By Kyle Harcott
Typical Vancouver – a touring metal band deigns to come here and gets stuck playing an early show with an 11PM curfew so the club can still get its late-night fill of people who would rather hear records spun than live music. Then, in order to draw at an early gig, the bill gets packed out with too many openers thereby shortening said headliner’s set.
I got to the Biltmore somewhat later than the 7PM start and missed Mother Died Today’s set; word on the street was it was apparently their last show ever. By all accounts, their brand of Opethesque melodic death went over quite well. Next up was a bru-technical set from Archspire, but since I’m no reliable gauge of tech-death, I can only tell you they sounded stop-on-a-dime relentless enough to me. The last opener, First Reign, blended melodic death metal with a healthy dose of old school trad, and sported a pretty amazing drummer.
Woods of Ypres finally took to the stage about ten, and though their set was short, the band crammed more into their hour than I’ve seen most other bands do in two. Hitting their stride a couple songs in with “Your Ontario Town Is A Burial Ground”, Woods held the Biltmore rapt – the crowd showing their love and chanting the words right back. It goes without saying, a lot of people were happy to see WoY back in our neck of the woods, especially after last year’s bullshit vandalism incident at the Cobalt. The band responded in kind with a set drawing heavily from Woods III & IV; tracks like “Distractions of Living Alone”, “Suicide Cargoload” and “Halves and Quarters” absolutely crushed. Woods is a genuinely heavy band on record, but their doomy attack is tempered with a strong dose of ambiance. In a live setting, Woods is still dynamic, but when shit kicks in, they’re a roaring beast.
The songs, stripped lean, take on a new sense of heavy immediacy. Intensely focused, David Gold kept the banter minimal, briefly introducing songs, but instead let the music speak on his behalf. And it was that intensity that made Woods of Ypres so amazing to watch live. They’re a band that pour their heart and soul into every endeavour –recorded and live- and that makes all the difference. The Woods IV lineup of Gold and the Madden brothers have a strong chemistry onstage, which translates in their presence. Shane Madden’s bellowing backup vocals command attention all their own, and watching Evan Madden play drums is akin to watching some sort of industrial machine press, hammering and precise. And new touring rhythm guitarist Joel Violette is an imposing presence as well; his tone complementing Gold’s, and completing the band’s live sound. I look forward to hearing what they create for Woods V, when that happens.
As the hour wound to an all-too-soon close, the crowd began yelling for one song and one song only, and the band was only too happy to comply with a stellar rendition of “A Meeting Place and Time”. The band brought the house down with it, and as they exited the stage, I headed for the door*, with the words I hope it’s cold, everyday, where you are ringing in my ears and satisfied I’d seen my best show of the year. Sincerely, thanks Woods.
*Sigh, late to arrive, early to leave: Per Rob Hughes, apparently, in my haste to catch a bus, I missed the encore – a brand-new, as-yet instrumental.
Poorly recalled Woods of Ypres setlist, likely incomplete/ definitely not in the right order:
THE SUN WAS IN MY EYES
YOUR ONTARIO TOWN IS A BURIAL GROUND
BY THE TIME YOU READ THIS
EVERYTHING I TOUCH TURNS TO GOLD
DISTRACTIONS OF LIVING ALONE
HALVES AND QUARTERS
A MEETING PLACE AND TIME