There was a line stretching to the end of the block when I arrived at the Commodore Ballroom on November 8th for one of the most emotionally eviscerating nights in the history of metal: 3 Inches of Blood’s final show in their hometown of Vancouver, BC.
I had never seen the Commodore Ballroom so full. The balcony was swarming with people, the tables surrounding the main floor were all occupied, and there was a thick sea of people from the front barrier to the back bar, as if half the population of Vancouver had come out to see its precious band’s last hurrah.
For the occasion, 3 Inches of Blood had invited Erosion, fronted by 3 Inches of Blood co-founder Jamie Hooper, and The Hookers, a metal band from the great state of Kentucky, to come out and play and warm up the crowd for them.
The two very different but equally entertaining opening acts justified their presence by warming up the crowd efficiently and getting everyone ready to lose their shit for the headliners. After two great performances from these adept openers, the crowd was amped-up.
The 3 Inches of Blood backdrop rose up high for the last time. The lights went out, plunging the frenzied crowd into near-complete darkness, and nothing could have prepared my eardrums for the cheering of the fans as they greeted the local heroes for their final homecoming.
The five men walked on stage and immediately launched into the crowd-pleasing “Metal Woman,” and front man Cam Pipes proved once again why he has the most appropriate last name in power metal. What an incredible voice!
Patrons in the front row were all smiles, and a rowdy mosh pit formed right behind them. Ash Pearson’s loud gong made the whole room vibrate, and so started one of the best, yet saddest two and a half hours the Vancouver metal scene had ever seen.
With former member Nick Cates on bass, 3 Inches of Blood played one legendary song after the other. “Leather Lord,” “God of the Cold White Silence,” “Wykydtron,” “Trial of Champions,” “Call of the Hammer,” “The Hydra’s Teeth,” “Isle of Eternal Despair,” and “Look Out” all made up the first half of the show. As they played each of them, it started sinking in that we were witnessing the death of each of those songs, every final note played putting each tune to rest, never to be played again.
The evening progressed and 3 Inches of Blood performed song after song in the same energetic and flawless manner they have for the past sixteen years, but there was a clear emotional shift in the members in attendance. When the band got back on stage after a short break between sets, there was more apprehension than elation in the air.
Sooner rather than later, 3 Inches of Blood would play their last song of the night, and it would be the last song the heavy metal juggernauts would ever play live or otherwise. No more albums. No more tours. No more shows like the one happening before us.
The faces in the crowd changed from delighted to bittersweet, but nobody squandered their last chance to sing with their favourite band at the top of their lungs.
3 Inches of Blood took us down memory lane with their second sets, reintroducing former members, inviting them to play some tracks with them for an explosive ten songs, including “Revenge is a Vulture,” “Dark Messenger,” “Demon’s Blade,” “Destroy the Orcs,” “Ride Darkhorse, Ride,” only to end with “Tom Sawyer,” a Rush cover.
The crowd wanted more, the crowd requested more, and the crowd what got what it wanted. Five more songs; “Night Marauders,” “The Goatrider’s Horde,” “Balls of Ice,” “Deadly Sinners,” and “One for the Ditch” put the final nail in 3 Inches of Blood’s coffin.
People say not to cry because it’s over but to smile because it happened; yet it’s hard to let go of a band that has given so much. 3 Inches of Blood created a legacy for themselves that will never die. Their last show will forever be etched in the memories of those who were there as the single most rousing performance the metal world has ever seen.
To the members of 3 Inches of Blood, former and most recent, thank you. Thank you for your unwavering dedication to your fans and your priceless contribution to an industry that breaks most. Thank you for giving it your all one last time. Vancouver will never be able to repay you for the opportunity you gave us, allowing us to sing with you louder than ever and to give you the sendoff you rightfully deserved. You have all left a hole behind that no other band will ever be able to fill.
Written and Photographed by Kai Robidas
*edited by Kate Erickson