Welcome to the funhouse

Exploring the underground metal scene in Halifax

The sensation of the bass pounding through the walls is immediate. The hue of coloured lights outlines the residue from the smoke machine. The floor is covered in miscellaneous jackets and spilled liquor. A horde of people surround the band as reciprocal screams transfer between the singer and the audience. Thrashing into one another, the smiles never waver from their faces.

This may sound like a bar or club downtown, but that’s not the case. This is a two-story home on the outskirts of Dartmouth known as The Funhouse; and it is the epitome of Halifax’s underground metal scene. Halifax is regarded as a cultural landscape that both breeds and supports artists, but there is a closeted demographic that is now emerging into the mainstream of the city: metal enthusiasts.

“The beards, bullet belts and beers may look unwelcoming, but when you talk to these people they’re super friendly,” says Ben Banks, drummer of local trash metal band Dumpster Mummy and homeowner of the Funhouse.

According to Banks, the current metal scene in Halifax has been around for about twenty years, with bands like Hellacaust and Black Moor. Dumpster Mummy has been heavily involved with the realm of Halifax metal music since their debut in 2011 as one of many independent metal acts.

There are only a few venues that will host metal shows in Halifax, including – but not limited to – Charlie’s Club on Cunard Street and Gus’ Pub on Agricola Street. The acts usually find themselves in bars, playing somewhere between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.

The lack of representation was the original intent behind the Funhouse and other band-made venues, typically in the homes of popular bands using their own equipment as a means of networking. However, these once-private residences have become a hotspot for local metal performances. Despite the mainstream music scene in the HRM tailoring mostly to indie, folk and traditional Celtic music, it’s a quintessential time to be a metal fan in the Maritime province.

“The community is just amazing,” Banks says, “as a whole it’s beyond welcoming. The nicest people I know are the people I see out at shows.”

The loyal fan base in Halifax is what has allowed for the steady growth of local metal bands such as Dumpster Mummy to be nominated for and even win East Coast Music awards and Nova Scotia Music awards.

Regardless of the limitations associated with existing in a genre outside of the Haligonian norm, there is still potential in the Halifax community. The metal subculture is becoming more mainstream as time passes, leaving the opportunity for the expansion of this genre in music-based events.

“I think the scene was created simply because in any town or city you look you’ll find some weird kids that like weird music and then want to start a weird band. Once a band starts, somebody will want to follow,” said Banks.

Halifax, welcome to the Funhouse.

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