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Canmore metal and punk fest headliner happy not to be compared to Taylor Swift

“Nobody is comparing us to bad music, so I guess that’s good news for us."
Heyoka's Mirror. From left to right: Aaron Thrasher, Andrew Balboa and Omar Sultan. SUBMITTED PHOTO

CANMORE – Progressive rock/metal band Heyoka’s Mirror loves hearing about all the musical comparisons of who they sound like.

From fans and media, it’s usually a mixed bag of big names thrown at the headliners of the third Canmore Alternative Metal and Punk Festival on Saturday (July 6) at artsPlace that bear similarities to their sound such as Ronnie James Dio, System Of A Down, Frank Zappa, Dream Theater, Megadeth, and sometimes Limp Bizkit.

“Nobody is comparing us to bad music, so I guess that’s good news for us,” said guitarist Omar Sultan.

“Yeah, nobody has said we sound like Taylor Swift, so we’re good,” said frontman Andrew Balboa, which got a big laugh out of Sultan.

“I really like a comment that is on one of our YouTube videos ... ‘I don’t know how I got here, I don’t understand what’s happening, but I like it.’”

At the Canmore metal and punk festival, also known as AmpFest, the three-piece band consisting of Balboa (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Sultan (guitar, vocals) and Aaron Thrasher (drums) are hoping new listeners walk away with the same energy as that YouTube commenter.

The progressive metal/rock band will mix it up with new and old music this weekend. 

Heyoka’s Mirror is working on its sophomore album, expected to be released in summer 2025. 

Following up on its debut album and 2021’s The Uninvited King, the band said its second time around will have a different vibe from its debut concept album, with shorter tracks and a focus more on each song rather than following a story.

“There’s still some songs that are a tiny bit long, but I feel like one of the main vibes that we’re going for on this album is that tempo, the higher tempo and it’s just go, go, go, go,” said Balboa. 

“There’s no time for you to relax, it’s just go,” said Sultan.

It’s a style they think the Bow Valley crowd will appreciate, which they said “go hard” at their shows.

Far from strangers to the Bow Valley, Heyoka’s Mirror, based out of Calgary/Vancouver, has played the usual suspects of heavy metal spots such as the now defunct Hoodoo Lounge and Bruno’s in front of loyal metal fans.

Balboa and Sultan recalled a Banff show years ago when their rogue bassist wandered out on the streets of Banff during a set, hitting the strings on a wireless bass.

“We could see him, everyone could see him outside and there were people passing by and they were just like surprised and … he comes back because it's time for a little very, very short bass solo that he's supposed to play,” said Balboa. 

“When his section comes on, there’s no bass, there’s no sound. There’s nothing. There’s just silence. So I kind of filled in with my guitar, and then we came back on time and everyone thought that it was on purpose. It was great. After the song, he realizes that his amp was completely off the whole time … and that’s why we don’t have a bass player anymore.”

Bassist or not, Heyoka’s Mirror is ready to rumble on Saturday.

Thirteen other acts are set to appear at the heavy music-focused festival, including Black Pestilence, Alien to the Ignorant, Butterfly Sleep Project, The Cadavor Dog, Necht: Cult of B’ahn, Gone Cosmic, Iron Tusk, John Michealz, Human Stain, Motherf—s, Bawang!, Jonny Rocketman’s Atomic Tango, and Cinch. 

Doors open at 1 p.m. at artsPlace for the all-day festival. Band time slots can be found at

Tickets at the door or online here.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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