Only last November I saw Viet Cong playing in Brussels as support act for Ought, the fresh indie rockers from Australia. Four months later and they’ve released a brilliant full length album and play sell out shows all over Europe. The good word about Calgary‘s noisy art-rock foursome has definitely spread at top speed. Quality still wins in the end, which is a satisfying tought. After last year’s seven-track Cassette EP the recently released debut album is a mighty conspicuous work of noise rock. A dark post punk fury. An overpowering journey.
Two miserable experiences played a big part in the making of the Cassette EP and the debut LP. First came the bitter disintegration of ‘Women’ of which bassist & vocalist Matt Flegel and drummer Michael Wallace were members. Shortly after came the early death of Christopher Reimer, Women’s guitarist. Death and loss. Hard to accept. Hard to handle.
It makes the at times apocalyptic fury of Viet Cong‘s music and lyrics more understandable. The invigorating creative force of the new band helped Flegel and Wallace to process grief.
Once again pain and dolor led to a magnificent, deeply human expression of art. Strikingly. The pitiless way of life.
The Canadian quartet is back for two dates in Belgium. Tonight Kortrijk, a lovely little town close to the French border. Tomorrow Brussels again (and as I’m writing this I learn that another show in Brussels is newly booked for next May.) They love Belgium and vice versa. Just before the gig I saw a relaxed Matt Flegel in the venue’s lobby. We had a short chat about the euphoric critical reception of the album and the sold out shows in Europe. He didn’t expect this buzz at all but he visibly likes what’s happening. Full confidence. And it shows on stage too. Flegel is making jokes about a hair transplant from his shoulders to his head and asking the band who’s handling the smoke machine. A great contrast with the spirits they were in last November in Brussels. Captured by nerves and tension, as if the gig was an entrance exam for the new band to the voracious universe of rock ‘n roll. Tonight everybody is pretty laid back… between songs. As long as the music plays it’s all about bloodcurdling, explosive awesomeness. Guitarists Daniel Christiansen and Scott ‘Monty’ Munro soundtrack the painful and tragic content of the songs with electrifying riffs, goth like hooks and… fierce synths now and then. Just stunning. Mike Wallace hits his drums without compassion. Matt Flegel torches his bass guitar and succeeds in what seems impossible: howling and screaming out loud above the heavy drones and the clamorous jams. All songs get a ‘more is louder’ treatment. Apocalypse now ! ‘Silhouettes’ with its Joy Division frontal attack vibes is a staggering highlight. So is the impending gloom of ‘Continental Shelf’.
The first half of ‘March Of Progress’ sounds like dissonant church organs ready to implode. Grandiose and awe-inspiring. Their pièce de résistance is without doubt the 11-minute freak-out rollercoaster titled ‘Death’. A colossal opus of breaking down and building up. Slow and fast. Ruthless and brutal. ‘Death’ is an overwhelming whirlpool of mixed emotions. A spiritual experience. No encores. The only possible decision. Nothing can follow the grandeur of ‘Death’.Tremendous epic doom. Viet Cong‘s exorcism is an escape route to hope and a new beginning. They will, without doubt, continue to impress many in 2015 !
Here’s the brilliant self-titled album in full…