Montreal’s own Temple of Mystery Records have unleashed quite the patriotic tribute. The Trapped Under Ice compilation features 10 songs from 10 young Canadian metal bands, and its quite the endeavour. Here’s my take on the themed release.
Compilation albums have sadly fallen out of popularity as of recent. While the format was often used as a convenient way to promote a handful of bands with one delivery medium, the newfound digital age rendered these releases obsolete. Since bands can do nearly all of their promotion for free online, there’s no need for labels to release true compilation albums, other than collaborative splits which have been fairly popular as of late.
Temple of Mystery Records have supplemented this lack of demand with an aura of promotional patriotism surrounding this special release. As mentioned in the intro blurb, the Trapped Under Ice compilation (presumably named after the Metallica song) features 10 brand new songs from 10 Canadian heavy metal bands, for the most part. Occult Burial and Blackrat lean more towards the blackened side of speed/thrash metal, but the rest of the bands stick to a NWOBHM-related style. The deluxe edition should also really draw your attention, as its pressed on icy blue vinyl, features a booklet of artwork and interviews from every band on the tracklist, and includes a sticker sheet. This is a must-have collector’s item!
The included bands are based in provinces ranging from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador, spanning across thousands of kilometers. One thing unites us all, however, that being the art of heavy metal. We’ll go over some of my favourite numbers on the release, as well as how Trapped Under Ice plays as a whole.
I went into the compilation knowing only two bands, those being Occult Burial and Blackrat. Its not a coincidence that my familiarity lies alongside the heavier bands, as these are who my tastes cater to more. I’ve been meaning to delve into the heavy metal/NWOBHM subgenres, and I’ve been making progress as of late with some of the ‘80s classics, like Angel Witch and Grim Reaper. With that being said, let’s start with the bands I do know.
Occult Burial’s contribution is quite an enjoyable jam. The band usually plays within the black/speed realm of things, with their vocal style fluctuating between raspy and high-pitched, and overall fast tempo. “Fight for Survival” is a little more groovy than the group’s established work, and Joël Thomas’ vocals seem to be buried a little deeper within the slew of distortion and drums. I’m not quite sure what the submission conditions were for the compilation, so its entirely possible that Occult Burial smoothed over their eclectic mix of thrash and black metal in order to suit the themed compilation more. Either way, “Fight for Survival” is a strong track.
Blackrat’s contribution is “From the Tideless Sea,” another traditional number for the group. While I felt that Occult Burial might have slightly altered their style for the release, that certainly isn’t the case for our Calgarian boys. In a potential effort to blow all the other bands out of the water, Blackrat seemed to have sped up their work. Infused with raspy barks and screams and blast beats for all, “From the Tideless Sea” succeeds on a multitude of levels. From the breakneck introduction to the jumpy jam towards the song’s conclusion, this one might be my favourite on the compilation, but I may be biased.
Trapped Under Ice plays fairly fluidly from start to finish. The very nature of heavy metal tends to assimilate bands sonically as high-pitched male voices tend to sound similar, and all of the groups usually play within the same guitar tone/production range. Despite this, there is certainly still some variation to be found. For starters, Occult Burial and Blackrat’s contributions are strategically placed at opposite ends to inject some aggression into this pile of wails and leather. The other potentially polarizing track comes from Freeways, as “Heavy Rescue” adopts a lot of ‘80s hard rock influence from bands like Aerosmith and Chilliwack. This number is borderline heavy metal at best, which makes it an interesting fit on the album. It’s a little slow for my taste, but it definitely adds some variety to the mix.
The large clump of heavy metal jams is also of great quality. Opening Trapped Under Ice with a one-two punch is Traveler’s “Betrayer” and Metalian’s “Streets of Fire.” The pair both offer fierce energy while they cater to different strengths. “Betrayer” is a bit speedier while “Streets of Fire” leans more towards a Judas Priest high-pitched screaming vibe. These are two highlights for me, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Traveler’s debut coming out in a little over a month towards the end of February. Starlight Ritual’s “Demons,” Barrow Wight’s “Morgûl Blade, and Spell’s “Silent Towers” are two other highlights as well.
On the decent but still enjoyable front are inclusions from Cauchemar and Emblem. Montreal-based Cauchemar seem to stick to their French roots in terms of lyrics and style. Their contribution isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really have any edge to it. There’s also a few slow spoken-word sections during the track which aren’t too favourable in my opinion. Emblem’s song is strong but doesn’t feel developed enough, as it concludes at just under the three minute mark.
With all things said and done, and a handful of listens under my belt (I’m patiently awaiting for my iced vinyl copy to arrive in the mail), I can declare that the Trapped Under Ice compilation is a success. While some tracks certainly stand out more than others, I wouldn’t say there’s a bad track on the album, despite perhaps the soft ‘80s rock tune, but that’s probably more a matter of preference. The patriotism is real with this one, and listening to the compilation gives me a sort of warm feeling as I’m discovering some good bands and there’s an overflowing sense of collaboration to be found. Cheers to Temple of Mystery for organizing this thing, here’s to Volume 2!