Flying Fortress is a two-piece band consisting of Brandon Wars (vocals/bass) and Steelrider (drums/vocals), hailing from Pembroke, Ontario — a small city located about an hour and a half’s drive northeast of Ottawa, Ontario. Being a bass-drum combo, you might immediately think of other two-piece Canadian bands, such as Death from Above 1979, and, especially, Japandroids. However, Flying Fortress is really a scuzzier and fuzzier version of the latter, with generally shorter songs. Taking inspiration from everything from thrash metal to Black Sabbath-y stoner riffs, their debut full-length, Dirty Rain, which culls material from two previous EPs and includes new songs, is definitely all over the map stylistically. That’s both a good thing (for variety’s sake) and a not so good thing (Flying Fortress is still somewhat developing a signature sound).
However, whatever Dirty Rain’s minor deficiencies — I got my review copy on vinyl and the side enders don’t quite feel like side enders — you have to admit that this is fast (well, sometimes), furious, fun stuff. The group doesn’t really adhere to a formula, and some of this has the manic energy of punk rock. It’s definitely somewhat different as I don’t quite think I’ve heard anything like this, and not quite the sort of thing you would expect to emerge from the Ottawa Valley, which is known for its country-rock and folk scenes. So, kudos to Wars and Steelrider for colouring outside the lines and doing something entirely against the grain. Plus, for a crusty thrash rock outfit, they certainly have a melodic side — there are clear riffs and memorable songs in the low-end sound. Bonus points, too, for engineering, producing and recording everything themselves and making it sound entirely hummable. This isn’t some sort of bedroom indie rock project; this is meaty rock with balls. If you like Japandroids but wish they played louder, harder and faster, Flying Fortress certainly will be the kind of thing to fix you up.