Get ready to discover the top Canadian metal bands, as selected by Aron Shute, the lead vocalist and bass guitarist of the sludge death/black metal band Crystal Coffin. Based in Vancouver, Crystal Coffin has been making waves in the metal scene with their latest album, The Starway Eternal, which has been hailed as one of the top metal albums of 2021 by Metalhead Community. With a unique blend of black metal, progressive metal, death metal, and stoner/sludge metal, Crystal Coffin is quickly becoming one of the most promising bands in the genre. Aron Shute takes us on a journey through his personal favorites in the Canadian metal scene, showcasing the bands that have influenced him the most over the years. From Witches Hammer to Voivod, Sacrifice to Kataklysm, Aron's list is a must-read for any metal fan looking to explore the best of what Canada has to offer.
Crystal Coffin band photo L to R: Rob Poirier (drums), Aron Shute (vocals, bass), Lenkyn Ostapovich (guitars, synths, piano, balalaika, secondary vocals) Credit: Erin Crosley
I wanted to approach this “Best Canadian Metal Bands” list from a different angle by shining a light on not only some of my favorite all-time Canadian bands but also highlighting the influence that certain pinnacle releases from their catalogues had on me at different times over the years. As well, I considered whether or not I still listen to these albums with the same amount of reverence and joy as when I first discovered them! So, with that, I’ve constructed the list chronologically in order of my first listening experience or exposure.
8 - Witches Hammer
Being a suburban teenager in the mid-to-late 1980s was pretty awesome in Vancouver as far as having access to all-ages shows supported by a great local punk/metal bands that prolifterated the scene at the time. The first local metal band I ever saw live was WITCHES HAMMER from North Delta, a suburb of Vancouver, who played their very first show opening for METAL CHURCH and EXCITER in the summer of 1985. When they put out the Witches Hammer EP a couple of years later they solidified their position as heavyweights in the local scene.
Favorite Track: THULSA DOOM
WITCHES HAMMER - Thulsa Doom
Canadian Thrash Metal from North Delta, British Columbia. From 1985 self-titled demo and 2003 "Canadian Speed Metal" Compilation
Thrash band with (later) members of Blasphemy, Tyrants Blood , Thor. Procreation and The Chargers
7 - Mission of Christ
Another band that existed in the same scene was MISSION OF CHRIST from Victoria (on Vancouver Island). I saw them many times during their regular trips to-and-from the Island to play Vancouver. Their songs were totally different in a traditional metal sense, much like WITCHES HAMMER. Their singer was very obviously from a punk background but he fit the role so perfectly that he made them stand out as one of the best live bands around. Hands down, they were the best local metal band British Columbia had to offer at the time!
Favorite Track: NOCTURNAL SERENADE
Mission of Christ - Nocturnal Serenade (unofficial video - remastered audio)
6 - Razor
Shifting to the first wave of Thrash and Speed Metal videos that hit MUCHMUSIC in the mid-to-late 80s - There was a substantial number of videos by International metal bands that truly motivated us to go buy the full-length releases but three Canadian bands in particular stood out in this mix and heavily benefitted from CAN CON (“Canadian Content” was a measure of how much music was required to be of Canadian origin during a day’s broadcast) rotation. The first was RAZOR. Their Evil Invaders video was on constantly and I loved that song! I was not disappointed when I picked up the album. It probably marked my first real exposure to Speed Metal and I couldn’t get enough of that drumming style - made me want to start a circle pit in my bedroom!
Favorite Track: SPEED MERCHANTS
RAZOR, Speed Merchants
5 - Sacrifice
Another band to also garner a large following among my friends was SACRIFICE. Their video for ReAnimation was made from low budget rehearsal footage with some smoke for effect. The song was a huge hit with us and we all tried to figure out how to play that riff immediately. Their reference to an obscure movie (but well known among metalheads) and the traditional jeans/hightops/t-shirt look made them instantly cool. By far Forward To Termination is a thrash masterpiece that holds its own among the best albums that 1987 had to offer. So many good songs on it, and definitely an influence on John from Dying Fetus who said that Sacrifice’s groove was what inspired him when he first started playing. I love everything about this album so it’s hard to pick a single song to showcase but Flames Of Armageddon contains all the best elements of the album:
Favorite Track: FLAMES OF ARMAGEDDON
Sacrifice - Flames Of Armageddon
4 - Voivod
The third band that grabbed me with what was being broadcast on television was VOIVOD. Their videos for Psychic Vacuum and Tribal Convictions were so different and intriguing and represented their unique sound extremely well. In 1989, when the Nothingface album came out, the video for Astronomy Domine was played constantly. Dimension Hatröss was an intense release, full of chaotic angular riffs and atonal jazz chords. The whole album feels like it was written and recorded in a futuristic factory on a moon of Jupiter with a T-1000 behind the console to capture their dissonant Space Thrash. Far more advanced and focused than the earlier Killing Technology or the crusty speed punk crossover of the first 2 albums.
Favorite Track: MACROSOLUTIONS TO MEGAPROBLEMS
Macrosolutions to Megaproblems by Voivod
℗ 1988 Sanctuary Records Group Ltd., a BMG Company
Released on: 2017-04-28
Producer: VoivodDrums & Percussion: Michel LangevinGuitar: Denis D'AmourProducer: Harris JohnsBass Guitar: Jean-Yves ThériaultVocals: Denis BélangerComposer: Denis D'AmourComposer: Michel LangevinComposer: Jean-Yves ThériaultComposer: Denis Bélanger
Nothingface marks VOIVOID as a band at their peak! They were untouchable at this point. They had solidified their fanbase with a cross section of punk nerds, metalheads, and jazz lovers while headlining over both SOUNDGARDEN and FAITH NO MORE during their North American tour for the album. Again, the otherworldly elements are present on the album but honed in through a higher production quality given it being their major label debut. Incredible album!
Favorite Track: SUB EFFECT
Voivod - Sub-Effect
3 - NoMeansNo
I feel like I would be remiss not to mention the influence NOMEANSNO’s album Wrong had on a majority of local metalheads and myself when it was shown to us by punk friends and neighbours. Wrong came out around the same time as Nothingface and shared equal time in the cassette decks and on the turntables. Seeing them live was an eye-opening experience of realizing that a band didn’t have to sound like SLAYER to be as intense or exciting live. Wrong would definitely be the peak release for the band!
Favorite Track: LIFE IN HELL
NoMeansNo - Life In Hell
2 - Cryptopsy
I started listening to new Black, Death, and Grind bands in the late 1990s and one of the first bands I heard was CRYPTOPSY. Their first 2 albums are technically proficient but with a very loose chaotic feel. Blasphemy Made Flesh is utterly insane. Lord Worm’s vocals are as inhuman as Flo’s drumming style. But through all of the brutality there are memorable songs with melodic hooks.
Favorite Track: DEFENESTRATION
Defenstration by Cryptopsy
Blasphemy Made Flesh
Writer, Composer: Cryptopsy
CRYPTOPSY’s second album None So Vile is even better with all elements more refined and slightly tighter while still as brutal!
Favorite Track: PHOBOPHILE
Phobophile by Cryptopsy
None So Vile
℗ 2008 Displeased Records
Released on: 2008-10-24
1 - Kataklysm
KATAKLYSM was another band that I got into around the same time. I am a big fan of the Temple Of Knowledge album featuring the original lineup with Maurizo playing bass and vocalist Sylvain Houde’s unnatural vocal style (as if barking incantations to unseen elder gods). This was the final album recorded with this lineup. Maurizo would soon take over vocals duties for Sylvain. The album is in the same vein as CRYPTOPSY in their chatoric approach to song writing while still making memorable songs. Although I do tend to skip past the first 3 songs, the remainder of the album is amazing!
Favorite Track: FATHERS FROM THE SUN
Kataklysm, Fathers from the Sun
Probably KATAKLYSM’s best album from the Maurizo-era is Serenity In Fire. Insane blasting drums with tons of melodic guitar lines that inevitably get stuck in your head.
Favorite Track: UNDER THE BLEEDING SUN
Under the Bleeding Sun by Kataklysm
Jean-Francois Dagenais · Maurizio Iacono
Serenity in Fire
℗ 2004 Nuclear Blast
Released on: 2004-03-08
Thank you for exploring the top Canadian metal bands recommended by Aron Shute of Crystal Coffin. From the heavy riffs of Voivod to the melodic death metal of Kataklysm, these bands represent the best of Canada's metal scene. If you're a fan of heavy music, be sure to check out the "Canadian Metal Originators Volume I" playlist featuring these top 8 bands and discover the originators of Canadian metal.
Special thanks to Aron Shute for sharing his personal insights and experiences about each band on this list, providing a unique perspective on the best of Canadian metal. Thank you for reading, and keep supporting the Canadian metal scene!
Crystal Coffin - The Starway Eternal
The Starway Eternal is the title track from Crystal Coffin's second album, released October 15th, 2021 via A Beast in the Field
Listen to Metalhead Community's Canadian Metal Originators playlist on Spotify
Listen to Metalhead Community's Monsters of Metal Underground playlist on Spotify