I first saw Beheading of a King play at a Misery Signals show in 2010. I really like Misery Signals, but I only went to the show because my friend's band was playing too. I also ran into the show promoter when I had $10 in my pocket and no real excuse to not buy a ticket. It's still the best show I've ever seen in this city. Misery Signals was great, Structures was really good and my friend's band wasn't even half-bad. Beheading of a King (BOAK) stole the show. They were fast, they were creative, they were loud, they had a great singer (Matt Paquette; there is a video from his YouTube account of him singing “Hallelujah” at the end of this post) and they were bone-jarringly heavy. It was a hell of a first impression.
About eight months later, the great singer hanged himself. He was 20. It was upsetting and sad for all the reasons it's always upsetting and sad when people are driven to suicide. It was confusing for all the reasons it's always confusing when young people achieving success in something they love commit suicide. As a selfish music fan, it was disappointing because it meant I wouldn't get to hear any new music from BOAK or Matt Paquette anymore.
Turns out, the selfish music fan was wrong. BOAK reshuffled their lineup, with guitarist Rick Patenaude taking over vocals, and and forged on. They're currently on a tour that brought them to Toronto last Wednesday; I wasn't able to make the trip and I wish I could have. They've also released a new record titled Quasar: Preserving Legacy, a seven-song EP that was recorded with Paquette.
From the moment the record opens, it's clear that this is a special band. “Quasar” displays all the creativity and brutal inventiveness that made me fall in love with BOAK last spring. “Bible Crumbles,” a song that was on their previous, self-titled EP but is re-recorded here, opens with Paquette viciously screaming “you know me” as the rest of the band kicks in. “Reclaim This Gold” builds itself into a desperate frenzy. Each song packs a devastating-yet-catchy punch, expertly toeing the line between layered complexity and overly cluttered.
Context matters as much as talent, though, and this record exists as a tribute to a fallen friend. What was once envisioned as a testament to BOAK’s musical well-roundedness is now a great record tinged with sadness. Quasar: Preserving Legacy is just as much about the love Patenaude and the rest of the BOAK boys feel for Paquette as it is about being an excellent piece of music, and that’s what makes this a truly special record.