Kryptic Conquer All at Stratford’s 2011 High School Battle of the Bands
This past Friday night I found myself sitting at the judges’ table at the annual Stratford high school Battle of the Bands competition, an event that takes place each year coinciding with the arrival of the Fall Fair and all the carnie-induced mischief that comes along with it.
Under the lights of the almost full sized ferris wheel and within ear shot of carnival barkers tempting people into trying to win a variety of crudely fabricated stuffed prizes modelled after penguins or what can only be described as sickly, probably rabid dogs on their last legs, this year’s Battle of the Bands (featuring the talent of the students from Stratford’s three area high schools) once again made its home at the Stratford Rotary Complex. By day, this facility is usually home to a more sporting crowd-hockey players and the like. On this night, though, the ice was covered and the venue taken over by seven local bands and their friends, family, and of course, fans.
There were a few things that left a lasting impression with both me and my fellow judges that night, which also included local musician Gerry Reynolds and Brittlestar‘s pop maestro Stewart Reynolds (no relation, just kinda weird that in a town of 30 000 people we get two judges with the same last name). One was the crazy amount of talent on display in front of us. Granted, some of the acts were obviously better than others, but what some of the bands lacked in musical ability they more than made up for in showmanship (hey, people didn’t go see the Sex Pistols because they could play their instruments, right?). Secondly, for a city that has now forever been branded with the Justin Bieber uber-pop label, there was a refreshing lack of it onstage this particular night. In fact, it was quite the opposite. For the most part what we heard was heavy, loud, and perfectly suited for the mosh pits that often formed during sets. And with covers from artists like the Meat Puppets, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Dead Milkmen, it’s safe to say the bands on this particular night were taking their musical cues from the heyday of nineties rock and not what’s dominating the charts today.
And speaking of heavy, it was Kryptic, a four piece outfit with an affinity for Black Sabbath and Megadeth, that demonstrated they had what it takes to earn the title of Best Band this year. The members of Kryptic (Brady Lewis on guitar and vocals, Braeden Dill on guitar, Eric Hawley on drums and Ryan Campbell on bass) are all great players on their respective instruments, and together they combined for a tight and explosive set that kept throwing dynamic curveballs at the audience and had the kids in attendance quite literally banging their heads. I was truly amazed at the complexity of the songs these guys had written, and while they tell me it’s usually Lewis or Dill that start off the songwriting process with a basic riff, it’s then built upon by the entire group until they flesh out a complete number. All of this takes place during their twice weekly rehearsals in Lewis’ garage, at least when they’re not being shut down by the local police because of noise complaints from the neighbours. Besides having the deadly duelling guitars of Lewis and Dill leading the way, they also have one of the tightest drum and bass combos I’ve heard in a while, with Hawley and Campbell in perfect synchronization with one another. No small feat, considering the start/stop/start/stop/ half time/double time/straight time arrangements of their songs. In fact, I left the night with Hawley as my overall favourite drummer.
If Kryptic has an achilles heel, it’s the vocals of Lewis, which lack the ‘oomph’ needed to compete with the substantial wall of sound being generated by the band behind him. Because of this, Kryptic are holding off on releasing their debut EP, which they tell me is finished except for the vocals and which they are hoping they will be able to record with a stronger singer. Once that happens, Kryptic might just become an official musical juggernaut.
Below you can check out the track Fight of Your Life from a performance earlier this year at the Chrysalids Theatre in Kitchener. After that you’ll find Valley of Euphoriah from a gig in London. Kryptic will also be performing in Stratford this Friday, September 30, at the New Era Coffee House.