JANUARY 30th 2016

Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan

To jumpstart my 2016 I had the privilege of attending a stellar show this past Saturday.The bill included Torrefy, Dead Asylum, Exmortus, Cauldron, Warbringer and Enforcer.  Pretty deadly start to get the ole metal legs moving again after the holiday hiatus.

Exmortus....I was blown away by these guys! Guitarists Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez (also lead vocals) and David Rivera, and bassist Michael Cosio, played like they were born with their instruments as appendages. The melodic speed and death metal spewed did everything speed metal should: from assaulting the bejesus out of my ears to causing nerve damage to my eyeballs as I tried to follow the fingering. Were I in the string business, I would be banging on these guys’ door begging them to use my product.

Drummer Mario Moreno accented perfectly and towed the line like a guy who co-founded the band in his teens (which he did with cousin Conan). I’ve listened to the studio stuff but nothing can compare to this live show. They played some epicly lengthed numbers including “Metal Is King”, new releases “Relentless” and “For the Horde” and a panty wetting instrumental rendition of Beethoven’s “Appassionata” all of which culminated in a literal orgy of men and their stringed instruments.  A band to see if you haven’t: they’re projected to be one of the tops in their category for 2016.

Next up was Cauldron. These poor dudes were sadly without a singer this night as their usual vocalist and bassist was down with laryngitis.  Even so, Jason Decay tried his darndest and with his Geddy Lee-like look and sound, led the opening tune with guitarist Ian Chains and drummer Myles Deck.  All band members took a shot at lead vocals along the way, and guest vocalists, including Enforcer frontman Olof Wikstrand, helped where they could.  It was clear that Cauldron was looking to step into the big shoes of old metal’s new wave, however despite the individual talent, there was nothing that really jumped at me about this band.  They have a following and have been building their notoriety, no doubt due to much hard work, but it would seem they likely have a ways to go before reaching the heights they aspire to.

Co-headliner Warbringer was next to decimate the stage. I was surprised to see some familiar faces: including guitarist Conan and bassist Michael Cosio.  They complimented the usual lineup of drummer Carlos Cruz (also moonlighting as Enforcer’s drummer), guitarist Adam Carroll and vocalist John Kevill. Despite doing double duty, Conan and Cosio were stellar just bringing driving riff after mind-blowing riff in a constant assault on the crowd. Kevill screamed his throat raw, thrusting the metal militia into a mosh right off the bat.  After the previous act it was clear some energy needed displacement and so the bodies bounced.

Carroll and Conan complimented each other like a pair of well-worn leather pant-legs and Cruz managed to keep up, wound and timed like a an old pocket watch (but Carroll, buddy, try to move a little so we know you’re alive). Front and centre was the creative character that Kevill brought to the stage. A maniacal fiend with nothing but venom on his breath and fire in his veins, he constantly called to the Vancouverites to put their all into it and essentially stop being little pussies.  He wanted the mosh to last their set, and it essentially did, with bodies and bars as bumpers to the pitching mass.

The group blasted through “War Cry”, “Scars Remain”, “Future Ages Gone”, “Monday Morning Song”, “Prepare For Combat” and “Living In a Whirlwind”, to name a few. My eardrums needed tapping and this was the right musical dink to do the job. Given the group’s eclectic personal tastes in music, their catalogue, while overwhelmingly thrash metal, has characteristics of punk, traditional 70s metal, and speed/death metal minutae. A blend of which gives Warbringer a stage presence and a musical depth that many more experienced bands could only hope for.  GET YOUR ASS TO THEIR NEXT SHOW!

Finally, the night closed out with Enforcer. Without leaving the venue, it felt as if I was on the sunset strip listening to the beginnings of Venom, Poison, Cindrella and the like. Without the dank dreary walls and adjacent crack alley, of course (but correct me if I’m wrong – I wasn’t actually on the strip in the 70s).  Lead vocalist and guitarist Wikstrand sashayed up on stage with drummer Carlos Cruz, guitarist Joseph Tholl and bassist Tobias Lindqvist. The set was replete with leather pants, studded wristbands, and ball-pinching vocals.   Along the lines of the popular new-wave-old-hair-metal band Steel Panther, Wikstrand sounds like Mick Mars in his hey day, complimented by a melodic high energy metal band.

The four-piece laid out tracks such as “Death By Fire”, “From Beyond”, “Destroyer”, “Below the Slumber”, and “Midnight Vice”.  Although every member of the group is extremely talented and terribly cohesive, embodying the spirit of metal old, there will always be the inevitable comparison for them.  They have limited their musical reach as they alienate the former generations who say “No one can do it like Rob Halford…” and they push the newer generations away who say “They’re not metal enough…” That is not to say I did not enjoy the show (they did a great live performance) and that is not to say they have no future in music (clearly they do: they’re on their 5th studio album).  But it was clear that as the night rushed along, propelled by the likes of Exmortus and Warbringer, it came to a serious halt when Enforcer took to the stage.

All in all it was a great lineup, however it may do all bands better to consider separating themselves into two shows so that the thrash metal folks come and stay the night for the Warbringers of the scene while the metalheads of yore can last for the Enforcer-types. But that is this writer’s humble and very balls-in-your-face opinion. Let it be known I do fully support the metal of the world coming together under one umbrella, however we all know that shit rainbow will never really come to fruition. Great job to all bands this night, thanks for the ear bang.