Canadaâ’s 3 Inches of Blood fire up the blades for old-school heavy metal
by Mike Gibson
For rock fans who never partook of the glory days of Bay-area thrash, or of its antecedent New Wave of British Heavy Metal, itâ’s small wonder that at first glance, the Canadian outfit 3 Inches of Blood might seem like some sort of over-the-top joke, a post-Spinal Tap send-up of late-era heavy metal.
But only at first glance. Because if you pay attention, youâ’ll soon realize thereâ’s nothing ironic about vocalist Cam Pipesâ’ herculean power-metal war cries, or the spot-on dual-guitar harmonies of virtuosic axemen Shane Clark and Justin Hagberg. And thereâ’s nothing funny at all about 3 Inchesâ’ music; their latest CD Fire up the Blades is cribbed from the best of classic Euro-metal, a brilliant throwback to the era of Mercyful Fate and the heyday of Iron Maiden.
â“There were some journalists, who, because our music doesnâ’t follow the fad of the day, figured we must be some kind of joke,â” says Clark, speaking from a stopover in the U.K. during their current jaunt in support of Fire up the Blades. â“I guess I could have seen that if youâ’re not familiar with our influences, especially the high-register vocals. But someone insinuating what you do is a joke is like going up to someone and saying, â‘You know, your baby is really ugly.â’ Itâ’s insulting.
â“Having said that, we donâ’t really care. If thereâ’s a small contingent of people who donâ’t really listen to heavy metal music who think weâ’re being ironic, it doesnâ’t really bother me. Because if you saw us, after 10 seconds of seeing us play, youâ’d know we were serious.â”
The band began in 2000 in Vancouver, when vocalist Jamie Hooper and a handful of former band mates from another outfit got together and decided to continue under a new name. An EP (2001â’s Sect of the White Worm) and a slew of membership changes ensued; today, Hooper and fellow vocalist Pipes, who also jumped on board in 2000, are the only original members.
But the membership changes were in keeping with where 3 Inches of Blood was headed, which was back in time to the era of powerful, traditional European-influenced heavy metal. (One of the original members later admitted to having qualms with the bandâ’s direction, saying â“none of us [who left the band] are really metal dudes.â”)
The current members are all die-hard metal devotees, guys in their late 20s and early 30s who caught just enough of the musicâ’s last moments in the spotlight, commercially speaking, to glean life-changing inspiration.
â“We all came from similar metal-influenced backgrounds, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and UFO and the Scorpions, black metal,â” says Clark, 32. â“Itâ’s true that we were coming of age when traditional metal was beginning to be less popular. But my first concert was Iron Maiden in â‘87, my first introduction to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, which wasnâ’t so new at that point.
â“And being introduced to metal music at a young age, you do your homework. You ask, â‘I like thrash, but where did that come from?â’ I got into AC/DC when I was young, but a lot of their great albums were made when I was two years old. Those are some of my favorites now. The music transcends age.â”
Clark and his band mates are no fans of the nÃ¼-metal outfits that gained a commercial foothold in the years since trad-metal faded from the public eye somewhere in the early â‘90s; in one interview, Hooper referred to the band as â“nÃ¼-metalâ’s greatest enemies.â”
â“A lot of that stuff was like music for dummies,â” says Clark. â“Stuff thatâ’s on the radio thatâ’s kind of catchy, but itâ’s completely false.â”
By the same token, he bristles at the notion that true metal is â“making a comeback,â” given the growing popularity of bands like 3 Inches of Blood or Lamb of God or The Black Dahlia Murder; to Clarkâ’s way of thinking, it never really went away.
â“If youâ’re coming from a Revolver magazine, Metal Maniacs kind of perspective, if those are the kinds of things you pay attention to, then yeah, metalâ’s back,â” says Clark. â“Commercially, whether youâ’re selling a bunch of T-shirts and magazines, I donâ’t give a shit. But as far as what weâ’re doing, itâ’s always been there, if you wanted to listen.â”
Who: GWAR with 3 Inches of Blood and The End
Where: Blue Cats
When: Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7 p.m.
How Much: $18 advance/$21 at the door
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