Although they have been receiving quite a bit of attention across the blogosphere this year for the release of their self-titled full-length debut and were officially formed back in 2012, the Calgary, Alberta-based quartet of Viet Cong, comprised of Matt Flegel (bass, vocals), Scott Munro (guitar), Daniel Christiansen (guitar) and Mike Wallace (drums) can trace their origins to a somewhat complicated six degrees of musical separation. Childhood friends Fiegel and Wallace were both members of the now defunct band Women; Munro and Fiegel were a part of Chad VanGaalen’s touring band and during their time together, Fiegl and Munro talked about doing something together; and Christiansen played in a Black Sabbath cover band with Fiegel and other members of Women.
The material on the band’s self-titled full-length debut was essentially written while the band was on a 50-date tour and recorded in a barn-turned studio in rural Ontario – and in some way the material that I’ve heard from the album is taut, moody, stormy, claustrophobic and anxious. It evokes the sensation of being trapped in close quarters with people you may care for and who are slowly driving you insane – the sort of unshakeable anxiety that you feel in the very core of your being.
The Canadian quartet has been relentlessly touring to support their new effort and before a stop at SXSW, they were invited to Seattle’s KEXP studios to play what turned out to be an intense live session. The first song of the session was “Silhouettes” which bears an uncanny resemblance to Turn On the Bright Lights-era Interpol and to Joy Division — dark, seductive, uneasy and capturing its surroundings. In other words, you’ll hear layers of angular and slashing guitars, four-on-the-floor drums, lyrics sung with an equally ironic detachment and earnestness paired in this case with dramatic synths. Interestingly, the song was written about the time that Matt Fiegel had gotten electrocuted on stage and suffered through a terrifying case of (temporary) hearing loss and the following sense of being disconnected and alone. “Bunker Buster,” the second song of the session starts off with tensely angular chords before Fiegel describes the eerie beauty of snow falling in a cold, desolate landscape; in fact, the song evokes clear, cold nights with snow blowing into your face. The set’s closing song “Death” is an epic 13 minute song that begins with shimmering guitar chords and rapid drum fills before and dissolves into a forcefully frenzied and chaotic peel of noise that’s held together by throbbing bass chords that is until the last few minutes of the song, when it turns into a strangely beautiful repetition of a few chords that peak out of noise, before turning into an altogether different segment that’s taut and anxious. It’s thoroughly impressive and among some of the more intense live footage I’ve come across so far – while having an art rock sheen.