How near-tragedy led to Adolyne’s best record yet
MUSIC by Charles Cassino
Mercury Cafe and Grill
Somewhere between desperation and tragedy lies the latest album from metal-minded noise-core act Adolyne. Painted in smears of pure rage, cathartic howls and jacked-up dissonance, of Ash/of Shit/of Shame captures their monstrous live show. It’s a bearded, snarling mound of guitar riffs and stop-start rhythms that could tear someone’s heart out.
It’s not pretty but it’s good — although it almost didn’t turn out that way. As Adolyne frontman Skot Hamilton tells it, of Ash/of Shit/of Shame stemmed from a fiery highway accident.
On their way home from Winnipeg’s Arsonfest in 2012, the group was basking in the glow of their festival showcase when a wheel on their van suddenly fell off. Then, things got worse. The van, which had already hit the ditch, caught fire.
It was one of those nightmare moments that was only made worse by the fact that, mere hours before the group had embarked for Saskatoon, the vehicle had been checked over in a garage and given the thumbs-up by a mechanic.
“They told us not to worry about it,” Hamilton says with a laugh, and admits that now it all seems comically disastrous.
Jumping out of the vehicle, the bandmates quelled the flames with the contents of several bottles of water. Thankfully no one was hurt in the incident, but they felt the sting from the fiery wreck in another way.
“It financially gutted the band,” says Hamilton. “Everything we had saved up for the recording was gone.”
But fate, or whatever demon was to blame for the string of bad luck, works in mysterious ways.
The night before their van ignited, Adolyne had stayed with Craig Boychuk, a Manitoba audio engineer and producer. They’d discussed recording an album together, a project that both parties were excited about. It was all going to happen one way or another.
“And then we set all our money on fire on the way back to Saskatoon,” laughs Hamilton. “I’m sure Craig thought we were stalling for time. But honestly, I’m happy it took as long as it did. If we had recorded when we were supposed to, I know for a fact it wouldn’t have been as good.”
On of Ash/of Shit/of Shame, their third LP, Adolyne condenses their tech-tight guitar riffage into exquisitely raw blasts of near-melodic noise. It’s a strange juxtaposition, but the group has always balanced pure dissonance with a keen ear for propelling, fist-pumping anthems. That is, if you don’t mind the occasional foray into metalcore nails on a chalkboard.
As Hamilton puts it, the latest batch of songs was borne from a moment of pure desperation.
“The writing for this band only happens when there are severe circumstances and a song needs to be written. I never force songs out of the band, and letting everything come organically seemed vastly important.”
It’s not total rhythmic annihilation. Adolyne has always had atmospheric, whispered interludes that give the songs an odd, almost disturbing quality. It’s a moment of near-peace before everything rushes back in like a gritty avalanche.
It’s a device the band has employed since their first album, only this time it’s far more immediate.
“So just as disaster was striking, or when futility was looming, that was when everything was coming together for me as a songwriter,” says Hamilton. “It felt awful at the time, but it was advantageous for the writing process,” he adds with a laugh.
The vocals are similarly cathartic, as though Hamilton is attempting to exorcise a demon through his brutal howls, with most of the songs hitting the three-minute mark — a hardcore standard — although some other pieces sprawl well into the eight-minute range.
While the band has a long, storied history, with an ever-evolving live show, their recorded versions have never quite hit the mark in the way they have here.
This time around, the band recorded the instrumentation live off the floor. That can be a grueling process, but Hamilton says it’s how Adolyne was finally able to achieve an elusive sonic terror that eluded their previous albums.
“The biggest complaint about our records is that they didn’t sound like our live show. The antidote to that was jamming the four of us into a room and letting it all bleed,” he says.
Finally reuniting in a Manitoba studio with Boychuk (who’s worked with Propagandhi and KEN Mode, Hamilton’s other full-time project), the group captured their most aggressive sound to date.
“I would like to hope that’s a genuine reflection of what we sound like. There were elements that were calculated, but only so that it would come out sounding honest and that we wouldn’t need to be apologetic about it afterwards.”
It isn’t just car crashes and tightly wound anxiety that has brought Adolyne to this point. While the group has experienced some lineup changes since forming nearly a decade ago, the band has more or less been Hamilton, Tim Arsenault and Landon McPhee. But the band’s latest drummer, Brett Graham, is also a keeper, says Hamilton.
“We were finally in a place where we were all on the same page and we all just wanted to capture the anarchy,” says Hamilton.
“It’s a warts-and-all production.”