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Long Live Vancouver Metal

Photo by Daniel Robichaud

It had almost been a whole month since I’d seen a metal show before seeing 3 Inches of Blood and Bison at the Vogue Theatre last Friday. Symptoms of withdrawal were setting in – the sweats, quick to anger, humming Adele hits… yeah, it got pretty weird.

Lucky for me, Friday’s show was just what Dr. Metal had ordered – a shovelful, right to the face, of nasty Vancouver metal. I’m not a fan of early shows – is anyone, except maybe for the kids at all ages shows (or the kids’ parents, rather)? Doors at 6, show at 7. Really? I barely have time to get home from work, eat, shower, pound a few Hell’s Gates, and arrive before the first band’s over and done with.

Ah, I’m just kidding. I don’t work.

East Van’s Vicious Cycles threw us the first bone of the night. These guys are fun to watch – great energy, active with the crowd, good tunes. Though they did appear to be the misfits on the bill – not necessarily a bad thing, please note – they did manage to get some fists pumping.

Ancients wasted no time metalling things up after the Cycles’ punky intro. The post-metal/stoner/thrash is strong in these BC sons. This was my first Ancients look-and-listen and I enjoyed it. Both guitarists each have a very capable, unique voice. The music is carefully crafted and holds your interest as it constantly bucks predictability. It’s heavy and it’s very tight. If Ancients were lacking in any department, it would have to be related to confidence and stage presence. They appeared quite careful. But that’s the kind of thing that can’t be gained overnight. I’d rather they do exactly what they did on Friday – make sure they play their wicked, complex tunes bang on, instead of sacrificing their musical precision for metal-faced acrobatics. I’m looking forward to seeing them again to see how they evolve from here, which they will, because there’s clearly nowhere to go but up with this much talent.

“How the fuck are you, Vancouver?!” Bison asked us all ever so politely. “Yes! Here we go,” I thought. I always get a little giddy-angry when I’m at a Bison show. I’ve been listening to them for years now, and the tunes have burrowed deep into my psyche. I wake up screaming “Melody, This Is For You” on occasion. It’s a real problem. Seeing them play Café Dekcuf in Ottawa (with Biipiigwan – also awesome) a few years ago was a real treat – the venue is about as big as your closet, and they just killed. After last seeing them at Fortune Sound Club in December of last year, they announced it was their last show for a while. “Crap,” thought I. It’s because they were off to record some new stuff. “Awesome,” felt better I.

And now, finally, the time had come for Bison to trot back onto the scene. Get this – their entire set consisted of new stuff. The whole thing. No oldies – no “Earthbound” – no “Wendigo” suite. Nope. All new. Take it or leave it. They really couldn’t care less what you want or think (which I realized when my war cry for “Two-Day Booze” was quickly quashed with a simple “No.” Sigh…)

The boys – backed by “Vancouver’s original bad boy” drummer (on the right), as he was so lovingly dubbed by his band mate – led the pack through their crushing new tunes. The pit was a well-oiled yet dysfunctional machine throughout the whole set. Some dudes took some pretty brutal bails… (sorry, dude I fell on who banged his head on the concrete floor as a result… woops… not intentional, seriously. Just angry-giddy.) Bison managed to maintain and stoke the energy they had ignited from the first riff all the way to the end, capping it all off with a cymbal-toss and a bass guitar-toss into the audience. Such fun.

Bison does not pretend to play metal. There is no posing going on here. This is… metal. They mean it. You can feel that, right in your gut. With Friday’s opening slot for 3 Inches, they proved that they’re back, they’re tight, and they’re quite possibly more pissed than ever before. SCOOP: Bison is slated to release their new album “Lovelessness” this fall. Spread the word.

Now scorched from Bison’s stupidly good set, 3 Inches of Blood grabbed the torch and ran with it. The hometown favourites kicked things off with “Metal Woman”, the lead track off their latest effort, the classically titled Long Live Heavy Metal. These guys have been steeped, dunked, dipped and simmered in a big vat of NWOBHM. It’s a tried and true recipe. 3 Inches manage to keep the flavour in and make it pop, despite some of the all-too-easy metal trappings that come with their sound: long scraggly hair – check; denim – check; band patches – check. It’s all a little predictable, but damn, you can’t help but love what you’re hearing and seeing on stage. 3 Inches of Blood are a pleasure to experience and the hometown crowd gave them all the love they needed. Oh, and how did I not know that Byron Stroud (Fear Factory, Strapping Young Lad) was a member? You did though, eh? Hm. I really should know this kind of stuff… shame!

Besides the Vogue’s frustrating “no ins-and-outs” rule and stupefying lack of bar staff (3-4 ‘tenders for approximately 38 billion metalheads… please…), last Friday couldn’t be called anything but a resounding success. Gallons of sweat were sweat, painfully overpriced PBRs were drunk, and some kick-ass, homegrown metal was served up to a famished audience. Horns up!