Even my first show out after moving back to Saskatoon was just like I'd never left. All the support and positive feedback has blown me away, we’ve heard so many good things from people. I've said before- I’m 37 years old and number one on my list of things to do in life was to release an album with a band that I'm happy with, and this is it; anything after this in my life is just gravy."