DECEMBER 7th 2013
Review By: Anka
Photos By: Peter Ruttan

A December show surely sounds amazing to me, even if it's not my favorite band playing. But generally, there's a certain lethargy about this month’s shows that I just can't help noticing. People become apathetic and hardly get out anymore. Blame it on the holidays or other responsibilities, but sometimes they miss out on great shows.  For a Saturday night, The Venue downtown Vancouver was not packed enough. For an early metal show, it was. High on Fire with openers Kvelertak and Windhand is more than an appealing lineup - if not for the entire bill, at least for parts of it, depending on each fan.

And I do know fans that were there mostly for the first band, Windhand. A relatively new band around, hailing from Virginia, this certainly is a pretty incredible act to see live. Even if you're not into stoner/doom metal, you have to be very insensitive to not appreciate the performance. Vocalist Dorthia Cottrell has a mesmerizing, powerful voice with a beautiful, dramatic resonance. This voice alone has to fight a considerable dose of distorted riffage from the rest of the band members. It was a loud… very loud show. The band played their short set without interaction with the crowd, compensating on the dynamic side by headbanging continuously, even though their music is all at relatively mid-paced tempo.  Overall a great performance that will surely be remembered by all fans who were present at the time.

As a side note, the unfortunate issue that night was the sound mix, which was far from being favorable to any of the bands. I think I spent about half an hour looking for the "best spot in the house" and the back of the room was definitely the spot where everything sounded if not better and more balanced, at least cleaner.  

Sound issues aside, Kvelertak took the stage shortly after Windhand and animated the place instantly with the appearance of vocalist Erlend Hjelvik wearing the owl mask (the owl is the band’s symbol and mascot). Now, this is not their first time here, as a matter of fact, it is their second time within 6 months! Even if they weren’t the headliners this time, they still performed a lengthy set. What I love about this band is the infectious rock’n’roll energy and the black metal-ish vibe – no, they are not a black metal band but there’s a certain “vibe” in there. Yet everything sounds so smooth and groovy, in a perfect mix of punk, hard rock and metal. At this time, the crowd attempted the first moshpits - it would be difficult to stand still anyway. If you’re looking to rock out to catchy, yet heavy riffs, this is the show you need to see, you won’t be bored. Their live show was my favorite that night, hands down.

High on Fire, well, the MIGHTY High on Fire - as I was taught to address their name- had no choice but to maintain the energy levels set by Kvelertak. This is hardly an issue for this band, and from the very first riffs the place exploded into screams and frantic moshpit runs. While I find their music to be a bit linear with mostly rhythm-derived hooks, there is so much heaviness that sort of makes up for everything I wish I heard. Super heavy riffage puts a unique, crushing spin on stoner metal, boosting the intensity effortlessly. It’s pretty unbelievable how only 3 guys can be so loud. But that explains how they have a pretty big following already and it could be noticeable in Vancouver as well: by the time they finished, the area in front of the stage was packed and the venue quite full.

I am pretty sure the early end of the show didn’t sit quite well with most fans, once you are fueled by adrenaline like that, you need at least a couple more hours of metal in order to get proper relief.

But I’m guessing we’ll hear more from these bands and possibly see them again in the near future. There is absolutely no way this ends here.