Propagandhi: Worth the wait
It took Propagandhi five years to release a follow-up to 2012’s Failed States, but for fans Victory Lap was worth the wait. The Winnipeg-based progressive thrash band played shows sporadically since winding up its last tour in the summer of 2013, making a major personnel change along the way when guitarist David “The Beaver” Guillas left the band in 2015 to focus on teaching. Longtime Propagandhi fan Sulynn Hago caught the band’s attention and made her debut with as the newest member at a pair of hometown shows in December. The guitarist from Tampa Bay fit in with the Canadians from the first rehearsal, solidifying Propagandhi’s future of political proselytizing for years to come.
Propagandhi originated as a trio 31 years ago, although the bond between singer-guitarist-singer Chris Hannah and drummer Jord Samolesky dates back further. Exposure to punk and hardcore bands espousing radical worldviews transformed the Canadian metalheads, and after hooking up with a bassist they began building a song catalog addressing the spectrum of leftist causes. Although Propagandhi would sign with independent punk label Fat Wreck Chords by the mid-’90s, its focus on personal political responsibility set it apart from that label’s roster of acts that came up in SoCal’s hard-partying surf, skate and snowboard scenes.
Propagandhi’s sound began to stand out more and more too, as the band members drew on their metal roots and the influence of the politically conscious thrash-metal/hardcore punk crossover bands of their youth became more conspicuous. Propagandhi were tighter musically and more urgent stylistically than much of their underground brethren, due in no small part to Samolesky’s propulsive drumming and Hannah’s increasingly complex riffage. Bassist Todd Kowalski came on board before the release of 2001’s Today's Empire, Tomorrow's Ashes, and by 2006 the band became a foursome after recruiting Guillas to double-up on power chords and add his own touches of nuance.
Hago adds those touches now and wound up contributing to nearly every song on Victory Lap, which was release on Epitaph Records in September. The Puerto Rican-born guitarist shares Hannah’s and Guillas’ fondness for power-chording through Gibson SG guitars, but she also colors the songs differently than her predecessor and, according to Hannah, adds an extra dimension of energy to the band’s live performance that makes Propagandhi more exciting to experience in concert. It’s safe to predict she’ll be on board long term, if the name of the band’s seventh studio album is not an indication that the end is near.
Victory Lap has become Propagandhi’s fastest selling album, reaching No. 68 on the Billboard 200 and infiltrating the Top Five Hard Rock and Independent Albums charts. Hannah is less concerned about chart positions that the idea that the band’s messages are reaching more listeners, although he was stoked to find out the title song from the new album was played during the Edmonton Oilers warm-up for this season’s opening night. With this kind of momentum and Hago kicking out the jams with her effervescent energy, Propagandhi could have many laps to go before crossing the finish line.
Hard Rock Hotel, 8 p.m. Nov. 16, starting at $21 plus tax and fee. 888.929.7849