Sometimes, you walk in a venue and just know that it’s going to be a shocker; limp crowd, crossed arms, furrowed brows all around… Thursday night at Venue in Vancouver was the complete opposite! The moment I walked in, the sound of the crowd chattering was deafening. People were eagerly walking about, smiles on their faces as they met up and hugged their friends, sharing laughs and drinks as they waited for the show featuring Medevil , Omega Crom, Iron Kingdom, and Unleash The Archers to start – not unlike distant cousins catching up at a big family reunion.
The moment the red stage lights came on and Medevil walked out, led by their cloaked singer, a small horde amassed at the front of the stage to watch the opening act from Chilliwack. I have seldom seen so many people excited for a local opener, but the trollish heavy metal delivered by the talented quintet brought the crowd into a head-banging frenzy. The peculiar vocals of singer Liam Collingwood, the consistent heavy pounding of the drums, and the shared talent of all string instrumentalists made Medevil a terrific opener, flawless in warming up the crowd for the magnificence yet to come.
Thursday was my second time seeing Omega Crom, and their latest performance only cemented what I thought the first time: “Holy $#!%!” That is what happens when you befittingly pair the prodigious talent of musicians like Damien Ketlo (drums) and Sylvain Maltais (bass) with a man that embodies heavy metal like nobody’s business, such as Omega Crom’s frontman Johnny Ketlo. Despite the latter’s microphone not working for part of the first song, depriving the crowd of one of the best harsher-to-immaculate voices in modern metal, the band was able to save the mood with the fast shredding of the guitar, the precise and methodical bass lines, the visual and aural contrasts between the static technicality of the light-haired bass player and the theatrical playing of Ketlo and his ebony locks, and the overall musical supremacy that comes standard with every Omega Crom performance, delivering a set above and beyond all expectations.
Every big family has one accomplished child that everybody is beamingly proud of. That child gets the entire family to monopolize the first five rows at every recital, gets the biggest laughs, and is beloved by all. In the big family of the Vancouver metal scene, that child is Iron Kingdom. As the band climbed on stage and the lightboard backdrop lit up and spelled the band’s name, the crowd erupted into mindless cheers for the quartet. As is usual for the heavy metal band, they delivered an excellent set full of their usual tomfoolery, powerful vocals, frantic guitar, deep supportive melodies, and masterful drumming of Amanda Osterman. When singer and guitar player Chris Osterman announced that they were celebrating the release of their third studio album Ride Into Glory and the release of their live album, Live At The Kraken, the entire room swelled up with pride and applauded to support the accomplishment of the family’s favourite, who rewarded their adoring crowd by playing “The Samurai,” the latest single off their new album. A few songs later, the band from Surrey topped off their set the only way they know how; by putting bass player Leighton Holmes and guitarist Kenny Kroecher on their knees, allowing their glorious singer to climb on top of them to salute the crowd and end their set with flair.
Though the evening could have ended with the family favourite’s recital and everybody would have been perfectly satisfied, the presence of Vancouver’s metal sweethearts and recent Napalm Records signees Unleash The Archers catapulted the evening into a new dimension. I am not usually the biggest fan of female fronted bands, but Unleash The Archers is the incredible exception to that rule. Their energy on stage, the intricacy of every single song, and the perfect marriage of death and power metal provides the perfect support for Brittney Slayes’ mighty voice. Their set was fairly short, but dynamic and spirited, and as they played “Tonight, We Ride,” the whole family watched in awe as the layers of heavy riffs, growls, master solos, and Slayes’ absurd vocal range came together beautifully to help end the night on a very high note. As I watched the crowd lining up outside the venue before the show, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I walked into turned out to be one of the most heartwarming, supportive, and unanimously enjoyed show I have had the pleasure to see in the great city of Vancouver, reminding me what the local scene truly is about; big sound, big personalities, and big pride, support, and love for the bands who represent our magnificent city in such a heroic manner.
Written and Photographed by Kai Robidas Goblin Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson