By Adrien Begrand
Back in 2005, many scene police in the metal world denounced both 3 Inches of Blood and Saviours as being nothing more than “hipster” acts, accusing them of not taking metal seriously enough on record, of pandering to the indie rock crowd instead of earning credibility within the metal community. This despite the fact that Vancouver’s 3 Inches of Blood had delivered one of the decade’s most enduring and rousing metal anthems in “Deadly Sinners”, and that Oakland’s Saviours had shown enormous promise, following in the old-timey hesher footsteps of their friends in High on Fire. But no, once the skeptics in the crowd get the faintest whiff of “core”, that stubbornness kicks in, often frustratingly so. 3IOB incorporates hardcore screams, therefore they are False. Two guys from Saviours used to be in screamo band Yaphet Kotto, therefore they are False.
Jump ahead to the present day, and the sincerity, the honesty that exudes from both these hard-touring bands is undeniable. It’s been a gradual process for both bands, who have steadily found their own identity on record and struggled to find the right additions to their lineup, but based on the merits of Here Waits Thy Doom and Accelerated Living, a pair of first-rate albums released this fall, 3 Inches of Blood and Saviours finally feel truly on top of their game. With two new records conveniently out at the same time, not to mention two very compatible sounds, the pairing of these acts for 3IOB’s cross-Canada tour was a no-brainer, and as they hit Saskatoon two weeks into their whopping 14 date run from Halifax to Revelstoke, everyone was firing on all cylinders.
The guys in Saviours will be the first to tell you their band has been a work in progress from the get-go, and after showing sporadic hints of brilliance on 2006’s Crucifire and 2008’s Into Abaddon, they’ve nailed it on Accelerated Living, embracing the filthier side of the NWOBHM, not so much emulating the intricacy of Iron Maiden and Diamond Head as the more blue-collar fare of such bands as Tank and Jaguar. And if anyone needed evidence on this night of just how contagious the new record is, one just had to look at how quickly the crowd of 150 or so at Amigos erupted as the foursome tore into the opener “Acid Hand”. Any time an opening band is able incite pure mayhem among a prairie crowd at 11:00 on a Monday night, you’d best take notice.
With heavily tattooed guitarist/vocalist Austin Barber at the helm and towering drummer Scott Batiste emphasizing loose groove over tightness, the seven song, 40 minute opening set wasted no time, the band wisely showcasing the pure strength of the new material, including such cuts as “Livin’ in the Void”, “We Roam”, “Burnin’ Cross”, and the jaw-dropping Filth Hounds of Hades homage “Slave to the Hex”, one of this writer’s most-played tracks of the past year. The only oldie to make the cut this time around was Into Abaddon‘s doom-laced epic “Narcotic Sea”, but again, the new stuff was so strong, nobody could care less. As Barber declared during the second song, it was a fuckin’ good time, plain and simple.
Slave to the Hex
Livin’ in the Void
Like Napalm Death, 3 Inches of Blood has no original members left, and unlike Napalm Death they’ve gone through nearly as many bassists as Spinal Tap has recycled drummers, but with vocalist Cam Pipes and guitarists Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark having formed a solid, reliable core these last four years, they’ve emerged as Canada’s best traditional heavy metal act. Their fourth full-length Here Waits Thy Doom is especially noteworthy, as that contentious “core” element has been phased out permanently on record with the departure of screamer Jamie Hooper (it’s ironic how Hooper’s blowing his voice out was the best thing to ever happen to this band). With producer Jack Endino, it’s now pure meat-and-potatoes classicist metal, the band focusing on those Maiden-esque gallops and dual leads and especially the formidable screams of the talented Mr. Pipes.
It’s great to finally see 3IOB with a strong back catalogue behind them, and their 75 minute headlining set was packed to the gills with such crowd-pleasers as “The Goatriders Horde”, “Wykydtron”, “Trial of Champions”, “Night Marauders”, and the ubiquitous “Deadly Sinners”. However, like Saviours, the newer material proved especially strong. After a rather tepid “Battles and Brotherhood” that suffered from a sloppy mix, the band settled in nicely, with “Silent Killer”, “All of Them Witches”, “Execution Tank”, and “Call of the Hammer” all sounding perfectly suited to the live treatment. A clear product of relentless touring, Pipes’ voice might be sounding more and more ragged as each year goes by, but it has lent the bearded, denim vest-sportin’ dude a quality not unlike that of Udo Dirkschneider and the late David Wayne, the kind of ungodly rasp that’s so perfectly suited to old school metal. And besides, he can still hit the high notes, “Night Marauders” and “The Goatriders Horde” still packing some shattering vocal climaxes, the lively cover of Blue Öyster Cult’s “Cities on Flame With Rock and Roll” (available on the vinyl version of Doom) delivered in a continual falsetto.
Neither 3 Inches of Blood nor Saviours are the most innovative metal bands out there, and nor will they ever be the kind of critical faves as the likes of Mastodon and Converge, but when done convincingly, traditional heavy metal can still one of the most rewarding forms of the genre in a live setting, and this jubilant, beer-soaked night was no exception. Scenesters still may scoff, but the hell with them. This was as fun as it gets.
3 Inches of Blood setlist:
Battles and Brotherhood
At the Foot of the Great Glacier
All of Them Witches
Trial of Champions
Call of the Hammer
Cities on Flame (Blue Öyster Cult cover)
The Goatrider’s Horde