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Hardcore punk bands are generally not known for subtlety.
But even by those standards, one of the standout tracks on Calgary’s hardcore/thrash outfit Citizen Rage’s sixth EP, Black, is alarmingly direct.
I Will (Expletive) Kill You (this sanitized version of the title comes courtesy of Postmedia, not the band) is a furiously loud, timely and appropriately rage-filled challenge to those who prey on the vulnerable, something the band deems as offensively unCanadian.
“It’s actually one of the earlier tracks on there,” says vocalist Mark Russell, who wrote the song. “That song is about people bullying other people and bullying takes all forms and that song is dedicated to anybody who wants to think they’re tough bullying people around, especially right now where we have a lot of people bullying people of colour and we’re not going to stand for that. No way, this is Canada. We’re going to meet you with full anger if people want to be racist or ignorant.”
The four tracks on Black, which is the sixth of the band’s colour-coded EPs, all possess a potent mix of fury and social issue topics that befit both our troubled times and a band calling itself Citizen Rage.
Another song, Sustain, was penned by bassist Mikey Bastard and tackles mental health issues, specifically the panic attacks he suffers from.
“We all have our personal mental health issues and we want to make people know that it’s normal to have them and that there are other people that do have them,” Russell says. “A lot of our tracks are like that.”
Formed in 2014, Russell says the band’s focus from day one was to call out injustice and inequality, whether it be songs about racism and police brutality on the previously released Green EP or the rage-against-the-machine sentiments found on the self-explanatory Corporate Rape, found on the Yellow EP. Both of those EPs were released in 2017, but seem to have become all the more urgent these past few months as racial injustice and police brutality made headlines in 2020.
Similarly, the band’s focus on destigmatizing mental illness is likely to resonate with listeners living through the isolation of the pandemic right now.
“We actually have another eight recorded,” Russell says. “But we put these four out and they match today’s scene.”
While hardcore punk and thrash metal may seem to thrive on a certain stylistic consistency, Citizen Rage represents an evolution for Russell in the music scene. He also co-founded Calgary Beer Core more than 15 years ago with Jim Martin, a punk and metal production and promotion company that has helped unite the scene.
Before Citizen Rage, Russell fronted BDFM — Beer Drinking Fighting Machine — which tended to focus on the considerably less-serious fare, albeit with the same penchant for fast and loudly virtuosic musicianship.
“We were young and writing songs about drinking and fighting all the time,” Russell says. “I got sick of it.”
Sick of writing about it, or sick of living it?
“Both,” he says. “So with Citizen Rage, we wanted to make sure this was a proper platform, that we had a proper podium that people are actually paying attention to. Singing about piss and sh-t jokes and fighting all night gets old.”
Black also marks the formal sendoff for two of Citizen Rage’s members. This is the final EP featuring founding drummer Jdogg and guitarist Kevin Bronson, who have been replaced by drummer Chase Hamilton and guitarists Ross Ferguson and Sean Adam.
The band’s Facebook page certainly reflects their commitment to social justice and looking out for the little guy. Among the posts is a reminder that Dec. 10 is Human Rights Day. In late November, the band also made a plea on behalf of a blind pet rat name Clinton, who needed some expensive veterinary care. So the band promoted a Go Fund Me campaign for him. Clinton’s owner is a friend of Mikey Bastard.
“We try to give as much help as we can to our peers and community,” Russell says. “Anybody who needs that stuff, we’ll share it on our page.”
“The majority of our work in Citizen Rage is charity work,” he adds with a laugh.
Black is now available on Bandcamp and other streaming services.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020