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The thrill of the Hunt 

Big Game Hunt’s debut CD means good things for the band and local rock, writes Johnston Farrow.

The Halifax hard rock scene just got better. After a line-up shuffle, various part-time jobs to pay for recording and years of songwriting, the members of Big Game Hunt are set to unleash their debut of accomplished, riff-filled stoner rock, The Gods Drink Whiskey, on an unsuspecting public this Friday night.

“The boy bands when I was going to school were Slayer and Metallica,” guitarist Roger Nelson says about his band’s influences over a glass of beer at the Propeller Brewery. “That’s what everyone had on their t-shirts. It was kind of after the fact—we were doing it for a while, then Queens (of the Stone Age) came out and it was like, of course we like that. But at the same time, Kyuss was a bigger influence because we grew up with those records.”

The origin of Big Game Hunt—with other members vocalist Jordan Rose, guitarist Wayne Muise and drummer Matthew Duncanson—is rooted in the same late-’90s Yarmouth scene that produced parts of popular east coast rock bands Burnt Black, Wintersleep, Kary and Contrived. The members of Big Game Hunt considered the like-minded musicians in those groups close friends and often jammed together, largely because there wasn’t much else to do.

“Driving cars and smoking weed,” Duncanson says. “That’s what we did to pass time.”

“Smoke, drive cars and try to figure out how to make your guitars lower,” Nelson laughs. “You could go see a Yarmouth band and you’d basically find three bass guitars coming at you.”

Eventually all four members of Big Game Hunt found their way to Halifax where they got involved with other bands. Nelson plays in the alt-country band Deerfield; Duncanson and Muise have Science the Band, a math rock act; and Nelson and Duncanson play in the classic metal incarnation Third Sixth. But Big Game Hunt shares more similarities to the sound of the Yarmouth scene, mostly in the way the songs are written and the intensity with which they are played.

“The strongest point is this sort of thing that you’ll find most frequently with Yarmouth bands, is this tendency to always tune real low and take advantage of the ‘drop D’ tuning structure,” Nelson says. “We don’t have anything that’s not written on the guitar in that fashion, which is how we’ve always tuned the guitars for over 10 years now. It works for us and we just like the sound.”

The final line-up of the band came together two and a half years ago after former Burnt Black drummer Neil MacKenzie left to start a life back in Yarmouth. Duncanson stepped in behind the kit for his former roommate.

“We were rehearsing where Matt lives and he had heard every rehearsal that we had ever done, not to mention that he was an old friend and good drummer,” Nelson says. “It was a natural progression. The first rehearsal it was like, let’s play that song, now let’s play that song.”

The group produced The Gods Drink Whiskey on their own with Muise and Nelson having experience behind the soundboard. The members intended the album—named after a late-night drinking/jam session—to be used as a strong four-song demo, but the project morphed into a full-length based on the strength of the tracks they had been playing for nearly four years in some form or another.

“As we kept going it was like, ‘Geez, this is going good,’” Nelson says. “Next thing you know, there were no songs that needed to be dropped. The ones that weren’t up to par, we didn’t bother to record. We were like, ‘We’ve put so much into it now, so we might as well see it through.”

The group has plans to tour the Maritimes and record another album. Duncanson also points out that the songwriting for the next project will embrace a more balanced rock approach, although they are quick to point out that a large cross-section of music fans can get into their latest.

“It’s not music that only metalheads or rock lovers would like,” Duncanson smiles. “Anyone from a headbanger to Dome people will enjoy it. We try to have something for everybody.”

Big Game Hunt w/Fedpennies and Phlegethon, January 27 at The Attic, 1741 Grafton, 11pm, $5, 423-0909.

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