Sunday, July 28, 2013

Oddzfest 2013 Metal Mash-Up Concert Review!!

Apologies for the delay, but here's our review of Friday night's Oddzfest 2013 Metal Mash-Up concert at The Oddfellows Hall! First off, I should address the rainstorm and flooding that happened in town that night, so how did it impact the concert? Not as much as you'd expect. Only one band had to drop out (openers Haggith, due to flooding where they were), and every other band was there in full to rock out, albeit with a slight delay for the start time. Disappointing that Haggith couldn't make it, but I can understand why they didn't risk anything, and go catch their Oddfellows Hall debut at next month's Sewer Swampstravaganza! The rain kept coming down very hard through the first three acts on Friday (it looked like a Woods of Ypres song was pouring on us), and while there was noticeable uncertainty from fans about whether the show would go on, there was nothing to fear! Myself, I left during a power outage in my area, so I gambled on metal overpowering the rain, and we all lucked out! Great attendance too, all things considered, and the strip lighting was a nice touch! As for notes not relating to the band's sets, the reunited Bring The Fallen finally released their 2009 debut EP at the show last night on a pay-by-donation model, and we'll cover that in full probably tomorrow, as this review is already gonna run long.

With Haggith dropping out, the opening band at Oddzfest was local death metal quartet Crimson Crusade in their first live set since their brief breakup concluded! No reference was made to that on Friday night (though they alluded to it on their Facebook page yesterday), so their timeslot was dedicated to rocking out with their usual technical fury, and if there was lingering strife and differences, they weren't visible! Crimson Crusade played all 5 songs from their "Upon The Eve Of War" EP, along with originals "Reality" & "Lost Memories", and a cover of Death's "Bite The Pain", and they were on form from past gigs with lots of brutality and solid skills, though the guys did seem to be a bit stiff in terms of stage presence. Devon Lucier's Death-esque growl cut through the metal well, Robert Sartini continues to impress on guitar, and fans seemed to enjoy everything! It's great to see Crimson Crusade are alive & well, and hopefully they sound even better at the Swampstravaganza next month!

Next up was local sludge/death metal quartet Giwakwa, in their last concert before members Josh Stephney & Nolan Rainville move out of town, and perhaps their last show ever? Like Crimson Crusade, Giwakwa didn't address their active status during their set, but given that members are leaving the Soo, I found that they put in a more determined and focused set that definitely throttled attendees! The only big negative I have is that it was basically the same as their last few shows: An instrumental jam followed by their four original songs, so if you've seen them at other shows, their set will essentially have been the same (but with half the band moving, why add new songs?) Musically, they sounded really good, especially with Chris Thompson's solid drumming and Nolan's excellent bass work, but guitarist Chris Page seemed a bit distant and unemotive at times, and he could have been a bit more energetic. Whether this was Giwakwa's last show or just a farewell for Josh & Nolan, they delivered the goods once again, and no matter what, thanks for three great months of stoner metal brutality!

Former Blackwater bassist James Watterworth turned up for his second all ages multi-band concert in a week's span as Oddzfest's third act, and he definitely improved on his Bushplane Musical Madness set! A better crowd and reception, electric guitars rather than acoustic, more slap bass originals, and some guest drumming from The Bear Hunters' Johnny Belanger helped amp up the atmosphere, and I can definitely tell that his cheerful nature and considerable bass talents wowed many fans! I think James' solo material and Delusionares covers have an audience and can fill a good niche, as the reception on Friday would indicate (how can you pass up local slap bass?) Like before, if there's a flaw, it's that this is still very much a solo project, and some of James' songs are just begging for a full band to back him up, so the minimalist nature might not be universal in appeal. James has a lot of talent, and a fun unique spirit and enthusiasm, so if he keeps this up, he'll surely make larger waves!

The middle band of the night was crust/grime death metal trio Shit Liver in their first show in 2 months, and you know they're taking the stage when they can fit 16 songs into an hour without rushing! With the stage fully decked out in Shit Liver style (including the return of Matt Baic's toilet drumstool), the guys tore through originals like "Survival of the Shittest", "Fabricated Nonsence", and their newest song "Liverated" (plus an encore cover of "Greedy Bastards"), and if you've seen Shit Liver at their peak, they'll have similarly delivered on Friday! Granted, their sound is as much of an acquired taste as ever, but Matt, Josh Penno, and Mike Kyle erupted in a furious blend of grindcore and death metal that definitely started some pits and appealed to many death metal fans in attendance! They sounded as good as they ever have, their riffs were crushing, and the metal hit us right in the liver for sure! Now, I have to ask, when's that EP coming out?

Fifth on the bill was local death metal quintet The Bear Hunters in their last set with the aforementioned Josh Stephney on rhythm guitar, and to mark the occasion, they played pretty much every original song in their repertoire (from "Bloodthirst" to "Servitude"), including covers of Amon Amarth's "Guardians of Asgaard" and Mitch Sirie's solo original "Squirrel Buddy", which all seemed to go over swimmingly! Like with Giwakwa, The Bear Hunters put in a brutal and very focused last set with Josh, leaving it all on the stage and unloading their full talent range on the audience, with Mitch's guitar even sounding a bit louder than it has at recent shows! Nik Deubel's newly trimmed beard didn't affect his growling abilities, Justin Lam's bass skills were as excellent as ever, and Josh's rhythm guitar work flowed well for his last set with the guys! Complaints are minor, and relate only to individual songs (like bringing back clean vocals and cutting down the end of "Render This Void", but this was a great way for The Bear Hunters to say farewell to Josh after a solid 2 year tenure!

The co-headliners on Friday were resurrected local death metal quintet Bring The Fallen, in both their first show since the spring of 2011 and their final live concert set, and they lived up to the hype with a brutal and very entertaining run of their classic original songs! Compared to the last few gigs of their active run (which were of mixed quality), they came into Oddzfest like they were gonna win a 4th battle of the bands, and we responded in kind! Most of their finally-released EP (save for "Kill Your Life") was played, along with "Nostalgia" and a mostly-instrumental closing number, and the best mosh pits of the night so far came during their set, which was melodic, brutal, thrashy, and just like it was at their late-2009 peak! Josh's growling was on point, it was great seeing Andrew Chiarello's guitar talents on stage again, and Travis St. Amour's drumming kept pace as well as ever, proving their chemistry hadn't lost a step! I just wish their set ran a bit longer (they didn't have enough practiced songs to do an encore either.)

Still, this finally gave B.T.F. fans proper closure (following the extended breakup rumours and abrupt end 2 years ago), and this was a fitting & brutal farewell to the band that arguably helped kick off our current wave of death metal groups! I know that no matter what, the guys bring the metal wherever life takes them!

The night closed with an awesome set from late-notice headliners West of Hell, in the second local concert appearance from the Vancouver classic metal outfit! Before we get into some of the stranger events of their set, let's cover the music, as it was brutal, fast paced, and melodic as you've come to expect! Much of that comes from the always charismatic Chris "The Heathen" Valagao, whose heavy and soaring metal voice roped us in for the long haul on tracks like "Spiral Empire", "Soultaker", and "To War", and the rest of the band shown their skills as well, with Jordan Kemp's bass and Andrew Hulme's drums keeping up and impressing on their own! Classic metal bands like Striker & Skull Fist are a safe bet around here, and West of Hell are in that mold for entertainment and talent alike, but their stage show is also well worth mentioning. The Heathen's war helmet was back, as was the power grinding sparks and the new foam/snow machine, but the smoke machine's return proved problematic, as it actually triggered The Oddfellows Hall's fire alarm.

Conveniently occurring during a break where the guitar stopped working, the false alarm actually had a fire truck called down to the hall, though the show wasn't cancelled, and once everything was plugged back in, the show went on as scheduled (just, with no more smoke machine.) There was some panic about cops maybe coming down, but for what it's worth, I didn't see any. That strange episode aside, West of Hell delivered in full for their local return, and hopefully they'll come back with some more notice for a third go-round with their local fans! Awesome concert, and it was a great and very brutal way to help send off Josh, Nolan, and Bring The Fallen before the big move! Every band was on fire, the metal overcame the weather, and if there was any sadness or bittersweet feelings, we were too busy rocking out to notice! Thanks again to Josh and Nolan for the great memories and music that they've given since Bring The Fallen's live debut 4 years ago, and I know they'll do what's right for them in the future, no matter what! As for Bring The Fallen's EP (cover pictured), we'll give that some deserved attention on the site tomorrow!

I did get photos, so click here to check them out or visit our Facebook page, and for videos, here's Crimson Crusade playing "Pillage", Giwakwa playing "Iron Lung", James Watterworth playing "I'm Gonna Love You", Shit Liver playing the "You Suffer"-esque "Livin' In Shit" and "Shift Liver", The Bear Hunters playing "Karma", Bring The Fallen playing "Exposed Embankment", and West of Hell playing "Water of Sorcery"!

That's all for now, but stay tuned for an all-video post relating to a recent local concert event later tonight! Thanks everyone!

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