If you think you’re into death metal, are you gonna sit there and listen to some 40-year-old schoolteacher with no tattoos who doesn’t even drink much? If he’s Patrick Loisel, vocalist-guitarist of the French Canadian band Augury, you ought to.
2004’s “Concealed” and this year’s “Fragmentary Evidence” hit more musical destinations than most any other death-metal albums you could name. Augury portends Arabic-flamenco soul (“Alien Shores”), Exorcist-Bach choral scare (“Beatus”), Renaissance lilt (“Jupiter To Ignite”), ale-swilling Celtic dance (“Skyless”), silvery Cynic-style guitar tones and epic scope (“Oversee the Rebirth”), touches of John McLaughlin fusion shred and Henry Threadgill avant counterpoint -- all crunched, of course, under an avalance of modern double-kick and interspersed with satanic growl/shriek.
One significant omission: “I don’t have the blues,” Loisel sobs by phone on tour in rainy Portland. He just has no interest in the form -- “Too much repetition, and I have a short attention span.”
Loisel’s energetic yet casual way of speaking probably makes him a good teacher in Montreal; he also possesses a veteran’s discipline, a virtue he tries to pass on to his science students, some of whom he describes as “like animals.”
How does he enforce his law? “By scaring them -- I use my death-metal voice to tell them to shut up!”
When it came to music, regardless of Loisel’s profession, he and guitarist Mathieu Marcotte mostly preferred to teach themselves; Augury’s most formally trained member is bassist Dominic (Forest) Lapointe, a Jaco Pastorius admirer whose popping technique and clean, ultrafast runs you can hear on the new album’s opener, “Aetheral.” Anyway, the band’s brain-twisting meters, multipart structures and lurching rhythms aren’t the kinds of things you usually learn in school. With overtaxed drummer Antoine Baril having recently left the band, the batterie responsibilité now devolves upon Robin “Frog” Stone of Australian tourmates the Amenta. No problem, though; Loisel says Stone learned a complex set’s worth of material in jig time.
Though Loisel’s lyrics lean toward apocalypse and space hijinks, he doesn’t consider himself a sci-fi fan, and hasn’t even seen “2012” yet -- as a scientist, he figures we’ve got enough surreal doom going on in the real world to render fantasy unnecessary.
“Every year you have people telling us we’re at the end of the world. But the whole thing resets to zero every 12,000 or 13,000 years. Next time, I don’t think everyone will die, but evidence of our knowledge will be lost. When future civilizations dig us up, all our computers and memory systems will have been destroyed, and they’ll think all we did was build things with big cement blocks. And they’ll think we were stupid, because we couldn’t write.”
Loisel also believes that giant ancient aliens from submerged pyramids off the Japanese island of Yonaguni gave Roman gladiators the secret of UFO-style flight, but it was stolen by the Nazis and then suppressed by corporate-controlled world governments, which are also encouraging overpopulation to prevent revolution. At least I think that’s what he said, but our phone connection lacked something of that pin-drop quality.
Whatever he says: As long as Loisel and Augury maintain this level of music, I agree 100 percent.
Augury open a five-band bill headlined by the world-class Polish melodic death metal of Vader at the Key Club on Sunday, November 29.