Exploring Assimilation's West Coast Brew of Power-Hungry Old-School Death Metal

While contemporary heavy groups are busy hugging trees and familiarizing themselves with legal botany, Assimilation occupy themselves with cultivating relentlessly crushing death metal. Often operating with beers in hand, the quartet finds an odd but fitting balance between crushing sonics and laid back attitudes. Here's a look into what makes them tick.

For those unfamiliar with the region's luscious landscape, British Columbia offers an impressive range of forests, mountain ranges, and waterside views, all extending around the perimeter of the province's most populous hotspot, Vancouver. By extension, city and mountain folk often seem to be mesmerized by their proximity to nature's protrusions, becoming utterly consumed within the subject matter. This can be seen immediately through a quick analysis of other BC-based bands, like Bison and Seer, whose music is crafted through the passionate indulgence of sludgy riffs and slow, lumbering vocal styles, perhaps metaphorically akin to the qualities of Mother Nature. While Assimilation’s members are certainly environmentally conscious, they use their music as a polar opportunity to delve down to humanity's deepest roots, focusing on interpersonal relations, the human psyche, and the struggle for ultimate power.

While many bands engage in healthy competition regarding who can produce the heaviest sonic experience, many a time these groups regurgitate equally off-putting lyrics for the sake of overwhelming brutality, but this technique often misses the mark. Assimilation’s lyrical concepts operate differently, as vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Jesse Jardine describes. “If someone was reading these lyrics it would help them in a hard time. I just write about experiences like ex-girlfriends, if you break up with a girl and it puts you in a really low place, that’s a perfect time to write about it. I’d rather write about that stuff than about truncated corpses.” Jesse certainly highlights a critical issue within the modern death metal scene. Brutality for the sake of shock value gets stale, especially since bands have been operating like this for upwards of 30 years.

Among other concepts, Jesse incorporates themes from books such as Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power and Mastery (the former is actually where the group derived their debut album title from). “A lot of people relegate themselves to mediocrity,” says Jesse: “What’s your goal in life? There has to be a higher reason why we’re here. There are people that need help but there are a lot of people that are happy to be mediocre, they’re just not doing anything to help themselves.”.

Every song on The Laws of Power explores the realm of power struggles within civilization and the general public arena. While Jesse writes the lyrics, all other members seem to agree with his main themes of focus. The lyrical themes derive from the group’s personal growth within an ever-competitive world. However, even though they’re supposed to be applied in real life, they’re still coated with a layer of fantasy for the sake of interest and creativity. “Lyrics are supposed to have a bit of mysticism or fantasy to them, its not like reality,” says Rene Wilkinson, lead guitarist. “I don’t listen to metal to get political and to get into all that stuff. I like hearing stuff that’s more fantasy based, its an escape from reality.” Assimilation certainly pepper a fair bit of fantasy within their lyrical thematics, such as for the song “Decapitated by Beasts,” but there’s always an ever present depth, a metaphor to dig behind, and work to do for the listener.

The Laws of Power is currently the group’s only full-length album, but it is stressed that quality over quantity is certainly a factor here. Traditionally, the genre’s famous and beloved albums are diverse, multifaceted, and feature certain recognizable “album” qualities. This is certainly the case here, albeit legendary status has of course not yet been achieved. “A lot of the old-school death metal stuff is so boring, it’s a lot of albums that are ten songs of the same song,” says Jesse. “This is all Assimilation but its all different. One’s more of a speed metal song, we have a thrash metal song, then almost like a tech-death song. There’s also a lot of brutal death metal in there.” The group even hinted that they’d be doing a King Diamond cover on their upcoming full-length.

In addition to all this, the group grew out of diverse roots. Jesse essentially taught the group’s current bassist, Shiloh Anderson, how to play death metal. While the bassist started by playing softer bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Shiloh was converted alike many of us, albeit in an untraditional way. “Jesse taught me to play death metal for like 2 months. It was definitely a personal challenge, I had to learn a lot of new techniques to keep up the pace of it. It’s definitely the funnest stuff I’ve played though.”

A quick online search will yield examples of Assimilation’s less serious side, which is certainly odd for members of a death metal band. Items can be pulled from the band’s YouTube channel, and from the “A Day in The Life” video, to clips of various shenanigans, there’s an untraditional amount of comedy here. Jesse, who is famous for his “you should be scared of the frontman” mentality, explains this further. “We just like having a good time. That’s our natural demeanor, we’re just like that normally. We’re not evil, I’m not evil, I like to lift weights and we just hangout. Its just us being a band together.”

As Shiloh says, “There’s a big element to a band just hanging out together.”

Assimilation are currently in pre-production for their next album release. “I think the new album is much more focused,” says Jesse. However, the band stressed that they would not deviate from their crushing death/thrash sonics.

The band made sure to give shoutouts to fellow Canadian groups Arcanevil (Toronto) and Pathetic (Calgary), as well as Terror Fire out of the US, and Hexecuter out of France.

CJLO 1690 AM and Assimilation are bringing you a free online download of The Laws of Power for the duration of March 17th to celebrate its 2-year anniversary. Make sure to grab it before it’s gone!

(Bandcamp link: https://assimilationvancouver.bandcamp.com/album/the-laws-of-power)

Hunter Walwaski is the Co-Host of The Iron Club, airing on Mondays at 2 p.m.