I wanna shred your band

If Regina’s music scene has an abundance of anything, its bands that take themselves seriously. Very seriously. Call Molten Lava the antithesis of that mentality.

The two-piece noise-mongers are not only the “shredliest” band currently operating in Regina, they also have more talent per member than pretty much any band ever. Drummer Tristan Helgason has been gigging around the city for more than a decade, starting out in high school hardcore outfit 400 Strong. He graduated to two high-profile gigs after that, replacing existing drummers in short-lived emo giants Filmmaker and Smallman Records’ Ghosts of Modern Man, the latter of which remains his current day job. He helped change the former from plodding, nearly slow-core sloths into an assured up-tempo rock band with powerfully emotional hooks. He helped reign in some of Ghosts’ more meandering tendencies, their songs becoming focused blasts of ferocity and energy. Unfortunately I don’t really know much about Liam Bryant’s musical resume, but trust me: the dude plays the bass like his father invented it and his birthright was mastering the use of that hallowed invention. Basically, the guy is a juggernaut.

Their sense of humour is clearly on display in their one and apparently only album, Sevens and Nines, and the titles of their songs. Those titles also serve as their manifesto: calling their songs “the Hunt For Shred October,” “Shred n Butter,” “Night of the Living Shred,” and “Liquid Hot Mammal” isn’t just joke-making, its also evidence of just how seriously fast and hard these men like their music.

Like many of the people that have attended their gigs in the last year and a half or so, they’re “shreddleheads” at their core. Over the course of eight songs and less than 25 minutes they craft an extremely complex and heavy sound that, on a technical level, rivals any metal or hardcore group I’ve heard recently. The most obvious touchstone for comparison would probably be the defunct Death From Above 1979, due more to the fact that they too operate with bass and drums only. But this is faster, more complex, and more cerebrally-crafted than anything that band has produced.

While the titles may seem ludicrous on the surface, they actually make some sense when incorporated with the music. Take for example “Night of the Living Shred,” which opens with an appropriately ominous bass squeal, no doubt representing the pained howl of the undead. Helgason’s relentless cymbal figure, so tight and focused it seems almost like a loop, carries over from the previous track and creates a backdrop for the song that is as unyielding as a zombie horde lumbering toward its wounded prey. It carries through the entire length of the song, its persistence communicating that escape is not possible. The remainder of the song is a furious series of Bryant’s short, quick bass runs; their savage tone and his furious fingering are akin to the brutality with which the living dead inevitably devour their prey. That track is followed by “Liquid Hot Mammal,” comprised of a rapid-fire slap bass attack that sounds like a combination of Flea, Daryl Jennifer, and Bootsy Collins. If the Red Hot Chili Peppers had a hardcore edge, they might sound like this.

While some would assume a mostly-instrumental album comprised entirely of two instruments might get a bit repetitive, Molten Lava do an admirable job of keeping you on your toes, throwing left turns into the mix on nearly every track. “Put Your Hand In The Pocket” features almost Dave Grohl-ish vocals, “Shred Life” has moments where Bryant’s bass strumming sounds more like regular guitar power chords more typical of punk rock, and “the D-Meaning” features shout-along vocals and a few decent tempo changes. Guiding the entire process along is Helgason’s stealthy, lithe, occasionally mind-bendingly great drumming.

The cherry on top of this sundae of hot lixxx is the album’s mix itself. Deliciously pushed into the red at every second, the album sounds on the brink of overheating your headphones at any second. The fact that it sounds so overpoweringly loud makes their label’s decision to press 200 copies on 180 gram vinyl all the more adorable.

But the sad news is that the era of Molten Lava is coming to an end with Bryant’s inevitable departure from the city. Followers will be given one last chance to scream the band’s name at the top of their lungs this Saturday night at the Distrikt. They’re meant to be seen live for so many reasons, mostly because they just look so alive when they play. Not only that, but they’re also the only band out there that I’ve ever witnessed performing a Refused cover that can actually do that legendary hardcore band justice. Click here for more information on the show.

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