Hey guys, it's finally time for my review of Saturday night's Ypres Metal Fest, so what went down at our local David Gold memorial concert? This extended review should tell you, but first, I wanna apologize for both the delay of the review (11 video files take time to upload) and for the lack of a Wolven Ancestry video, but I'll get to that later on. So the concert on Saturday was, at it's peak, comparable in attendance to the Kiss Battle of the Bands Finals in 2009, and it was great to see so many new and old faces out in David Gold's memory! There was plenty of band merchandise for sale from the performing acts, including Woods of Ypres shirts and CDs, and I can proudly say that I bought a tribute concert t-shirt, Woods of Ypres toque (with the band logo in "gold"), and "Woods V" on CD for the cause, and the free tote bag, pick, and bottle opener were nice touches! As rumoured beforehand, each band covered at least one Woods of Ypres or Proposition 86 song during their sets, and some featured special guests, but we'll get to the individual covers as the review goes along. Now, to the actual bands, so here's my thoughts and observations!
Most of the bands had abbreviated sets of around a half hour in length, so I'll be a bit more concise with my thoughts than usual, but there's still a lot to say! The opening band was local deathcore quartet The Valentine's Day Massacre, who launched the Ypres Metal Fest in style with a cover of "Halves & Quarters" from "Woods IV", and they did a solid job on it! Their set featured other originals like "Vampiric" and "My Sweet Delilah"", and they shown good brutality and aggression to kick things off, though it was sorta odd seeing Kyle Umgeher behind a normal drumkit. Andrew Angelic's guitar work was great as usual, and they set the tone well for the bands to come! They were followed by the last local band to ever open for Woods of Ypres, death metal quintet The Bear Hunters, in what was actually the first time I've seen them live in 8 months! Their set began with a cover of part 2 of "Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)" from "Woods V", though with bassist Justin Lam on lead vocals and singer Nik Deubel on third guitar. Well played, but Justin's singing needs work, and Mitch Sirie's guitar was tuned way too low. Their originals were about as good as I expected, ranging from the brutal "Collapse the Sun" to their newer original "Deception", and they got more fans on the floor for their set, which was good to see! Pretty good all around, but hopefully I'll see a longer set from them soon!
Third were local grimecore notables Shit Liver in their 2012 debut and first concert in 4 months, and they knocked off 11 songs during their set, including two brand new songs ("Pennotration" and "It's Not My Problem"), and if you can appreciate their crusty and grimy take on punk and death metal, you'd have had no problem moshing out to their set! In fact, they were the first band to get pit activity last night, which is a good sign! Their Woods of Ypres cover was of "The Shams of Optimism" from "Against The Seasons", and they made it their own to end their set with! They're still an acquired taste, but Shit Liver definitely left their mark last night, and that works for me! Fourth were the night's only non-metal act, local punk trio Redundant, but frontman Justin Langlois left a great impression on Saturday by telling some stories of his and David's time together in bands during their teen years, and Redundant covered songs like "Tomorrow" by Silverchair and "Say It Ain't So" by Weezer that Justin & David played together back in the day! Redundant sounded at their punk best last night, including on Green Day & Scary Uncles covers, along with their set closing cover of an old Proposition 86 cover featuring Giwakwa's Jason Bourcier on vocals, and it was great to see them on Saturday!
The final local band of the evening was Garden of Bedlam in their own 2012 debut, and they unleashed a very entertaining set of their high quality originals! Though shorter than normal for them, Garden of Bedlam played hits like "Against The Grain" and "Torment" from their 2011 album "Everything Will Die" for the huge crowd at The Canadian, and they were on form completely from what I'm used to, especially with Josh Belleau's excellent guitar work and Buzz's always impressive singing! Their Woods of Ypres cover was an early highlight of the evening, as they were joined by special guests for their cover of "I Was Buried In Mount Pleasant Cemetery", including Woody Sims/ex-Sense of Truth guitarist Steve Myers on the keyboard and Blues Harvest's Josh Norling on the saxophone. This was an interesting choice of a cover, but they all handled it extremely well and played it excellently, which was a great way to cap off their set!
Sixth on the lineup on Saturday was the first out of town band, North Bay black metallers Empyrean Plague, and if any band called to mind Woods of Ypres' black metal roots, it was these guys! I've never seen Empyrean Plague live before, but they displayed some nice brutal extreme metal and kept lots of fans up front to rock along with them! Mike Burge's black metal singing lived up to their heavy attack, and I was impressed with Dave Strba's lead work as well! If there was any flaw, it was that their set seemed to go by way too fast, and I'd like to see more of them, but their set ending cover of Woods of Ypres' "Shedding the Deadwood" from "Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth" was pretty good! Mike's singing didn't flow as well as I hoped, and I honestly would rather have seen them do something like "Awaiting The Inevitable", but it worked nicely, and the fans responded in kind! Nice work overall, and hopefully Empyrean Plague come back soon with a longer set!
Following them was the special acoustic set by Joel Violette & Rae Amitay from Woods of Ypres' final lineup, and even though bassist Brendan Hayter couldn't make it, local fans were surprised to see Gates of Winter guitarist Bryan Belleau (Woods' lead guitarist from 2008-2010) come home to join Joel & Rae for most of their set! The three of them switched instruments often for their songs, ranging from Woods of Ypres songs like "Silver", "Shedding The Deadwood", "Song of Redemption", and "A Meeting Place & Time", to a cover of Katatonia's "Omerta" (I believe), and though the quality varied, the emotions were very real, and the performances were top notch! Joel's singing range was honestly limited, but when Rae took over lead vocals, she was surprisingly really good, and when she sang on "A Meeting Place & Time", she shown a lot of potential as a clean singer, even throwing in black metal vocals when she sang "I hope it's cold every day where you are"! The highlight for me was when Gypsy Chief Goliath frontman Alex "Yeti Bones" Petrovich joined the Woods alumni for a cover of "Shards of Love (Hurt Forever)" that everyone on the floor started singing along with, and that was a surreal and very cool moment that I have my fingers crossed completely that someone filmed! This was the emotional highlight of the evening, and hopefully Joel and Rae continue to work together musically in the future!
Surprisingly, the next band on the lineup was Chicago doom/death veterans Novembers Doom, despite being the advertised headliners. No matter, as their set made me an official fan of theirs, because they tore it up! Possibly the most similar to late-era Woods of Ypres material of the bands on Saturday, these guys delivered some very heavy and moshable material, and up to that point in the night, they had the most raucous reaction up front! Paul Kuhr's vocals ranged from sorrowful doom melodies to devastating death growling, and on songs like "Harvest Scythe", they were even more impressive and heavy! Their words about David before their set were also really nice, as was their cover of Woods of Ypres' "Wet Leather" from "W4", which got a great reception from fans! I hope that Novembers Doom can come back to Sault Ontario under happier circumstances in the future, as I was really impressed by them, and I'll definitely wanna hear more of their death & doom sounds live!
After them was, again surprisingly early, London metal quartet Kittie for one hell of a set! The people around me seemed to agree, as it was a claustrophobic's nightmare of metalheads on the floor! It was as congested during Kittie's set as I am with this cold! Though some may still see them as the all-girls band who did "Brackish", they've grown and developed so much since then, and they blown the roof off the joint with brutal originals like "I've Failed You", "Never Again", and "Mouthful of Poison", along with an emotional version of Woods of Ypres' song "Everything I Touch Turns To Gold (Then To Coal)" from "Woods IV", and they sounded great for the whole set! Morgan Lander was spitting venom on vocals, and her and Tara McLeod's guitar work was solid, though I was hoping for more guitar solos. Mercedes Lander's drum work was fast and brutal, and Trish Doan's bass lines kept things heavy on the low end throughout! Morgan also shared some nice things about David and how much she missed him, which was awesome, and hopefully Kittie come back to town at some point, after the reaction and support they got on Saturday!
With Kittie's set done by midnight, a noticeable number of fans left after they wrapped up, but they should have stayed for the final three bands, starting with Windsor stoner metal outfit Gypsy Chief Goliath! They had an amended set due to time constraints, but they had lots of time to deliver some solid music, which reminded me of if Down were a jam band... and had a harmonica player. Solid stuff, and Alex Petrovich's vocals flowed well with their material! Nice different sound compared to the bands around them, and their cover of the "W4" song "Suicide Cargoload (Drag That Weight)" got a great reception! Following them after some very noticeably delays (and using Hallows Die's drumkit) was Sudbury black metal standouts Wolven Ancestry, in their first local concert since opening for Woods of Ypres in the fall of 2008. I know they performed a good set, but I think they need a do-over, as the sound quality of their set was off, with Lord Defiler's singing almost inaudible and the music almost blending together. Plus, their set was slashed to just three songs due to the aforementioned delays, including the removal of their full Woods of Ypres cover, though I heard elements of "A Meeting Place & Time" late in their last song.
I enjoy Wolven Ancestry, and I'd love to see them come back to town soon for a full set without any sound or time concerns. If they do, hopefully they can do their Woods cover in their next Soo stop, as I didn't know what would happen and failed to get a video from their set as a result. My apologies to Wolven Ancestry and their fans, I'll make it up somehow! The delays forced the final band, Toronto death metal quartet Hallows Die, to play just two songs, and both after 2:00 AM with the house lights on, but their set was fast and brutal, and I was glad to finally see them live, even if briefly! For their final song, Hallows Die were joined by Woods of Ypres guitarist Joel Violette and Ypres Metal Fest booker Rich Moreland for a cover of "The Northern Cold" from "Woods III", and they tore it up to end the night, and with some gracious words thanking everyone to cap off the night, the Ypres Metal Fest ended nicely! Though delays hampered later set times, and the sound occasionally had some concerns, this was an amazing night of metal, and I'm so glad I didn't use my sick card and not go! By the end of the night, I was exhausted and overdue for Nyquil, but it was all worth it to pay tribute to David Gold's memory and all he's done for independent music, local metal, and metal in general!
Part of me still thinks that, with David's messages on "Woods V", he may not have approved of the tributes to him, but he is certainly deserving of all of these great tributes to his memory and music, and hopefully somehow, somewhere, he enjoyed what went down on Saturday and on Thursday. A special thanks goes out to David's family, Rich, the crew and workers who kept things running this weekend, plus all of the bands, Jason, Steve, and Josh for their guest spots, and Joel, Rae, and Bryan for coming to the Soo for this amazing event! I hope that it returns next year, but even if it doesn't, it was something very special, and I'm very glad to have went and supported the Gold family, metal, and David's memory! R.I.P. David!
To close this post, here's all 11 videos that I shot on Saturday (apologies again to Wolven Ancestry, and to the bands whose songs I missed the beginning of.) That's all for now, but stay tuned for a new news post tomorrow! Thanks everyone!