Let’s start this article with a history lesson. In my sleepy little hometown, located 90 minutes and change outside of Toronto, there’s not much of a lively music scene, be it metal or otherwise. Sure we have the odd singer/songwriter or two, and our town was home to the Lovecraftian abomination known as The Kents, but good bands are few and far between. Yet in the early 2000s, only a short distance away in the neighbouring town of Oshawa, two young bands are making quite the name for themselves with energetic live performances and fresh, frantic sounds: Protest the Hero and Hail the Villain (notice how the names correspond?). While Protest the Hero went on to find international success, Hail the Villain never quite did. Despite putting out a single, kick-ass album, they never made it as big as they should have, and with the departure of vocalist Bryan Crouch in 2011, the fate of the band seemed to be sealed.
Fortunately, in 2012, Bryan returned with his shiny new band Six Side Die, retaining much of what made Hail the Villain so great, but this time with a more punk-oriented sound. Now, two EPs and one album into their career, Six Side Die offer their third and most ambitious EP yet: Schadenfreude, a single 22-minute-long song about Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.
Punk rock bands, even metal-influenced ones, aren’t typically renowned for their ability to write long compositions, and under the guiding hand of a lesser band Schadenfreude surely would have collapsed under its own weight. But Six Side Die have managed to create a single, compelling, multi-movemented track with peaks and valleys, multiple moving parts, and a whole lot of heart that stands as a testament to their songwriting abilities.
Opening with some lightly plucked clean guitar, the first minute of the song is dedicated to setting the mood. Things quickly pick up, as the song explodes into action with the line “YOU’RE A DREAMER, A SCHEMER AND YOU LIVE IN SPITE!” From there on out, it’s a wild ride of riffs, hooks and moshworthy moments of pure hard rock bliss.
The song’s second movement is the also fastest, putting the focus squarely on lightning fast riffs and catchy vocal hooks. Conceptually, it establishes the rivalry between Tesla and Edison, as well as Tesla’s ambitious nature. With some subtly fantastic drum fills setting the pace, it’s a perfect introduction to the rest of the song, as many of the lines in movement two find themselves repeated elsewhere in the track. Transitioning into movement three with the line “This greed that surrounds you is all that you hold to, all that surrounds you as men,” it’s clear that things are about to get more intense.
Movement three represents a heated debate between the two characters, with Crouch adopting a more arrogant swagger in his voice for his portrayal of Edison, while Tesla’s lines are supported by layered vocals backed by airy guitar tones. Towards the back end of movement three, we’re treated to an almost 100 second long guitar solo that makes my fingers weep just thinking about playing it. The end of the movement represents Tesla inventing the electronic light, and Edison taking credit for it.
Movement four introduces some delightfully chunky riffs, as things begin to heat up story-wise. out of all the song’s various movements, this is one of the most aggressive. The balls-out swagger of the riffs coupled with Crouch’s more aggressive vocals make for one of the EP’s most compelling moments, and story-wise this represents a final confrontation between Edison and Tesla.
Unfortunately, it’s at this point that the EP begins to drag a little. Extended instrumental sections and riff repetition make movement six is my least favourite slice of the EP. It fades away to some forlorn clean guitar strumming, and when I first listened to Schadenfreude. Six Side Die caught me off guard by making me think that I had just listened to the end of the EP. Fortunately, after a few seconds of silence, the clean guitar picking returns, this time more energetic and lively. This marks the beginning of movement seven, my favourite bit of the EP.
Movement seven represents Tesla realizing that future generations will look back on him fondly, and that history will vindicate him, and he delivers his final message to the world. It’s an empowering, uplifting, and overall rad-as-all-fuck way to end the EP, and the band truly go all out. Militaristic drumming is introduced at the beginning of the movement, and builds into one of the most intense moments on the album, as instrument after instrument gradually join the fray before Bryan lays waste to all in his path with the best vocal performance Schadenfreude has to offer, finishing the song strong. After movement seven, the song fades away to 25 seconds of “Claire de Lune” as played by an old gramophone. It’s a classy touch, and one that really tied the whole thing together nicely.
Schadenfreude is a uniquely ambitious piece. Other bands such as Insomnium, Gorguts, and most recently Bell Witch have played around with the long-form single song format, but Six Side Die managed to pull of something unique by crafting a compelling 22-minute long punk tune. While movement six sees the band lose a lot of their hard-earned momentum, movement seven sees them gain it back in majestic fashion, softening the blow of the EP’s biggest flaw. It’s not often enough that I get to talk about local acts, especially not good ones, so I feel somewhat proud of Six Side Die. This EP probably won’t launch them into superstardom, but with Schadenfreude, they’ve become hometown heroes in my eyes.
You can purchase Schadenfreude from all digital retailers.