“Pure evil seeping out of Barrie, Ontario.” These are the choice words used by the band Loöse to describe their metal mandate. Combining elements of thrash, death metal, black metal, and punk, the five-piece prefer to stick to the label “heavy metal” to encompass their sound; a sound that bears influence from traditional metal of leather-laden ages past in equal balance with present-day heavy music pioneers including Midnight, Lowest Creature, and Power Trip.
Loöse’s genre bending allows them to fit into an array of heavy lineups which is how they found themselves on a bill at The Queens Hotel alongside the Southern Ontario punk bands Heavy Petter, Hysterics, and Drugwolf on July 16th.
After losing The Foxx Rock Bar during the pandemic, metal had to search for a new home in Barrie. That was where The Queens house booker Gillian Dorella-Scott stepped in to offer Thursday and Sunday nights for bands to play shows in the downtown building’s club space. Loöse spoke of their deep gratitude towards Dorella-Scott, describing her as “the heartbeat of the music community” in Barrie. “The Queens is nice because it’s an attempt to keep a smaller town’s local music scene alive,” added Ben Flewelling, the bassist of the Barrie groove metal band Overcrook which also features two members of Loöse.
As their set time approached on Sunday night, Loöse positioned their instruments amongst a growing collection of stage props crafted by the band. Acidic green light flooded over an upright coffin marked with the scythe “L” from their logo. Nearby, a headless mannequin dripped with red paint, the song title “Lust Till Blood” scrawled across its chest.
The crowd of showgoers spanned across ages young and old, and parted as fans donning Loöse t-shirts rushed to claim a spot at the front before the set began. Despite it being only their second hometown show, it was clear that the band have already made a name for themselves in the Barrie community.
By 7:30pm, Loöse was set to unleash a heavy metal revival upon The Queens Hotel. The members filed onto the stage in a mass of band shirts and long hair, with vocalist Skyler Bergsma channelling 80s thrash in his bullet belt and cut-up top, heavily armoured with chains and studs.
Without introduction the band erupted into their unreleased song “Grimoire” in a fury of speed and aggression, playing so loudly they could be felt just as much as heard. Between summoning tormented screams from the nether world, Bergsma called for a mosh pit and was met with immediate obedience.
The band wove a web of undeniable chemistry between the five of them, earned through years spent as childhood friends and roommates, as well as bandmates. “We’ve all known each other for so long that I’m not embarrassed to do weird shit in front of them on stage,” shared Bergsma in an interview after the show, “and I like to think they all feel the same.”
After praising the other bands on the bill and the promoter Ryan Hilton, Loöse tore into “Born to Die”, a dirge of destruction from their Split EP with the Toronto/Barrie death doom band Ethereal Tomb. Amongst the equally focused precision of both guitarists and the barreling double kick of the drums, Nick Ljubicic delivered spellbinding bass flourish as both of his hands effortlessly danced up and down the neck of his instrument.
Despite Loöse’s sinister stage attitude, cracks of how much fun they were truthfully having began to shine through into the second song. Bandmates’ smiles unearthed as they jokingly bumped into each other and interacted with Rory Procyk, a devoted friend and photographer of the band.
Peak performance moments came during “Turn to Dust”, a groove-filled track from Loöse’s most recent EP, Death & Destruction. With this song, the band offered up their filthiest riffs to the moshpit, as supplied by the stoic string master Dean Carreiro. Bergsma mirrored the EP cover with his arm grasped upwards as if conjuring demons as he released flesh-melting cries, bolstered with backing vocals from Ljubicic.
Loöse’s first single release “Death Dealer” came next, and was highlighted by its climactic false ending followed by sustained bloodthirsty screams that made Bergsma deserving of the title “Prince of Darkness” described in the song’s lyrics.
Carreiro and fellow guitarist Riley Yandt both wore consumed expressions and closed eyes while simultaneously headbanging in sync with each other from opposite ends of the stage. Drummer Jeff Burbidge kept the tempo at a constant charge and adapted well after having to change his technique playing on a higher kit and down two toms. Crowd members exchanged impressed glances, and when the band asked if everyone was having fun, the answer was unanimous.
“Lust Till Blood”, another unreleased track, marked the second half of the set and was when Loöse made their performance truly memorable. The unsuspecting crowd instantly opened to make way for a pit, and each mosher wore their enjoyment proudly on their sweaty faces.
Mid-way through the song, Bergsma faced his back to the audience briefly before turning around to reveal the stream of stage blood that now leaked from his mouth, coated his neck and dripped through the rips in his shirt down his chest. As if having received infernal power from a blood ceremony, the vocalist’s performance reached new levels of volatility as red dotted the stage.
Bergsma commented on the stunt after the show saying, “Tonight was a cool step. A lot of bands I love from the 80s get heavy with the theatrics and the fake blood like WASP and King Diamond but I don’t see a lot of younger bands doing it.” Ljubicic added, “It catches you off guard and it’s what people were talking about after and what they’ll remember.”
Still slick with blood, Loöse followed up with another unreleased song, “Rot in Heaven…Reign in Hell” which showcased the brazen dark poetry of Bergsma’s lyrics. With themes of death, suffering, and annihilation, Loöse continues to prove their ability to centralize these topics not simply for shock value, but with depth and intention.
Their setlist that evening also featured a rousing cover of “Prowling Leather” by the Cleveland blackened speed metal band Midnight. Influences of Midnight’s groove and sleaze are evident across Loöse’s work, making the cover a congruent fit for them.
Even in an air-conditioned venue, the sheen of sweat that hung over the room was evidence of how much movement Loöse’s music was commanding. They closed out the set with another monstrous unreleased track called “Forsaken Fallacy”, using their last minutes on stage to play at full force. The rhythm section was relentless as Ljubicic shredded on bass while leaned over the drumkit that Burbidge was pounding into the ground. Carreiro oscillated in waves of full-bodied guitar playing as if possessed by the sounds he made, and Yandt channelled the spirit of Dimebag Darrell as he drew biting whammy bar squeals from his guitar. Not a soul in the room stood still.
As the final chords rang out, muffled by avid applause, two front-row disciples dropped to their knees to bow down in worship of what they had witnessed. The crowd appeared blissfully exhausted as the set’s momentum was unstoppable and the energy never wavered.
When asked about his impressions of the performance, Rory Procyk shared that he thought it was one of the top two shows Loöse has ever played. “They’re stepping it up with the theatrics and really coming into their own,” he continued. “They’re reviving the true essence of metal; the grassroots of it. They bring the groove, the energy, the moshing, and I think they’re one of the best bands doing it.” Procyk described his reasoning for being such a loyal supporter of the band as: “They love it and they do it for the love, and they’ll play in front of thirty people or over a hundred people and they’ll still step it up no matter what. I see them jam in their basement and they still bring it.”
The “Loöse House” as it is fondly called, serves as rehearsal space, gear storage, and home to most of the members, and was where the band sat down to recount the show and to muse about the future. Looking ahead, Bergsma revealed that the band is only a few tracks off from being ready to record a full-length album. “I’m really liking the direction we’re going,” he added – a direction which the band described as “evil, fast, heavy and groovy.” Ljubicic piped in to further the description saying, “Thrash with a Lemmy tone,” in reference to the late Motörhead vocalist. At this, their living room bubbled with laughter as the band’s tough exteriors softened in the comfort of each other’s company, contented after a night spent spreading the heavy metal gospel.
Photos courtesy of Rory Procyk