Under the Snow: A Canadian Music Expose #7

WarsawpacK/Lee Raback

Prophets of dissent

Intense looking, aren't they?

Formed in ’99, and releasing their first EP in 2000, this Hamilton, Ontario 7 piece outfit walked the line between rap and rock, metal and jazz, music and social critique. Fronted by the scathing and intense Lee Raback, WarsawpacK left behind on EP and two albums before the band caved under the pressures of trying to survive as an independent band in 2005. An interesting reviews by Exclaim magazine: Here
The band consisted of vocalist Lee Raback, guitarist Ajit Rao, bassist Jaroslav Wassmann, tenor saxophonist and flautist Simon Oczkowski, baritone saxophonist Adam Bryant, turntablist Aaron Sakala and drummer Matt Cormier.

I have never been able to track down even a digital copy of the EP, though the one track I heard was as awesome as everything they put together, so I imagine it’s worth the chase.

Brilliant work

Their first full length album, released in 2002 (and re-released along-side the second album) is a bombastic fusion of jazz, hip-hop, metal and punk. It is like Rage Against the Machine on jazz, with a full complement of instruments to wow you. The album opens on Year of the Car Crash, an early ode to getting away from our addiction to petrol and the society it builds. Though perhaps a bit out-dated on the perspective of alternatives to fuel, yet the intention and passion are undeniable. The following track, Diabolique, floats along on the horns, and some excellent DJ work, then takes off as Raback gets control and asserts his thoughts. As you work your way through the album, you’ll come across brilliant compositions like the awesomely strong and accusatory Attention to Deficit, a spitting condemnation of our prescription addicted cultures. The organs, drums, horns, vocals and strings all fuse into a discordantly beautiful harmony that sucks you in. By the time the albums catchy finale, Dali rolls in, you have been lifted and dropped, hugged and hurt and shaken about by the bands intense synergy and vision. Instrumentals in the finest vein of jazz, and savage, yet engaging lyrics to put Rage Against the Machine to shame, and a punk sensibility that refuses to be pinned down.

Short but intense

2003, the band releases their follow up album, the even more intense, furious and condemnatory sequel, is a fair bit shorter (40 minutes versus 70), but never once lets up. From the creepy and grim intro skit, the album takes off as the band blasts you in the face with the first real track, Lump of Coal. Pounding, grinding and soaring on horns and guitars, Lump of Coal is Raback in full on angry man mode, with his contempt practically dripping in each accusatory verse. Track four, the sax driven mammon Parade, a grooving head-bobbingly awesome piece that expresses further, rabacks view of the Capitalistic beast that devours. By the time you reach The war on Drugs, you have been exposed to blasts of almost metal heavy jazz-hop, spit at you with an intensity that puts their debut album to shame. Then the War on Drugs sinks in, and you realize, there is no relenting. This album is pure intensity and intelligence, passion and technical genius fused over an intensely dissenting mind-set. You get a brief reprieve from the pressure when you reach Nine, a more laid back contemplative piece than much of the rest of the album, which works beautifully as a fusion of jazz-hop, and funk, with a hint of grunge sensibility. Almost relaxed feeling, the track is like a breather after an intense work-out. The albums finale, Market Steward, is well, a pun based defamation of market manipulation and the sense of entitlement amongst the rich and famous. It’s also a damn good way to round out a (too short) brilliant final album.

Lee reed

Post WarsawpacK, Lee raback has moved into more traditional Hip-hop realms, with one emcee and a DJ (or more); re-skinning himself Lee Reed (as he may or may not be the illegitimate grandson of Lou Reed, a rather prolific man) Lee has not left behind any of his commentary, but his flow and style have grown and evolved past his previous works, and the four track EP released so far is a fantastic debut. From the opening, throbbing, almost hypnotic start, you recognize Lee’s voice, but the soothing almost R&B approach is startling immersive. It resonates beautifully with his gravelly voice. The opening track, Basic Cable is a great introduction to the mans new direction. Big Spender is played over looped pianos, drums and twisted up with great skill, making Lee’s voice sound almost post-apocalyptic. Feast or Famine is subtle, almost minimalist at times, then resonating with mid-era funk, and more of a sung performance than he has done in quite a long time. Very sexy. The EP’s finale though, Viral Rock, is worthy of viral love. It’s REALLY fucking good hip-hop, with a beautifully crafted beat to buoy the lyrics, to provide waves upon which he can bob, while dropping puns and accusations.

Lump of Coal:
Attention to Deficit:
Doomsday Device:

A little of what Lee has been up to:

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About Messianic Rebel
Crazier than expected...

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