Heavy, droning and seeded with aggressive, gravelly growls, Botfly has a deceptively metal flavour. Hailing from Halifax, the noise-rock trio consisting of Keegan Goodspeed (vocals/guitar), Sean McInnis (bass) and Dewayne Shanks (drums) started out in 2013 and released a series of singles/EPs before unleashing their self-titled, debut LP. A cliche headbanger/mosh pit-inducing anti-melody, this album is not. More akin — on an emotional level — to shoegaze, this is an atmospheric soundscape that requests an investment of time from its listeners.
“Come in,” says Botfly. “Sit down. Would you like a beer? Let me tell you about my battles with mental illness. Hey, how about the time my dog died? And my mom. Or how I have this existential dread of the future, worrying about what kind of legacy I’ll pass on to my children? If you’ve got 28 minutes, I have eight really depressing stories for you…”
‘Disjointed’, the high adrenaline opener, sounds like the purest form of teenage angst: this decade’s side of Slipknot. The lyrics tell the struggle of identity crisis, someone navigating a love/hate dichotomy of how they critique themselves. Repeating the words of the wounded — as if trying to convince himself rather than us — the introspective Goodspeed powers up until releasing an explosive declaration of admiration for another; “She keeps me sane! She keeps me sane! She’ll be the one to save me…”
Dating myself here, but the 90s kid in me thinks that ‘Melancholy in Real Time’ is the standout track. The instrumentation is uncomplicated, yet the interaction is uniquely effective. Channelling early Sonic Youth, there is an ambient indifference at work. Lyrically, this is a confession of deep seated sorrow;
“My lungs are empty.
Throat is raw.
I’m so tired of screaming my heart out, but I have no other way of feeling okay.
I fear I won’t swim forever.
Help keep me afloat.
I’m sinking… trust me, I’m sinking.”
With ‘Yellow Bike Road’ we are quickly ushered into the grunge era with an overly catchy guitar hook. Simplistically delivered, the chords invite expectations of a poppy chorus, worthy of a high school, coming-of-age movie. Of course, we don’t get the conventional feel-good, sing-a-long anthem that teen rom-com flicks are known for. In modern internet terminology, the subject matter of the song (screeched out with primal visceral) is about toxic masculinity: not being good enough, being told what to do, who to be, and needing to “grow a thicker skin.”
The second half of the album only elaborates upon these dark themes, becoming more specific to the cause of their abjection: the loss of beloved pets, admission of depending on drugs as a form of escapism, and a cryptic bit that perhaps personifies a terminal illness or an accident as a devious culprit that stole away a parent. Musically, the song structures shift evermore into experimental rock; a territory where intuition seems more important than technical know-how, and yet… it’s clear that the supposed dissonance is completely purposeful.
Strangely, it wasn’t until the closer, ‘Gutless’, that I was courted by my first love. I stopped, absorbed it, and realized that there was far more at play than I had initially thought; featuring guest vocalist, Tenille Goodspeed; and sister of Keegan and member of the Halifax choir, Xara, who was not singing, but slowly reading what struck me as poetry. It instantly invoked an aura of UK punk/art collective, Crass’ final recordings, ‘Ten Notes on a Summer’s Day.’
Many of the songs feel like they could go on for several additional minutes, but they don’t, and that succinctness demands focus. This is what the band is offering, so pay attention. Devote some time. Ditch the headphones, up the subwoofer, and discover what is actually a diverse, genre spanning exercise in artistic bleeding heart, emotional therapy.
September 28th – Halifax @ Plan B
September 29th – Moncton @ Claude’s House
September 30th – Quebec City @ Scanner Bistro
October 1st – Ottawa @ Ask A Punk
October 2nd – Ajax @ Rotilicious
October 3rd – Toronto @ Coalition
October 4th – St. Catherine’s @ The Temple
October 5th – Windsor @ Beer Exchange (TBX)
October 6th – Hamilton @ Ask A Punk
October 7th – Montreal @ Casa De Popolo
October 8th – Saint John @ Taco Pica ^
^ – without Die Hexe