Everyone has heard the clichéd success story of a rock or metal band starting out in a friend’s basement and eventually making it onto the big stage.
For Calgary-based metal band Divinity, however, the story is not about fame or fortune. Instead, it is about the relentless pursuit of authenticity through lifelong experimentation with metal.
Founded by Sean Jenkins and James Duncan in 1997, Divinity’s music is best described as a mix of thrash, death, and progressive metal. From Calgary’s Battle of the Bands to their first record deal with Nuclear Blast Records in 2007, producing music for the sake of music has become more than simply the group’s motto — it has become their trademark.
In Western Canada, however, the cost of producing metal music is often as heavy as the style itself.
Being a metal band in Canada is “nothing but challenging,” says Duncan, who plays guitar in Divinity. “The internet has killed the mystery of music … the best metal bands in this part of the world aren’t making money,” he says.
Rather than making money during their tours, Divinity, like most Canadian metal bands, spends any earnings on tour expenses. “We do this because we love it,” Duncan explains. Outside the band, each member simultaneously works in an unrelated industry, from custom metal fabrication to construction.
Yet an artist’s music is only as valuable as the crowd’s appreciation of it, and the members of Divinity put connecting with their audience above everything else — including the big stage.
“We still get our opportunity to do the big stuff, but the smaller shows allow us to do what we want to do … to play music and to play it well,” Duncan says.
Despite transitioning from a Metallica-inspired style to “full-on death metal” in its early years, the legendary band remains a major source of inspiration. “It is where me and my brother Brett got our start in heavy metal, as well as Sean and Jeff,” Duncan says.
Many years and three albums later, the band is on its 24th tour, presenting a triple album called Immortality. It’s something for metal fans to “dig their teeth into.”
The band performed at the Mercury Room in September, alongside Immunize, Skepsis, and Expain. Duncan notes how underestimated these smaller shows can be.
“While the number of people at the smaller shows may not be as big,” Duncan says, “the smaller shows can be the crazy shows, where everyone really wants some crazy metal by the end of the night — and we give it to them.”
For Divinity, the authenticity of music always comes first. “Fans of music can see right through something that is fake,” explains Duncan. “But you can’t substitute the truth.”
The Mercury Room was transformed by Divinity’s presence, as fans were given a chance to connect with the intense performance up close and to lose themselves in the thick and heavy sound of Immortality that Divinity is eager to share with the crowd.