Come for the drum kit, stay for the music

Grand Master is a progressive metal band - and they like it that way

  • Master musicians: Local metal band Grand Master is (from left) Shane Barron, Alec Schaefer and Matt Kathler.

Proggier than thou. Like any progressive metal musicians worth their weight in Marshall half stacks, the guys in Winnipeg’s Grand Master write complex, epic songs about fantastical themes.

Take for example The Grand Exorcism Pt. II - Toy Machine from the band’s new album, The Dream Alive. It continues the story the band started with the song The Butcher on their debut EP, Omen. The songs follow the trials and triumphs of a crusading warrior who travels through space and time to battle a dark sorcerer.

“We’ve already written part four and we’re working on part three right now,” bassist and lead singer Alec Schaefer says over coffee in the Exchange District with his bandmates, guitarist Shane Barron and drummer Matt Kathler.

“I thought of this after we printed The Dream Alive already, so I haven’t mentioned it until now, but if I wanted to get really prog, Toy Machine would have been (called) Grand Exorcism Book I, Part II - Toy Machine and then Book II would have been what Part III was supposed to be.”

Confused yet? All you need to know is this: Since forming in late 2007, Grand Master have made a name for themselves locally as an exciting young metal act that is well worth checking out.

At only 20 years old, Barron is a guitar virtuoso who can shred with the best of them. Schaefer, 24, has an astonishing ability to play compex bass parts while singing high lead vocals, and Kathler, 23, has a drum kit that would make Neil Peart envious.

The band will release The Dream Alive, its first full-length, with a show at the Park Theatre this Saturday, April 14.

What I like most about having the label of ‘progressive metal band’ is that it opens us up to doing pretty much anything we want.

Shane Barron, guitarist, Grand Master

Each member has a good sense of humour and is self-aware enough to know there’s something ridiculous about multi-part epic songs. Still, inspired by bands like Rush, Iron Maiden, Helloween and Blind Guardian, they have found that progressive metal is the best way to express themselves.

“I just see it as a really powerful form of music that allows for a lot of experimentation,” Schaefer says.

Barron agrees.

“What I like most about having the label of ‘progressive metal band’ is that it opens us up to doing pretty much anything we want,” he says. “I don’t think of progressive metal as sounding like something specific. I think of it as the one genre of metal that pretty much opens you up to including every other genre, even outside of metal.”

The band will follow up the album release show with a short Western Canada tour in May. They’re hoping The Dream Alive is able to find an audience outside of Winnipeg and they’re eager to start working on their next recording.

“We want to make everything sound different from the last thing we wrote, so we’re always pushing ourselves and getting better,” Kathler says.

The band is happy to have found support in Winnipeg’s metal community and is hoping more people will come check out their music.

“If nothing else, we have a badass drum kit,” Barron quips.

“Come for the drumkit,” Schaefer adds with a grin. “Stay for the music.”

See Grand Master live at the Park Theatre (698 Osborne St.) on Saturday, April 14 with opening act The Revival. Advance tickets are $7 at War on Music (91 Albert St.) or $10 at the door. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Visit

Grand Master’s official video for the song “Chaos Capital.” The song is featured on the band’s new full-length album.

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