The Riffs Not Riots show was an effort by the Vancouver metal community to showcase local talent while emphasizing that while we love our violent music, we don’t condone violence in our streets. The show was a way of protesting against the riot that devastated Vancouver shortly after the Canucks’ loss against the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The MetalUnderground.com-sponsored event took place on July 13th, 2011, at the Fortune Sound Club, strangely located in the heart of Chinatown. Proceeds went to Canucks for Kids Fund, a nonprofit charity run by the Vancouver Canucks NHL organization. The crowd was a mixed group, ranging from hipsters to an old guy in a fishing cap (he had to be at least 60 or 70) who rocked out until closing. Somehow, the anti-riot theme of the show toned down the moshing as most of the audience just stood and soaked up the tunes.
The show got off to a late start when Anion took the stage at 9 PM with a set dominated by buzzing guitars and pounding basslines. Lead vocalist, Johnny Matter, belched out some hardcore screaming while appearing to work himself into a trance as he wandered around the floor like a dog tethered to the stage by his mic stand. The highlight of the four-song set was a song inspired by horror legend Ed Gein where the band broke into a Nine Inch Nails-inspired interlude. Great energy, but PA issues made even Matter’s comments indecipherable between songs.
Technical death metal band Abriosis picked up where Anion left off with some flawlessly executed guitar work from guitarist Taylor Lipton who put on a clinic on how sweep picking should be done. Drummer Robin Iwasiw bashed at the drums like Animal from the Muppets while vocalist Kris McDermott displayed an impressive vocal range from guttural grunting to black metal inspired screeching. Not wanting to be out done, bassist Ryan McDonnel, put on a fine display of two handed tapping before jumping into the pit with McDermott to close out the set with the crowd.
Weirding shifted the vibe of this show with a set of doom/groove inspired metal highlighted by sustained bass lines creating an ominous atmosphere. By this point the PA system was working well enough for the vocalist to give props to the organizers and opening bands who “are way better instrument players than us.” That being said, Weirding held its own with a set reminiscent of early Black Sabbath and the clean vocals were a nice change of pace from the brutality of the first bands.
Former Abriosis vocalist, Chris Mathis, took the stage with his bandmates as Galgamex let loose an onslaught of black metal picking laced with blast beats while Mathis let loose like a Randy Blythe incarnate. Easily the fastest music of the night, their set was highlighted by their final song, “Light Speed Sarcophagus,” which really brought the energy back to the crowd after a relatively mellow prior set. Guitarists Jordan Vandetti and Daniel Stokes made up for the lack of a bassist by demonstrating that they really know their scales and can shred with the best of them.
Ancients kicked off their set with “Giants,” which felt like a dose of old school “Somewhere in Time” Iron Maiden-inspired metal but a with a Mastodon-style groove. The band uses dual lead vocals to great effect with just a touch of screaming. The songs are long and proggy but they do highlight the band’s musicianship with numerous tempo changes and extended solos. Looking forward to hearing more from these guys in the future.
Black Wizard had a few technical issues getting set up, but did not disappoint with one of the most diverse sets of the evening. The act’s opening song channeled a range of bands including Thin Lizzy, Motorhead and Black Sabbath, showcasing fantastic interplay between the bass and guitars. Black Wizard has a rad 1970s metal vibe to their music with the vocals resembling Robert Plant with a barely detectable Bob Dylan twang. At this point, you could tell the crowd was losing steam as the band jammed through its last song, but enough Black Wizard faithful were still there to call for an encore.
Finally, Titans Eve got the chance to showcase its homegrown brand of punk-tinged thrash metal. Opening track “Tides of Doom” of the excellent release “The Divine Equal” got the remaining crowd members going with solid energy and rapid fire riffs. The band also got the crowd involved with a “Riffs Not Riots” chant. The second song “Nightfall” even featured the first drum solo of the evening, followed up by the second on their next song! The band showed appreciation for everyone who was still out at Fortune Sound Club at 1AM on a Wednesday. Too bad for everyone who went home at a reasonable hour and missed Titans Eve. The band capped off an excellent night of diverse metal genres that demonstrate some of the best that Van City has to offer.
Photos from the show are found in the Photo Gallery.