Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews





Review and live pictures by Lord of the Wasteland

It's no secret that Devin Townsend is one of my favorite musicians. When I heard that Strapping Young Lad had scheduled a show here in Vancouver and it was being filmed for a live DVD, I was all over it like a fat kid on a Smartie. Then I heard that Three Inches of Blood, another Vancouver band, would be opening the show! THEN I heard that The Heavils would be the third band on the bill!! This was shaping up to be the best bill of the year for me and it was only the second week of January!

I had heard some serious buzz about The Heavils but I had never actually heard a song from them before. They are a four-piece band from Rockford, Illinois, but they are currently in Vancouver recording their new CD (due in May 2004) with Devin Townsend. This was their first show here and the crowd seemed a bit unsure of them. Here is why…

Brian Carter, their singer/rhythm guitarist, came on stage sporting a guitar that had a normal neck, however the body was made out of a wooden toilet seat. It even had a toilet paper roll holder attached-complete with a roll of ass wipe! The sound that came out of it could best be compared to a banjo mixed with a guitar. Even lead guitarist Mossy Vaughn came out with a weird-looking guitar for one song. I can't even describe what it looked like but it resembled a piece of art more than a guitar! The Heavils' sound is a cross between hardcore and Primus. They all play 5-string fretless guitars (even the bass is a 5-stringer) and they really produce a unique sound. It turns out Carter is actually a guitar-maker and customizes the instruments himself. Their stage presence is dominated by Vaughn who seemed to do all the talking despite repeated attempts to speak by Carter. These guys are definitely into having fun on stage. Vaughn encouraged an "all-girl" moshpit at one point and about a dozen or so females started thrashing and crashing about for a good 2 minutes before the meatheads in wife-beaters took over again. Vaughn took potshots at Devin Townsend all night and even dedicated a few bars of Loverboy's "Turn Me Loose" to the crowd, saying, "Devin told us you'd like that!" Vaughn also encouraged everyone to buy some stuff otherwise they wouldn't have any money to get home!

The Heavils are certainly unique and unlike anything I've ever seen or heard before. I was going to pick up their first CD at the swag stand but instead of carrying it around all night, I thought I'd pick it up on the way out. BAD MOVE! The merch people had packed up and gone home so I was disappointed that I missed out on a promising CD for $10.



After The Heavils' 40-minute set came local up-and-comers, Three Inches of Blood. On the small stage at The Commodore, this six-piece band looked a bit confined but their live performances are legendary! Fresh off a European tour with buzz-band-of-the-moment, The Darkness, TIOB play a blend of power/traditional metal with 2 vocalists. Cam Pipes sings the majority of the time and sounds like a mix between Accept's Udo Dirkschneider and SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE-era Rob Halford, complete with high-pitched screams. Assisting him is Jami Hooper whose black metal shriek compliments Pipes on harmonies and the occasional lead. The band has the typical look of black from head to toe, but Pipes goes one step further by sporting a Kerry King-style spiked armband. TIOB has plenty of guitar solos and a galloping rhythm to most of their songs. At this point, they have only one album to their credit, 2002's BATTLE CRY UNDER A WINTER SUN, so obviously their set was dominated by songs from it. Their set included "Curse Of The Lighthouse Keeper," "Headwaters Of The River Of Blood," "Destroy The Orcs," "Hall Of Heroes," "Ride Darkhorse Ride" and the closer, "Balls Of Ice." The masses didn't miss their cue during "Balls Of Ice" either, and started chanting "balls, balls, balls…ice, ice, ice!" This song should be a heavy metal anthem and if the gods of metal have any justice left in them, Three Inches of Blood will be HUGE one day!



The headliners were up next and the fans were in an absolute frenzy! I have seen Strapping Young Lad three times before in Vancouver and they always get an insane response, but tonight was even moreso. I don't know if it was the cameras and microphones that surrounded the stage or what, but Vancouver was going fucking nuts! The Commodore's walls were rumbling from chants of "STRAPPING…STRAPPING…STRAPPING!!!" as the fans were hungry for Devin and Co. to get on stage.

After what seemed like an eternity, the lights dimmed and SYL's intro began with the South Park classic, "Blame Canada." The band strode on stage and kept their backs turned to the audience with the exception of drummer Gene Hoglan who held up his sticks in an inverted cross. Then "Relentless" came blasting out and the crowd went berserk! I have been in the thick of things at Slayer, Motörhead and other shows that bordered on mayhem, but this night was something else altogether. The Commodore holds around 1,300 people and we were packed in like sardines as the crowd surged forward and the moshpit began to circle. I'm never comfortable in a situation like that partly because I'm old, but also because I don't like to get hurt. Call me crazy, but my idea of fun doesn't constitute getting some sweaty, shirtless guy's boot in the back of my head! The band was looking lean and mean as Devin snarled and stalked behind his microphone. Of course his between-song banter was out in full force, as well. For the introduction to "Oh My Fucking God," Townsend said he wants to take a piece of chicken skin, put 2 ostrich eggs in it and put some blood around it, then throw it in a urinal, so people would look at it and scream, "OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!" What a segway! Hoglan was, of course, godly behind his kit. Not only is he a double-bass machine, but I've never seen anyone with the dexterity he has. It's one thing to twirl the drum sticks or throw them up in the air but he has some pretty slick tricks. I guess his years toiling the metal underground as the backbone of Dark Angel, Death, Testament and Old Man's Child helped! The band ripped through a killer setlist:

Intro (Blame Canada)
Rape Song
Home Nucleonics
In The Rainy Season
Oh My Fucking God
Force Fed

Velvet Kevorkian
All Hail The New Flesh
Far Beyond Metal

The show was being recorded for a live DVD due sometime later this year which will be cool because that sort of thing never happens here! With cameras rolling, the usual shenanigans began to unfold as two faux-lesbians pushed through the crowd to start making out. One guy in a Canada Post shirt got up on stage and started jumping around for a few seconds to get on film, I guess. After getting back on the floor, his girlfriend seemed more angry and embarrassed than impressed. Way to go, dude! One cool thing SYL did was ask the first person who could sing the chorus of "Far Beyond Metal" to come up on stage and "be our friend." The lucky fan was named Drew, and not only did he know the words, but he had all the metal posturing necessary to blend in with the theme of the track. During Townsend's intentionally cheesy, overly-theatrical solo where he wound up rolling around on the stage, Drew walked up, grabbed Devin's balding head and started thrusting into it! We'll see if that makes it on to the final DVD!

Overall, a fun time was had by all. Of course everyone in the world will get to see evidence of this once the DVD hits shelves. Strapping Young Lad puts on an intense show that is peppered with humor lacking in most acts. The two opening bands chosen also made this night a memorable one and showcased our local talent.

**By the way, when the DVD comes out, you might be able to see me at the right of the stage. To steal EvilG's line, I'm the guy with a black shirt and jeans on…HA!!! Actually, look for the spiffy new color Metal Rules shirt on the devilishly handsome guy with the camera and terrified look on his face. That's me!

The Heavils - www.theheavils.com

Three Inches Of Blood - www.threeinchesofblood.com

Strapping Young Lad- www.strappingyounglad.com / www.hevydevy.com