By Erin Jardine
July 15-16, 2016
ARMSTRONG, B.C. — A cumulation of like-minded individuals made for the opposite direction of Pemberton Valley on the weekend of July 15-16 to saturate the town of Armstrong, B.C. for the seventh year of Armstrong Metal Fest. Metal has garnered a reputation due to its many subgenres. Someone who likes power metal will be shocked at the nature of a grind band. With one band playing at a time, it’s an accessible setting for a curious first-timer to test the waters with different styles of music. Armstrong Metal Fest has proven their power by bringing in headlining acts for a one-off show. This year that was not the case, as the organizers opted for the touring package consisting of Beyond Creation, Rivers of Nihil, and The Zenith Passage – who played in Vancouver the night before. Luckily for Armstrong, the weight of local talent made the trip worthwhile for fans from Vancouver.
Music started at 11:00 a.m. sharp and concluded at around 1:00 a.m. every evening, both times being a little early. This time restraint is due to the regulations imposed by the municipality. These regulations make quick changeover times imperative, especially during the last acts of the evening. Bands and crew must work together to pull it off, and Armstrong fell short during the set change between West of Hell and Unleash the Archers. A rowdy set from West of Hell concluded in a surprise dousing of foam upon the audience. Unleash the Archers was set to take the stage to round off the night, but a fundamental miscommunication happened and left the entire line up of UTA standing idly onstage, and a confused chanting audience waiting for half an hour. “We’re not doing the intro,” could be heard by Brittney Hayes as she angrily strode to the front of the stage to begin the set. It was an unfortunate break for the regularly touring UTA, as the rest of the festival continued smoothly after this mishap. If anything, the UTA set proved that the band can pull through any unwelcome beginning to deliver consistency. The audience was happy to finally bang along to their catchy power metal.
There were various improvements to the festival compared to previous years, but whether the increase in price was justified is up for interpretation. A single food vendor was added, where in previous years the metal heads would wander drunkenly into the town in search of food, and after around 6 p.m., all hope of food from the town was lost. The hit entertainment of Trash Wrestling was expanded to three rounds and a booth of extremely talented body paint encouraged all to let their freak flag fly. A note of caution: the wrestling is for professionals only. Though it may sound small, the addition of bleachers to the main stage area was a giant blessing. The bleachers allowed many to remain inside the venue to get a hard earned rest, and in that, many bands with afternoon time slots played to more people. The security team was much more relaxed about audience interactions with the stage; diving and surfing was enjoyed by all.
Many travellers arrived in the later afternoon on Friday, however each band that played throughout the day boasted an active audience. Whammy-bar loving band Kataplexis performed a dynamic set of deep marching beats and filled all empty space with a grindy wall-of-noise. After a disorganized 100-man shotgun, the mass of people filled the arena for Vernon’s Xul, who displayed a mastery over their instruments with fast paced blackened death metal. Despite a shaky start on the part of their vocalist, they pulled the set together by the end. Nylithia played amongst their trademark strobe-style lighting, which could not have meshed with the music better. Royce Costa’s guitar riffs are the epicentre of the band, and the lighting for that matter.
It was hard to tell if anyone was hung over on Saturday morning as the bands began. The energy remained in full as Slagduster took the stage. Regardless of the fact that their name was not printed on the schedule, enough people had taken the time to read the Facebook event to witness their antics and groove metal. Cryptic Enslavement were another early afternoon highlight, ending their set with a giant breakdown that left everyone in awe. Hailing from Edmonton, Eye of Horus were a band that not many had seen but they definitely made new fans. I for one walked out with a shirt. Inverted Serenity also greatly impressed me, they appeared to forgo individual solos for collective melodic layers of playing, each with the same level of musicianship. The opener for the touring package, Zenith Passage were an interesting band, but their use of heavy backing tracks took the magic away. Rivers of Nihil are an egyptian themed metal band. Extremely tight in their riffs, the band was mesmerizing to watch live. Rounding off the night for myself was Beyond Creation, a band I have wanted to see live for quite some time. Their set was simple, playing all of the favourites. By that point in the evening, the crowd was slowing down, in favour of simply watching the musicians rather than thrashing.
To witness such a gathering of talent is an absolute privilege, and for that fact alone, I will certainly be returning to Armstrong Metal Fest. Armstrong is also an all-ages festival, which is something that is very important to the health of a music community.Armstrong Metal Festival, BC, British Columbia