Under the Snow: A Canadian Music Expose # 11

Seriously celt.

Enter the Haggis.

Toronto’s Celtic rock fusion heroes have been rocking the scene (and the continent) since 1996, using a wide range of influences, and instruments to create some delightfully engaging celtic rock. The name is in many ways, a reference to the groups diverse influences, in the Haggis being a food made up of many different things. That said, what you get from the beginning is a band not afraid to experiment, but whose influences remain clearly visible.

The bands current line-up:

Trevor Lewington – vocals, guitar
Brian Buchanan – vocals, fiddle, keyboards, guitar
Craig Downie – bagpipes, harmonica, whistle, vocals
Mark Abraham – bass, vocals
Bruce McCarthy – drums

Past members:

Duncan Cameron – Fiddle
Owen Pallett – Fiddle
Tom “Teemie” Paterson – Guitars
Ken Horne – Drums
Rob “Rodent” McCrady – Bass and vocals
Donald Quan – multi-instrumentalist
James Campbell – Drums

The group doesn’t have a tiny discography either, over the past 15 years, they have delivered 5 full length albums, 2 live albums, and 2 live DVD’s. This is on top of regular, active and impressive touring, which has slowly begun to move them into the public consciousness. I do not have any of the live material, nor have I seen them live, so I will stick to the LP’s as usual. With that caveat, I would like to add, I found them quite by accident playing Demonoid Roulette (type a random word into demonoid, choose music category, hit search…check out the interesting hits. I got these guys with the word Haggis) and am still startled that I had never heard of them before. LOVE the internets.

Gleeful looking isn't he?

The albums image encapsulates its sound rather spectacularly. Released in 1998, the album is laden with Celtic worship it’s like a thick irish or welsh cheese…probably sheep’s milk; pungent, tangy and strongly Gaelic. The albums intro, Enter, is a bag-pipe dominated instrumental little rocker reminiscent of early Pogues, or Dropkick Murphy’s, which is followed up rather gently by the soft, almost pop-rock Where Will You Go.Light, with acoustic guitars, and softer piping, it makes use of multiple instruments in a very subtle and endearing manner. By Bagpipes on Mars, you will be either a fan of their cheerfully deviant brand of Celtic-rock or disinterested. But hang in there, things are getting weirder. Bagpipes on Mars is just downright bizarre, with hints of southern folk and early newfie rock, and one downright amusing set of lyrics. Of particular note is the track the Three Little Jigs. It is what it sounds like, and if you have any appreciation for a well played Reel, then get out of your chair, turn up the volume and prepare to kick your heels up. The albums finale, the Mexican Scotsman is…heh, well; It’s a 3 and a half minute, droll tune, that rest strongly on the piper’s skills, but is none the less very, very engaging. This is followed by a 7 minute silence then a goofy little ditty at the end.

Released in 2001, Aerials, is from the beginning a stronger, more aggressive album. The production is sharper, the vocals are louder, the guitars lower and the bagpipe is blended in rather than being the dominant instrument. From the opener Sunburst, through to the albums finale Icarus, Aerials is a very intense affair and deserving of being blasted through high quality speakers, loud enough to dance. Among the tracks, I have three that particularly deserve attention: Andromeda, track three, a smooth, vocal driven alternative almost-ballad.

2004, and the band drops their third outing, Casualties of Retail, strong, if not brilliant, Casualties of Retail loses none of the bands energy, nor deviates very far from their formula. It is an easy listen for fans of the bands sound, and is neither challenging nor amazing. Though the album is one of my least favourites in the discography, I would not call it bad. Just, not very exciting; That said, there are a couple tracks that get me grooving, including the hyper and invigorating Twirling Towards Freedom. The rocking and sarcastic Martha Stuart is yet another worthwhile work, with wickedly mischevious fiddles and a campy rhythm to go with it, accompanied by mocking electric guitars.

Loud and proud, to be Celt.

Soapbox Heroes, the bands 4th studio album, released in 2004, is a harder hitting album from the start, comin in at just over an hour with 10 tracks, the album wastes no time on filler and delivers ten, solid and impressively energetic tracks. The Guitars move further up, playing counter-point rather than support to the fiddle more often, and there’s a strong maritimer wash over the album: stronger than usual that is. That said, I am not sure any albums particularly jump out. It is a strong, cohesive album with no real stand-out moments.

Catchy image

2009’s Gutter Anthems is in fact, my introduction to the bands music, and frankly, it remains my favourite for a number of reasons. The album reminds me of Great Big Sea at times, like the Pgues at times, and it retains that strong personal sound the band has developed over the years. There are some truly out-standing tracks, like the highly intelligent and thought-provoking DNA, which makes use of the interplay between guitar and bag-pipe the band has mastered; unflinchingly clear-eyed, the lyrics roll from his throat crystal clear, and high light the truth of childhood. There’s the maritime washed Noseworthy and pierce, a newfie ballad delivered with gusto and pomp. Piano’s dnace across the track with a spidery grace and the soaring guitars, pounding drums and wailing bag-pipes bring the whole track to a stupefying crescendo. Ghosts of Calico, is, wow; subtle, penetrating, rocking and intense. All at once. As I said, easily my favourite Enter the Haggis album, and I recommend it to all lovers of good rocking celtic music, and Canadiana.

Donald Where’s yer Trooser’s?:
The Mexican Scotsman:
One Last Drink:
The Ghosts of Calico (live):

As always, if you like what you hear, buy an album, buy a shirt, go to a show, pass the sound on. Good music is meant to be appreciated.

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About Messianic Rebel
Crazier than expected...

One Response to Under the Snow: A Canadian Music Expose # 11

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