With these bills stocked with mainly local acts, there’s often one band that isn’t quite up to snuff. Whether they lack experience, chemistry (“What’s up with the guy in the Shadows Fall shirt?”), or are just the wrong band for the gig, you’re left feeling “Oh. Oh, man. I wish I wasn't seeing this.” I'm happy and proud to say that the local metal scene is so strong now that such onstage mishaps are extremely rare.
Saturday night brought another strong lineup to the Biltmore. Each band had a distinct, fully formed approach and delivered it with the conviction, sweat and discipline required to perform metal properly.
It was an early show, with an 11 PM curfew to make way for the dance party crowd. Kudos to promoters The Invisible Orange and the bands for ensuring the night went off like clockwork—quick changeovers and no BS. I barely had time to grab a beer between sets.
Victoria’s Mother Died Today came on at quarter to 8. Their name may be a turnoff (Camus references are cool though) but the fourpiece were actually a blend of European death and folk-metal influences with killer singing and drumming. Their drummer had an interesting ¾ scale double-kick kit, and he just dominated the thing. This was their last gig due to their drummer leaving—a real shame, because they’d obviously put in a lot of work to reach this point.
Archspire took the gig to a new level of extremity. They were a sweep-picking, hyper-blasting juggernaut, with members drawn from Gremory, Every Black Minute, Muspellheim, and Artep. Watching out one of their guitarists at work sent sympathy pain shooting through my hands. They destroyed with speed and precision, and I expect to see them climbing higher and higher on future bills.
First Reign have style both in the musical sense—progressive death metal is their thing—and visually. One guitarist sits cross-legged on a drum stool. The bassist wields a rad Rickenbacker and, by contrast, rocks out the whole time. Their singer is an excellent, imposing front man, whose head nearly scraped the stage ceiling. Musically, it was an onslaught of elaborate, heavy material; almost too much to take in for a first-timer like myself, so I hope to catch them again soon.
After roaring out with “The Shams of Optimism,” David Gold admitted that Woods of Ypres were actually the least heavy band of the night. Be that as it may, he and his crew did have the best songs, and it’s clear that those songs are connecting with people. Woods’ second Vancouver show saw plenty of fans headbanging, especially towards the end of the set to “The Sun Was In My Eyes” and “A Meeting Place and Time.” During their last, ill-fated, Vancouver stop, Woods IV: The Green Album hadn’t yet been released, so it now featured more prominently in the set, highlighted by the burly double-shot of “Suicide Cargoload/Halves and Quarters.” “They sort of sound like Mastodon!” exclaimed a newcomer behind me. After “A Meeting Place in Time” from Against the Seasons ended the set, they encored with a new song (instrumental at this stage). The new Woods touring lineup isn’t quite as road-seasoned as it was last year, but I’m sure they’ll be in crushing form soon. They got a great response and could have played another song if it hadn’t been the 11 PM witching hour; time to pack up the gear and head out to their next stop. Our spirits were so buoyed that we stuck around for some of the dance party (heard some Joy Division). By the time we left the club, the Woods van was gone, headed south for a string of new adventures.
You can follow the Woods of Ypres tour blog at the Deciblog (first instalment here).