If the bands of Vancouver could be personified as the residents of this city, Destroyer is the fancy coffee table and dinner party emptiness of the Yaletown businessmen; Apollo Ghosts is the bright-eyed, ragged exuberance of Commercial Drive hipsters; and Nickelback, the Valium-dulled, quiet desperation of Shaughnessy soccer moms, then Haggatha is the harrowed, bleak nihilism of the downtown eastside.
The opener of the band’s second full-length, “Precession of the Equinox,” and the following track, “Codependence” share a similarly grisly aesthetic to that of Coffinworm or Lord Mantis, mapping the queasy, churning discordance of black metal onto the weighty stomp of sludge.
The rest of the album’s first half delivers two more brutal, but relatively concise tracks that seem to serve as a primer for its centrepiece: the monstrous, almost twenty minute long “Epoch.” Slowly building on a single clean riff, the band wrings out every last drop of sorrow from each chord before finally crashing into distorted oblivion. The track’s strength is not just in being loud and angry but in translating a sense of despair, or maybe even grief, into something that is as poignant as it is powerful.
Although they’ve shown themselves to be fine purveyors of filth since their debut, Haggatha hasn’t displayed a great deal of stylistic development over their five years of existence. But with each new release, they’ve gradually honed their craft, becoming more adept at using both light and shade, abandon and restraint.
Any band can sound heavy so long as they tune down low enough and play slow enough, but on Haggatha’s latest release, through gnarled riffs and tortured screams, they have evoked such an ominous atmosphere and a depth of drama that they truly epitomize the notion of heavy music.