What better way to ring in a new series featuring local music reviews than to explore Canadian punk-rock icon and Rocky View County resident Art Bergmann’s newest release?
Bergmann’s new eight-track album, released by Weewerk Records on May 21, is a breath of fresh air during a time of so much continued uncertainty. Late Stage Empire Dementia, as the album is called, is also his first full-length album since 2016’s The Apostate.
For those unfamiliar with Bergmann's work, he has been making waves in the music scene in Canada since the 1970s, first seeing success with the band Young Canadians. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Bergmann became an important figure in the alternative music scene, and also won the Juno Award for Best Alternative Rock Album in 1996.
He has pulled no punches with his latest album, continuing with his anti-establishment take on modern issues that society continues to face.
The album starts off with the track "Entropy." Riddled with guitar sounds reminiscent of more punk-rock dominated times, Bergmann’s lyrics carry the listener to a distant place as he releases his inner thoughts to the world.
When contacted to discuss his new album, Bergmann had few words to describe it, but insisted listeners should pay attention to the lyrics.
“All of the words I wanted to say are on there,” he said. “People should listen to them and reflect on them. Listen to it hard. If you need a dictionary, feel free.”
The follow-up track, titled "Christo-Fascists," is about as rough and rugged as it gets musically, and I mean that in the best way possible.
“Christo-Fascists, making deals with Nazis, putting kids in cages,” Bergmann sings during the chorus of the song, letting you know right away the confrontational subject matter and meaning he packs behind his words.
The song covers the disenfranchised and the hardships many before have gone through and takes aim at the powers responsible.
Continuing with political themes, the album’s third track – "Your Second Amendment" – offers a much slower and acoustic touch, covering the issue of gun control.
As the album carries on, Bergmann continues with an intense and powerful display of incredible instrumentation backed up by lyrics that stick with you long after the album is finished.
Tracks like "La Mort De L’ancien Regime," (French for The Death of the Old Regime), tell you all you need to know about what is in store for the album, although it is critically important to take in everything Bergmann is saying.
As a whole, with tracks like "Amphetamine Alberta," the nearly 10-minute self-titled track "Late Stage Empire Dementia" and the rest of the album are an important body of work to take in – whether you align with Bergmann’s anti-establishment beliefs or not.
During a time when so much is politically charged and polarized, having artists like Bergmann who draw a line in the sand and tell you where they stand has never been more important.
Being able to speak your mind and talk about the difficulties people have faced and will continue to face is important for the arena of public discourse. There will certainly be a few people who may not understand or agree with the positions Bergmann takes in his music, but he, along with everyone else, deserves to be heard.
Bergmann, who was named to the Order of Canada at the end of 2020, has returned with a vengeance. During a previous story I wrote about him for our sister paper, the Rocky View Weekly, he told me he wasn’t even sure if he would be able to find a label to release his new album on.
Punk-rock lovers everywhere can rejoice at such an honest, pure, and intense effort from a legend of the genre.