Shadows Fall Annihilate Ottawa
March 7, 2010
Review and pics by Shawn Jam Hill
Ottawa is a government town, a staid politico polis where the sidewalks are rolled up at precisely 6 P.M. every night of the week. Fortunately for the legions of metal fans lurking in the background of our (Canada’s) national capital’s lengthy shadow (not to mention all the serious metalheads from just across the river in La Belle Provence!), there is a vibrant scene kicking in the walls of mediocrity.
Located just outside of the bustling, tourist-infested Byward Market, Maverick’s is our town’s premium metal bar. Boasting a great sound system, fantastic bar staff and a decidedly intimate stage set up, it is my favorite place to grab a coupla 50s and get my face melted off.
It was left in gooey tattered ribbons on Sunday March 7.
First up, Ottawa’s own Drillpoint pumped out Sepultura-inspired proto-thrash with a definite Pantera party vibe thrown in for good measure. As the 2 twiggy hesher throwback guitar dudes swung their hair and shredded competently, vokiller Patrick Fynn kept the crowd amped up. He is a killer frontman even though the material suffers from a lack of originality. These guys play from the heart and that is what metal is all about.
Newly signed to Roadrunner, London, Ontario’s Baptized in Blood came to play. “We just like to party, play party metal and have a good time!” quipped manager Brandon as the boys finished off some van beers and got ready to shred. Looking somewhat like a heavy metal gym teacher, singer Johl Fendley’s hardcore vox stylings meshed neatly with the band’s stellar In Flames/Killswitch worship though the ‘core attitude shone through to create a sonic palette devoid of false metal.
Down And Out, from the band’s self-released 2009 effort Gutter Bound, was the highlight of the set as breakdowns converged succinctly with the blazing noodlings of guitarists Josh Torrance and Nick Bertelsen. The athletic prowess skinsman Alex Johnston displayed before his kit was truly a marvel to behold. Dude even pulled a Phil Collins and lent some sweet vox to the band’s melodic moshpit mayhem. Keep eyes peeled for their Roadrunner debut late summer/early fall!
Vancouver’s Bison BC are always a treat to watch as these 4 dirtbags (yes that is a compliment!) pounded their way through hits from Quiet Earth. Canadian folklore came to Luciferian life as the band blazed through Wendigo, smoke machine blaring. These guys laid it down sticky and dank as they showcased new material from their upcoming Metal Blade release, Dark Ages, but James Gnarwell and Co. are way too tight to be stoned. As the shuddering chudstorm that is These Are My Dress Clothes unleashed its anthemic ode to all things skidly, the boys flayed about, awash in a maelstrom of Mastodon approved kinetic sludge jams. If there was a metal Olympics, Bison would wave Canada’s flag on high while beer cans rained down upon our proud metal traditions.
Seeing an extremely talented and professional band like Shadows Fall light up such a humble (quaint?) stage with all the fire of a young band hungry for everything got me all fired up and the packed crowd was soon screaming along. Opening with My Demise seemed foolhardy. This 7 minute opus is jam-packed with riffs, gnarly solos, more riffs and a stripped down middle eight that quiets takes things down a notch only to bring the thunder right up to the last note. The Shads laid it down with dexterity and aplomb.
Though extreme dread head Brian Fair’s vox were a tad low in the mix, these troubles were quickly ironed out and the band locked into an unstoppable groove. Jason Bittner is not human. The dude’s extremely technical drumwork, replete with lockstep groove and many sweet cymbal flourishes, was also decidedly heartfelt and genuine. The fluidity with which he commands his traps pushed the rest of the guys resulting in some of the greatest heavy metal I’ve ever witnessed at Maverick’s.
“What the fuck is up Ottawa, isn’t it Sunday night?” bellowed Fair as the adoring crowd lapped up the tuneage. Still I Rise, a great fist-pumper on record, exploded in a live setting as Fair’s voice soared above all the metal: the man is an even more powerful beast than the recorded monster. Matt Bachand and Jonathan Donais are like conjoined twins attached at the brain (and fretboard). Seemingly telepathic, the guys finished each other’s musical sentences, trading off riff after blinding riff on What Drives The Weak, a melodic banger that still retains some punch.
“The weather channel are lying motherfuckers!” exclaimed a shirtless Fair as the unseasonably warm weather amplified the funky dude smell permeating the club by the end of the band’s set. I just appreciated that these denizens of heaviosity took the time to extend the weekend on this, their first time in Ottawa. “We like playing small packed clubs,” Bachand explained to me after the set “It’s better than playing a big, empty venue and this was one of the most energetic shows on the Canadian tour!” The 2 guitar heroes luckily found the Dominion for a coupla late night quarts as yours truly, slightly hammered and definitely grinning, bid the boys farewell and walked home, ears ringing pleasantly, into the spring air. Too bad I got home at 2:45 and had to work at 6:30 AM but hey, this is the life we choose!