Review by Kyle Harcott; Photos by Ted Reckoning
Vancouver’s longest-running metal radio show, Powerchord, on CITR, celebrated its twenty-fifth birthday with this showcase at the Rickshaw (everything you need to know about Powerchord has been summed up perfectly by Rob Hughes at his Difficult Music blog). The date of the show also happened to coincide with Woods of Ypres’ arrival in our neck of the woods on their western-Canadian jaunt this year, so the band was added to the bill as headliners, over the five local openers. Not to mention there was also that pesky Rapture that was supposed to happen this night.
Due to unforeseen, Rapture-related (yeah, that’s it) circumstances and a way-early start time, I completely missed the boat on the first three bands: Innertwyne, Magnus Rising and Scythia. Reports from fellow metalheads at the show said nothing but good things about all three bands.
I entered the Rickshaw just as three-piece Scissortooth started their set. With a sound drawing heavily from Pantera and Black Label Society as influences, Scissortooth seemed to have a strong contingent of fans in the crowd this night, judging from the number of fists I saw raised in the air after every time singer/guitarist Derek Lundblad admonished the crowd with a hearty “Fuck yeah!” The band’s party-time power thrash also whipped up a frenzied pit at front of house that lasted through most of their set.
Titan’s Eve, making a hometown stop on their current North American tour, brought their classic thrash A-game this night. The tracks from their latest full-length, The Divine Equal, received a leaner, meaner treatment in the live setting – especially barnburners like ‘Nightfall’ and the battle-ready ‘Tides ofDoom’. At times it did feel a little like Titan’s Eve were still finding their stage personality – the between-song banter of “How you guys doin’ out there?” wore a little thin the third time I heard it. But musically? The band stomps around the stage like some kind of lethal, armored thrash pachyderm.
Finally, Woods of Ypres took to the stage about eleven, instantly at home on the Rickshaw’s roomy stage. From the opening rooooaaaaarrr of ‘The Sea of Immeasurable Loss’, it was evident that this was an even stronger band than the already-way-impressive unit I saw last year. When Woods played the Biltmore’s tiny stage in June of 2010, the band’s signing to Earache wasn’t yet public knowledge and David Gold’s intended yearlong stint in Kuwait was still on the horizon. There were still not even yet rumblings of the band’s impending ‘breakup’ and subsequent ‘return’. So it’s been a hell of a year in the WoY camp, and that tumult appears to have translated well to the stage.
Each member of Woods of Ypres is, individually, a strong presence onstage: At stage left, David Gold, master of ceremonies, affable enough with the crowd but to-the-point: quickly introducing each of his songs and making the occasional dedication (‘By The Time You Read This’, in particular, was shouted-out to a personal friend as well as the fallen Macho Man Savage), but Gold seems to prefer to let his gargantuan songs do the talking/personal exorcising instead. His foil at stage right is the band’s dark horse, Joel Violette, on fluid lead guitar, deep in concentration as he pulls riff after riff out of thin air. Anchoring the band at centre stage is the untouchable Rhythm Section Madden: Shane on ripsaw bass, roaring guttural backup vocals, and pacing the stage with indiscriminate headbanging; and the furious hammering of Evan on drums. Particularly impressive was Madden’s drumming on the band’s sped-uprendition of ‘Wet Leather’, which in this form becomes his song to fuck with as he pleases. He was allover the kit on this one, trading in his usual straight four-four for jaw-dropping fills all over the chorus. The song’, sped up as it was, is a revelation – normally, you want to make something heavier, you slow it down. But in this rendition, life is just pain and piss and speed speed speed. ‘Wet Leather’ is also the closest thing to an anthem that Woods of Ypres has written (so far), and the crowd’s reaction, shouting the words right back at the band, proved it.
Woods’ entire set was a welcome mix of old and new, with songs represented from nearly every era of the band (excepting Woods III – no songs from this album this night). Those blackblast gems from the early days stacked up in the set nicely versus the devastating crush of latter-day ‘slow’ Woods. Of particular interest was the new song, ‘Falling Apart’, a great hulking beast of a song in comparison to its already-achingly-heavy recorded counterpart; and the encore incorporating the back-to-back tectonic rumble of ‘Suicide Cargoload’ and the I-still-can’t-believe-it-they-slowed-it-DOWN take on ‘Halves & Quarters’. ‘Suicide Cargoload’ also marked the first time I’d ever heard a band request a “slow mosh” from the audience. I’m happy to report the enraptured [pun intended] Rickshaw crowd did their utmostto comply. Closing with a thunderous ‘The Shams of Optimism/Crossing the 45th Parallel’, it was clear this was Woods’ night.
Woods of Ypres’ set was triumphant. It goes without saying, but the band get better and better, and I’m hoping that their newly-minted contract with Earache brings them the success they have labored for long these eight years. If they are stopping in your town on the current “Pain & Piss” tour, you owe it to yourself to go and see them.
WOODS OF YPRES setlist:
The Sea of Immeasurable Loss
The Sun Was In My Eyes
By The Time You Read This (I Will Already Be Dead)
Pursuit of the Sun / Allure of the Earth medley
Awaiting the Inevitable
Suicide Cargoload / Halves & Quarters
The Shams of Optimism / Crossing the 45th Parallel