From punk to metal, Untimely Demise celebrate nearly 15 years of thrash
Saskatoon has long served as a base for devoted metal musicians, but few are more dedicated to the cause than Untimely Demise. Formed in 1999 as a punk band, the group slowly began developing their metal roots before evolving completely into a complex thrash unit.
Helmed by brothers Matt and Murray Cuthbertson, through break-ups, sour record deals and being denied at the border at the start of a U.S. tour, Untimely Demise have persevered. “The band never stops writing riffs,” says Cuthbertson.
Nowadays the group records their albums with the likes of Glen Drover, a producer and guitarist best known for playing in the likes of Iron Maiden and King Diamond, and plays shows with the likes of 3 Inches Of Blood, Goatwhore and Skeletonwitch.
After starting the band nearly 15 years ago, Untimely Demise is about to unsheathe their latest full-length, Systematic Eradication. Catch their album release show on October 4 at Amigos alongside Regina’s Into Eternity.
Origins: The Punk Era
Growing up in Saskatoon, brothers Matt and Murray Cuthbertson begin playing music together when they are in their mid-teens. Forming Untimely Demise in 1999, the band finds a home within the city’s punk scene, honing their chops in notorious local venues such as the original Bassment and the now-defunct Wash ‘n’ Slosh.
Playing alongside local hardcore and grind groups, Untimely Demise immediately differentiate themselves with the addition of metallic solos to their otherwise straightforward punk sounds.
The band releases their first full-length album Repetitive Disorder in 2001 amidst a series of local shows. Their next recorded effort, the Raise Your Head EP, drops in early 2003.
However, the solid musicianship isn’t enough to keep the band’s first incarnation together.
“We had moved to Fernie to snowboard,” says Murray. “When we got back we had split up, which seemed like the best idea at the time. We had tried a few other drummers after but none of them really meshed.”
Rebirth: Thrash, Sonic Unyon and beyond
Attending university during their downtime, the Cuthbertson brothers keep playing together, writing new material and developing a more complex style of songwriting. They decide to start another band but can’t find a name that fits. Eventually they decide to forge on under their old moniker, and Untimely Demise is reborn in 2006 as a thrash band.
Finding a drummer that compliments the new style, Untimely Demise record a two song EP with Chris Douglas, who also plays in long-running Saskatoon metal band Sparky. The recording nets the band their first major gig opening for Vancouver’s 3 Inches of Blood at Amigos.
“We had given Brant [Palko, promoter at Amigos] our CD and had asked him several times if we could play the show. He wasn’t really into it. Finally he said he would listen to the CD and he called us back immediately to say we had the show,” says Murray.
Untimely Demise head back into the studio and produce the four-song EP Full Speed Metal. There is no question that the group has fully immersed themselves in heaviosity, as the album artwork features a skeleton zombie in a hotrod running over animal business men in a post-apocalyptic world.
The EP also nets the interest of Ontario record label Sonic Unyon Records, who keep an intentionally diverse roster of artists including Eric’s Trip, Frank Black of The Pixies and Death Cab for Cutie. However, the label has a marked interest in Canadian heavy music, having also done albums with bands such as The Kittens, Shallow ND and Voivod.
“Untimely Demise and Tim Potocic, President of Sonic Unyon Records, had been in talks since the release of the Full Speed Metal EP in May of 2009,” says bassist Murray Cuthbertson. “He expressed immediately that he thought the band was gifted, and writing some amazing music.”
The group’s next album City of Steel, once again recorded by Drover, is their first full-length to fully capture their complex thrash and harsh metal riffs.
“Once they heard the City Of Steel LP they were impressed with the musical growth the band had experienced in just one year.”
Although the group has just signed with the label, Murray states that the band’s next album is nearly complete.
Systematic Eradication finds home in Europe
Following the release of City of Steel, Untimely Demise start gaining momentum and garnering positive reviews, including one from noted Saskatoon metal journalist Adrian Begrand:
These days it still feels like the most genuine, sincere sounding thrash metal comes from locales far removed by any sort of ‘scenes’. Untimely Demise know that firsthand. Based further North, right smack in the middle of North America, in the city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, whose metal exports are very few and far between, the band has had to work extra hard, not only at creating a distinct sound, but making themselves heard as band after band in America landed high profile deals when labels caught on to thrash’s new wave.
Untimely Demise was also nominated for a Sirius XM Canadian Independent Music Award for Metal Group of the Year in 2012.
However, just as the band starts catching notice internationally, selling albums in Japan and Europe, their 2012 foray into America is derailed when Murray is held up at the border due to an expired waiver.
“I went to exceeding trouble and expense to obtain a waiver to legally enter into the United States, and from my best understanding, it was supposed to be valid for five years,” said Murray on an extensive Facebook post.
The setback also causes friction with Sonic Unyon.
“After we had our tour where we couldn’t get into the States they were choked. So we had to figure out something else.”
The band decides to return to the studio instead. Eventually Untimely Demise and Sonic Unyon part ways and the group is free to seek out a new record label.
In 2013 Untimely Demise signs to Italian label, Punishment 18 Records, who plan on releasing Systematic Eradication internationally.
“They had first contacted us in 2009 when we recorded Full Speed Metal. They have great distribution in Europe, which where we would like to get to next year,” says Murray.
During the summer of 2013, the band drives out to Toronto to Drover’s studio in Mississauga to track the album before driving back. The conditions aren’t ideal. “It was 6,000 kilometres altogether in plus 30 sweltering heat,” says Murray. “But it was worth it.
“We did it a bit different after we got the drums laid down. We did two tracks a day, do the rhythms and bass and vocals. So that way you have a lot of different chances to get the vocals right and we got to see the progress,” says Matt.
At this point, Drover has become something of a mentor for Untimely Demise – something that Murray credits to helping the band find their sound.
“It’s a very comfortable feeling to record with him – we aren’t on the clock with him,” says Murray. “Plus he was in the bands that we were inspired by.”
“He’s a friend but he knows what we are going for,” adds Matt.
“He is always interested in putting in some of his own guest solos as well, and we always say ‘yes, awesome,’” says Murray. “It’s great to have that sort of dialogue between two different guitar players with their own styles. The dynamics for each player are different.”
However, before Drover can finish the recording, the group experiences another line-up change as the Cuthbertson’s part ways with drummer Scott Cross. Instead of recruiting new members locally, the band looks to Winnipeg to solidify their sound.
“Since 2009 we had been touring Canada non-stop and we had played a lot of shows in Winnipeg. Their scene out there is huge and there are so many great bands for every sub-genre,” says Murray.
Untimely Demise drafts Sam Martz on guitars and Cory Thomas on drums. Thomas has put in time with gore-grind band Putrescence among others.
“This line-up has been the closest we’ve ever been able to make the live show sound like the albums,” says Matt. “Before we had to decide when to play the solo or the rhythm.”
The band releases the single “Spiritual Embezzlement” from Systemic Eradication as a teaser. It features a thrashy galloping pace while Matt switches up his vocal range throughout the song, swapping between guttural evil growls and the occasional clean break.
The rest of the album follows suit, with plenty of melodic guitar breaks amidst a furious bludgeoning of drums and bass. The album also features the band’s most mature songwriting yet.
“I think [it’s] a better album because it is primarily composed like classical music, but it preserves the jazz/metal/punk edge that makes music exciting to listen to in a recorded and live environment,” says Murray.
Despite the blending of influences, Systematic Eradication is still a full-throttle headbanging classic that swings between thrash and death metal.
“It is nice not to hit a brick wall when you are under a sonic microscope,” adds Murray.