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DISSIDENT AGGRESSOR – Aggression’s guitarist and founder member Sasquatch tells tales of terror

DISSIDENT AGGRESSOR – Aggression’s guitarist and founder member Sasquatch tells tales of terror

Probably one of the most famous and heaviest Canadian bands ever, Aggression originally came together in 1984 under the name Asylum. “We originally formed Halloween night 1984,” remembers guitarist Denis Barthe, better known to all and sundry as Sasquatch. “Burn [guitarist Bernard Caudron] and I made a pact to form the heaviest, fastest, loudest band possible. Shortly after, we entered a partnership with manager Johnny Hart and he promptly made the recommendation to change our name to Aggression which would be more suitable for our musical onslaught.” Sasquatch believes they were still known as Asylum when they played their first gig. “It was at our high school in Laval, Quebec. Voivod was in attendance, and it was a big deal for us that they showed up. There were people everywhere – the gym was packed, the school yard was packed, the parking lot was packed… It was absolute chaos and disorder. We played a few originals but mostly covers of Venom, Slayer, and Metallica.”

With a couple of demos and a cassette of a live show recorded in April 1986 doing the tape trading rounds Aggression (with vocalist Eric ‘Butcher’ Langlois, bassist Yves ‘Dug’ Duguay and drummer Gaëtan ‘Gate’ Bourassa) went into the studios to record their debut album ‘Forgotten Skeleton’, although this would lay in the vaults until 2005, nineteen years after it was committed to tape. “Technical difficulties,” shrugs Sasquatch. “The recording was too long – it ran for over eighty minutes – and would not fit on one vinyl which caused major delays and discussions. And we were young and impatient so we ended our partnership with Johnny who turned around and rightfully stopped the release of the album as well as remove from us the ability to use the recordings from that session.” So it would be second time lucky for the band, whose next album ‘The Full Treatment’ did appear in the racks in 1987. But what should have been a celebration was actually pretty much a wake, and by 1989 it was all over. “The band was on life support by the time ‘The Full Treatment’ came out and there was zero touring or promotion to support the release of the album. We were truly unhappy with it. The recording did not capture the spirit and attitude of ‘Forgotten Skeleton’ and we were ‘severely’,” he emphasises, “under the influence when we recorded it and unfortunately, it shows. After that, things fell apart, to say the least. Some band members ended up in jail for lengthy periods of time, some turned into junkies and others simply abandoned ship. We didn’t have a jam space, instruments, or the will to continue.”

You can’t keep a good band down, although longing for a reformation taught fans the true meaning of the word ‘patience’. It wasn’t until 2005 that the Aggression name appeared on tour posters once more when the band reformed for a handful of twentieth anniversary gigs. Although ‘Forgotten Skeleton’ finally got its long-overdue release and the band appeared at the Montreal Metal Massacre fest, the reformation was pretty much a blink-and-you-miss-it affair. “There was a demand for Aggression to reform and do some shows,” agrees Sasquatch, “so we got the original ‘Forgotten Skeleton’ line-up back together (minus Gate) and did some shows. However, ghosts from the past quickly reappeared, and we folded once again.”

It wasn’t until 2014, thirty years after that original high school gig, that Aggression emerged once more, this time with seemingly more focus and an overwhelming desire to succeed. I remark that this must have been a great feeling, and Sasquatch simply says “yes!” You can almost imagine him punching the air. “I never believed I could find five maniacs in 2014 crazy enough to spend the time and learn the old material, but that’s exactly what happened. And now the band features Brian Langley, David Watson, Jon Power and Matt Modder: these guys are the cream of the crop of the Canadian metal musician community, and they make Aggression way better than it ever was.”

The first release following the band’s reformation was ‘Fractured Psyche Demons’. Unveiled in August 2015, ‘Fractured Psyche Demons’ was the perfect showcase for the new-look Aggression, and featured four new tracks (including a re-recording of ‘Metal Slaughter’ from their first ever cassette), three cuts from their 1986 demo and a further four from their 1985 demo. “We wanted to record some new songs to demonstrate to fans that we were truly back, as well as release some hard to find material – it was a great start and we are really proud of the newer songs on the recording.” ‘Fragmented Spirit Devils’ came out just over a year later, in November 2016, and was the band’s first album of wholly new recordings in almost thirty years. And it went down very well indeed, with press and fans alike. “It was extremely well received,” agrees the guitarist, “and many have mentioned that it is the best Aggression record ever made. And I tend to agree with them. Half the songs, by the way, are refurbished unused songs from the Eighties and the other half are brand new.”

All of which brings us to ‘Feels Like Punk, Sounds Like Thrash’, released by Dissonance in May last year. “Funny enough, it was supposed to be a demo. We wanted to put back our punk influences into the music because we also grew up on GBH, Discharge, Dead Kennedys, Ramones and many others so we wanted to bring back that vibe into our music. And I think we achieved it, particularly on songs like ‘Tales Of Terror’ and ‘Stench Of Your Mediocre Existence’. Certainly, with nine songs whizzing by in thirty-three minutes they’ve certainly captured the vibe of those bands, so I wondered if it had been difficult getting back into that Aggression mindset.     

“Hmm, very good question… I guess we were already tagged as ‘death metal’ way back in 1986 so I would definitely say that my appreciation for Morbid Angel, Entombed and Brutal Truth comes through the music as much as classic thrash which I never was a super big fan of. I mean, I loved ‘Kill ’Em All’ and ‘Show No Mercy’ but I was also infatuated with Venom, Hellhammer and Bathory. The fact that we have a back catalogue of unused songs really helped as well.”

Aggression intend to spend a lot of time this year on the road (“touring, touring, touring” is how Sasquatch responds when I asked what the future held in store) and they’ve already lined up the April Assault tour, taking in shows in Canada and hopping over the border into the U.S. Their trek ends at the NYDM Spring Bash three-day festival in Milwaukee, where they’ll be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Anvil, Hirax and Usurper. The band are also hard at work on their follow-up to ‘Feels Like Punk, Sounds Like Thrash’. “We are right in the middle of pre-production at this point with fourteen brand new songs and one old Aggression song remake with the new line-up. The concept, the songs, everything is as heavy and evil as ever.”

Wrapping things up, I asked Sasquatch if he would tell me two things that the average metal fan wouldn’t know about Aggression. “OK, one: Aggression recorded a version of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ for ‘The Full Treatment’ album. It is by far the worst cover by any band of any genre ever produced! And two: the original Aggression line-up never performed outside of their native province of Quebec.”

And finally, if the band were marooned on a desert island, and things got really bad, which band member would you eat first, and why? “Dave Watson, our guitar player,” he responds, barely batting an eyelid. “He is fragile, but tasty…”

To buy or stream ‘Feels Like Punk, Sounds Like Thrash’ please click the link below:

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