Music Spotlight: The Combine

Prog-metal masters The Combine raise pulses and eyebrows with their highly anticipated second studio album, Void and Vessel


Herald readers may be unfamiliar with progressive-metal four piece The Combine. Perhaps the term ‘metal’ gives you hives, unless in reference to a scrap yard or body shop.  But, honestly, hear me out for a moment.

Endowed with God’s gift for churning out ridiculously slick grooves and rifts, the combination of Taylor Roberts, Mike Mercer, Matt Ball and Chris Reid are not your grand-daddy’s metal band. There isn’t mindless screams, erratic pacing, nonsensical lyrics.

Bay-Born Metal

No, this is the Da Vinci of bay-born metal, a peripheral master class of sonic cohesion, the type of work that you’d expect to hear mid-way through a European festival or accompanying a glossy-lit music video.

They are top-shelf and their forthcoming opus and sophomore followup to their lauded album Witness is a near three year in the making punch in the gut that aims to be soaked in by more than just your casual metal stalwart.

‘Big & Stupid’

Sitting in The Herald’s office, where the idiosyncrasies of a much-maligned genre are volleyed back and forth between author and artists, Mercer and Roberts dissect the much hyped album itself, Void and Vessel.

“My mentality with the songs coming up and how we’d stitch them all together is lets make them big and stupid,” Mercer laughs, though he’s modest in the size and scope of the eight-track album that looms large ahead of its August 25th release date.

“We’re all drastically better musicians at this point,” he adds. “What we listened to and what we’re into has evolved.”

There are metal influences that metal fans will tip the hat to – names like Mastodon, Opeth, Motorhead and Megadeth, even modern rock mainstays like Pink Floyd or Rush can see strands at isolated arrows of influence traced back to the St. John’s based quartet. Though make no mistake, The Combine have a song that defies imitation, and Void and Vessel is the brainchild of that attention to detail and aim for excellence.

Void & Vessel

That said, all parties involved are in this for the passion and shear fun of it, as evidence by Mercer’s tongue-and-cheek description of the album’s flow and feel.

“The tone is definitely filthier then it has been in the past. We really spent a lot of time making sure there was an adequate grime over everything.”

The band release the music video for the debut single of Void and Vessel, Victory Road, on August 12th in St. John’s. It is a rare showcase for a group who have made a habit out of only performing on rare occasion, driving up demand and adding a certain level of mystique.

“What we’re in the works of doing is every month or so putting together a real show where people can say, you know what? Let’s go to this. Let’s make sure our friends go to this because I don’t know when the next one will be,” Roberts shared, with the band noting a full-fledged album release show is expected for late September.

Naturally, making the plunge to get off the island, hit the road and tour is the next step for The Combine. Our island is a blessing and proverbial curse for any artist, in that as amazing the pedigree of musicians, and die-hard nature of the fan base, our lack of population and appropriate venues can prove to be a death-knell.

The Next Step

“The fan base in Newfoundland is awesome,” Roberts says. “They support you and come to shows, but the problem is the population. When you overexpose yourself it’s hard to get people to come to the same bars or areas or pockets of areas. But they’re fervorous, they love it.

“We’re a metal band but we also have moments where it’s completely on the other side,” he adds, explaining that the image the band promotes aims to transcend genre. “We try to book ourselves as not always being a ‘metal band,’ because you tell a promoter you’re a metal band and the first thing that goes into their heads are youngsters beating things up and puking on stuff. Our music is a lot more cerebral than that.”

The end-game, as it is for any artist worth their salt, is to hone their craft and reach the point where full-time touring is no longer a pipe dream. The band has micromanaged and built their brand to the point where the necessary growing pains are all but worked out.

“It’s hard to define what you’re going to call success,” Mercer shares. “To be able to go on a two month tour, a full national tour or even God-forbid international, into Trumps America, to have that be viable and not lose a bunch of money and have to pay off thousands of dollars in credit cards afterwards, that would be the benchmark of success. Food is a strong motivator – sustenance more-so than wealth.”

“If I never have to enter my home again and I’m just on tour in a bus or a plane or scooter for the rest of my life I will be ok with that,” Roberts laughs.

The Combine’s video release show takes place August 12th at The Rock House. ‘Void and Vessel’ is available August 25th. Visit for more. 

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