Review: Higher Rites — Refusenik

Bands form, bands play shows and release albums, and then bands break up.  That’s the reality of being an indie band, anywhere.

In the current music landscape, the life expectancy for a band seems shorter than ever.  Sometimes they don’t even get around to releasing an album.  But even bands who have garnered success seem to fall victim to this.  Recently in Toronto we’ve seen Oh No Forest Fires, Beth in Battle Mode, Arietta, Cool Dad, Burn Planetarium, and so many other cool bands who had received press and buzz break up, all for their own reasons.

Another band that went that way was Ottawa’s For the Mathematics, an excellent band with a loyal following not just locally but all over the place.  I still regularly see people at the bar rockin’ For the Mathematics shirts.  While that band did pack it in, what is so exciting about Higher Rites is that they’ve risen from those ashes to keep the spirit of For the Mathematics alive — with some new band members and in an entirely new way.  Make no mistake, Higher Rites is a new band, but they are a new band with a core who have some unfinished business to take care of.  You can hear that urgency in their debut Refusenik.

The band features two prominent members of For the Mathematics and Ryan Roantree (drummer for Ten Kens).  After a few shows around town, Higher Rites put a halt on playing with a goal to get a high-quality recording together as soon as possible.  It took a while, but Refusenik is here and it a great recording of lush, dark and heavy indie rock with infinite tempo changes, from a slow brooder right into an intense rocker and back again without ever seeming too abrupt.

That’s perhaps best exemplified on “Roto” which starts slow and leads into a guitar riff that could well be in the next big dance-rock song.  It’s like listening to the Rapture if the Rapture decided to rock the fuck out, and it works. It works really well — even better the louder you crank it.

This song leads into the track that originally got me into Higher Rites, “Res Mea.” If the band had a single, my guess is this would be it.  It captures what they are going for: intense heavy indie rock where you can almost feel the urgency exploding through your speakers.  It has that anthemic quality that the best heavy rock songs capture.

If you like your rock heavy without being garage, punk or metal, there aren’t a lot of great local bands out there doing it all that well right now.  Higher Rites seem up to the task with Refusenik. As a matter of personal preference, I would like to see them try to additionally develop the sound they nail on “Roto” and use it more often throughout the record as a change of pace, but that might be a personal music taste issue on my part.

Regardless, Refusenik is well worth your listening time.  We are streaming my personal favourite “Roto” on the site right now; if you want to check out the whole album all you need to do is follow this link ( and you can grab it for the affordable price of free.

STREAM — “Roto” by Higher Rites




1 Comment

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One response to “Review: Higher Rites — Refusenik

  1. great record, glad it finally saw the light of day last year!. thanks,

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