The Red Room
June 29, 2011
Photos: Dave Lai
The Red Room is made for a metal show. The all black paint, the red accents. A low-ceilinged bunker whose dark interior is brightened only by whirling spotlights. The stage is low to the dance floor so the headbanging faithful are close to touch the band. Though this Wednesday night, the faithful were sadly no more than forty in all. All three bands on the bill are at present unsigned acts which means many of the people who came out to catch the show were either friends of the bands or members of their cult following. While I'm certain such an “intimate” crowd didn't bring in all that much money for either the bands, promoter or venue, it gave the whole affair a laid back and friendly atmosphere. Despite the violent intensity of the music being played, primadona pretensions were nowhere to be found as musicians openly mingled with the crowd and seemed genuinely excited by the small but intensely supportive turnout. I even traded jokes with Alone Against Rome bassist Etienne Girard while being frisked at the door. The doorman, not recognizing him as a member of the bill began to search him immediately after me until his band's driver vouched for him.
The first act to take the stage were Vancouver natives Kymatica. Formed in 2009, the band immediately stand apart from many of their thrash and death metal contemporaries thanks to the presence of keyboardist Seah Maister in their lineup. Maister's keys are set so they sound like a classical piano, in what I'm assuming is an attempt to give Kymatica a more diverse and grandiose sound. While this was certainly the case during slower tempo moments, the piano did not mesh nearly as well when the tempo steadily increased. Instead it clanged noisily over the din and became distracting. However credit where credit is due, Seah Maister is a very talented pianist with the ability to play fluidly and well at a fast pace. Kymatica's rhythm section of drummer David McGrigor and bassist Shawn Hillman were dependable and lead guitarist Dominic Chan has both skill and potential. The band's frontman Lucas Trottier however was somewhat lacklustre. He had the thrash metal rasping growl and howling screaming down pat but lacked the stage presence and menace to make them truly effective. Also at times Trottier struggled with maintaining the strength of his vocals. But in all fairness, it is extremely difficult to sustain such a demanding singing style for a long period of time.
Kymatica was followed, after a lengthy technical delay, by show stealing Nelson, BC progressive metal outfit Alone Against Rome. A band who seemed to have mistaken a half empty Red Room for a packed Rogers Arena. They hit with the stage with such bombast and energy that it wasn't long before a mosh pit had formed in front of the stage. Occupied by three people. No one was more high energy than singer Geoff Ross, who spent most of the band's forty five minute set bouncing around the tiny stage like a pinball, ricocheting off fellow band members. A frontman from the Bruce Dickinson mould, Ross's highly visible performance style combined with his fantastic vocal range made him a treat to watch. With Ross giving the vocals power and weight, it was up to lead guitarist Evan Arnott to match him musically. Which he did with ease. Arnott is a fantastic guitarist with furious fingers. Equally excellent rhythm guitarist Brent Gallant, bassist Etienne Girard and drummer Kyle Sheppard rounded out the dynamic lineup. Alone Against Rome not only sounded great they were also clearly having a lot of fun. Ross alternated between cracking jokes and belting out dark songs like “Stolen Love.” A track about a love stricken man who murders the father of his true love so he can take her away in the night. Another song was dedicated to infamous H.P Lovecraft creation C'thulu. Alone Against Rome powered through their admittedly short set with style and gusto before unceremoniously hoping offstage to as loud as an applause as the crowd could muster.
In between Alone Against Rome and headliners Without Mercy, the audience were shooed off the dance floor to make way for a special temporary catwalk. A catwalk designed to keep the crowd apart from highly flammable performance artist Tiffini Truth, who after nearly a half an hour of setup time treated the audience to a rather odd display. Clad only in a gold bikini, safety goggles and metal plates strapped to her knees, hands and torso, the tattooed beauty gyrated and strutted suggestively onstage to German heavy metal music while pressing live angle grinders to the metal plates. The result was a shower of sparks which doused both Tiffini and any stage hand unlucky enough to get too close in a cascade of orange sparks.
After Tiffini Truth's non sequitur of a performance, it was time for headliners Without Mercy to take the stage. The fact that this band is still unsigned and largely unheralded, even in their hometown of Vancouver, really is a damn shame because Without Mercy is a bloody fierce act. Fronted by Alxs Ness, a grinning banshee who can growl lower and scream higher than most male metal singers I've heard, the band's sound is good old fashioned thrash metal. With the hard-edge yet sexy Ness howling up front, it is up to drummer Matt Helie to maintain the breakneck pace of the band's songs. But Helie is quick and deadly accurate with those sticks. I don't think I heard him falter once the whole set. New bassist Brad Kennedy followed his lead well. With Kennedy and Helie holding things together, guitarist DJ Temple was free to do what he does best: shred like a maniac. When they take to the stage, Without Mercy will not be denied and it wasn't long before the whole crowd was moving. I myself set aside my haughty journalistic pretensions to push my way to the front of the stage and head bang so hard and long that I actually pulled a muscle in my neck. It still kinda hurts as I write this. If that isn't high praise I don't know what is.