BANFF – The last thing most people think about when you mention an instrumental fingerstyle guitar album is probably heavy metal, but Banff’s Kasey Nolan is happy to test the boundaries of musical orthodoxy with his latest release The Voiceless.
“Even though its fully acoustic, my music has always been inspired by my love of metal,” said Nolan. “A lot of the main influences for this album are rooted in progressive metal and black metal, which are two of my favourite genres.”
For his sophomore effort, Nolan has explored a darker and more emotional path than on his first album No Words Needed. Released in 2019, that record leaned toward a cheerful and happy vibe by comparison, but going to where the music leads is part of the process for Nolan. If bridging gaps between musical styles is what’s called for, then so be it.
“I feel like a lot of the elements from those genres do come out in this album. I think many of the metal-heads listening to it will be able to hear where that inspiration comes from.”
Originally from Edmonton, the 30-year-old has been in Banff for 15 years. He played drums to start, and then picked up the guitar shortly after, but it’s only been in the last seven or eight years that he’s taken his music more seriously. There was even a two-year span where Nolan rarely played his guitar.
“I can’t really tell you what reignited that spark,” he said. “It just kind of happened.”
Gigs at venues such as Good Earth, the Elk and Oarsman and Bruno’s helped hone Nolan’s skills. As he waded back into music, it was his work as a concert promoter that further exposed him to the metal stylings that ultimately influenced this record.
Nolan brought up and coming punk and metal bands to the stages of the Bow Valley as the primary promoter and event organizer at Beauty in Chaos Productions, and he had a big hand in 2019's Canmore Alternative Metal and Punk Fest at artsPlace.
“The stereotype about that kind of music is that it’s just noise,” Nolan said. “People think there’s no melody, there’s no structure, and that’s not true at all. Most of the bands I listen to are extremely melodic and very progressive and are skilled musically.”
Mainstream audiences often take the genres at face value and don’t try to get into what the music means or what it represents, and instrumental music faces some of the same challenges in getting broader acceptance from the general public.
“I understand a lot of people enjoy lyrics they can listen to, relate to and sing along to. I like that as well,” Nolan said, but also noted that when he’s creating it’s the music that comes forward for him. “Instrumental music can still tell stories, it can still take you on a journey ... each of my songs has a theme or a story to tell on its own, even though there are no words.”
The Voiceless has a total of eight tracks and is available for streaming or purchase on the Bandcamp website. Originally imagined with a ninth song, Nolan chose instead to release one of his personal favourites, “In the Embrace of Death (A Side Story),” on its own, and as a bonus track on an upcoming CD version of the album.
Track 4, “Children of the Skull,” and Track 5, “Summer’s Gloom” fall into the standard three to five-minute radio play range, but most of the songs are seven or eight minutes long and the concept album is designed to be played in the entirety to get the full effect. Nolan also uses unconventional song structures and odd-time signatures to help instill a progressive vibe to the work.
The opening track, called “Fractured,” is infused with Spanish and Middle-Eastern influences. It introduces the listener to Nolan’s creative flair and includes a minor-key twist on a well-known melody.
Track 3, “Transient Town and the Journey Beyond” is a two-part song meshed into one and is inspired by the experience of mountain town living for the short-term resident. “When Frost Falls” came about during the recording process and wasn’t originally intended to be on the album. It includes a melody written over a decade ago for a black metal project that never came to fruition.
“The themes on this album involve emotion, darkness, depression, journeys, revelations, hopefulness, isolation, embrace, and escape,” Nolan said.
“There’s one song to reflect each of those things, while they are all also encompassed in the entire album ... I wrote it with the intention of it being one progressive piece.”
The Voiceless was recorded over the course of two days at Omen Studios in Banff, and Matt Homeniuk mastered and produced the record, which was released on Jan. 31. Visit kaseynolan.bandcamp.com for more information on Kasey Nolan, his back catalogue including singles and EPs, and the new album.