By Matt Hume, October 3 2017 —
During this year’s Sled Island music festival, metalcore pioneers Converge headlined the largest hardcore show of the week at the #1 Legion downtown. The show’s opening band was Vancouver’s Neck of the Woods, who caught Calgary’s attention with a blistering and engaging performance.
The mark Neck of the Woods left was evident during an all-ages performance at Broken City on Sept. 10 in promotion of their new album, The Passenger, released on Basick Records.
“We’re always so excited to play Calgary,” guitarist Dave Carr says. “It’s like our second home.”
The audience mirrored the band’s excitement throughout the show. People head-banged, pushed each other around and sang along, all with huge smiles. Much of the audience reflected the all-ages setting, a fact welcomed by vocalist and former Calgary resident Jeff Radomsky.
“As it turns out, we have a decent all-ages following,” Radomsky says. “As a kid, I spent most of my time going to shows at community centres and buying all the merch and just being so excited to be a part of it. It’s nice to see that scene is still alive. It certainly gives you a hope for music.”
The energy manifested in a push-up competition among audience members during a thrashing instrumental moment of the band’s set.
“The push-ups in the pit made my night,” exclaims guitarist Travis Hein, with enthusiastic agreement from Carr.
The youngest audience member stomping in front of the stage was only three years old. Radomsky took a moment to thank them for being the youngest person to ever see the band play.
“My favourite thing about the night was that three-year-old kid wearing that Mastodon T-shirt. And having my parents and my sister in the crowd,” Radomsky says.
The performance and The Passenger show the band’s range of skill, talent and collaboration.
“We’re more capable of writing with each other. We’re a more cohesive group and now it’s more of everybody contributing to songs instead of a singular driving force, so we have a much more dynamic and interesting sounding record,” Radomsky says.
The statement rings true with only one listen through The Passenger. Its clean 35-minute runtime makes it the kind of album you’ll listen through in its entirety more often than just single tracks. But this isn’t to say it all bleeds together. Each track remains unique and diverse. From death metal licks in “Nailbiter” to the technically progressive “Before I Rest,” the band proves they can fit into any metal lineup, regardless of sub-genre.
“We’ve always strived to sound a little bit different or not necessarily follow the patterns or the trends,” Carr says. “We all listen to a lot different kinds of music too and bringing in those other genres helps. We’re not all long-haired dedicated metalheads.”
Now wrapping up their tour of Western Canada, the band was happy to offer advice for any aspiring metal musicians.
“Drop out of school,” laughed Hein.
“But actually, you gotta work hard and you gotta play your guitar or scream into a microphone for as long as you can,” Carr says.
“Develop a strong sense of humility and just be confident in yourself all the time. Because no matter what, it’s going to be intimidating playing in front of people but it’s a character-building exercise,” Radomsky explains. “Trust us — it doesn’t get less scary and it doesn’t get easier, but it is always rewarding and do it because you love it.”
Carr also emphasizes the importance of playing with musicians who share a common goal.
“If you want to move forward as a unit and as a band, everybody has to be on the same page and have the same goals and be willing to make the same sacrifices and contribute,” he says. “That is the most important thing. The ship has to move forward and everybody has to move forward with it.”
The Passenger is available on CD and all major online streaming formats. For both seasoned metal fans and newcomers to the genre, Neck of the Woods are a real treat. Keep your eyes peeled for their next Calgary concert. If it’s anything like their last one, it will be a night of community, excitement and damn good headbanging.