You've heard them ad nauseum: "Nu-metal", "Hair-metal", "Emo", "Screamo", "Post-hardcore", "Metal-core", and on, and on.
3 Inches Of Blood has arrived to tread on the bleached bones of those exhausted genres. A band to unite the tribes of mall rats, skaters, punks and bikers under one banner. Because, after years of a steady de-evolution of the founding tenets of heavy music, to today's ears, 3 Inches Of Blood's ADVANCE AND VANQUISH could not be more fresh.
Make that banner the skull and crossbones, because the Vancouver-based metal band 3 Inches of Blood write about pirates. And swords. And, for good measure, warring cyborgs from the future. But most importantly, the band write about heavy metal. The best way to describe 3 Inches of Blood is "reverential" - essentially, take everything great about heavy music before 1985, and go from there. Which means the shrieking vocal assault of Rob Halford, the epic guitars and storytelling of Iron Maiden, the pirate theme of Running Wild, and, most importantly, the lasting influence of the British New Wave of Heavy Metal. 3 Inches of Blood is a band that knows their Diamond Head from their Motorhead.
"That's definitely our biggest influence, the late 70's British stuff," says one of 3 Inches' two singers, Jamie Hooper. "And also bands that were influenced by those U.K. bands, like early Slayer, and Ride the Lightning-era Metallica." On the other hand, singer Cam Pipes asserts, "3 Inches of Blood are influenced by barley, hops, yeast, and waterâ€¦ and heavy metal!"
When 3 Inches originally formed in 2000 in Vancouver, British Columbia, they had no idea they would someday sign to the world's biggest metal label (Roadrunner) and tour with a platinum hard rock band (The Darkness - more on that in a minute). Jamie Hooper, Sunny Dhak and Bob Froese originally got together to do a one-off reunion gig for an old group of their's - however, things went so well they decided to continue under a new moniker. A five-track demo of the new band, now dubbed 3 Inches of Blood after a particularly gruesome dream of Froese's, found its way over to the house of Hot Hot Heat keyboardist Steve Bays. Bays' friend, death metal vocalist Cam Pipes (and yes, Cam Pipes is his real name), was impressed with 3 Inches' old school sound. "I was asked to lay down some backup vocals on the demo EP and they liked it. Afterwards I was asked to join as a permanent member and naturally, I said 'fuck yeah!'" exclaims the aptly-named Pipes.
It worked. What could have been just a simple experiment ended up changing 3 Inches of Blood forever. "We liked him so much on the demo, we asked him to be in the band," says Hooper. Over the next two years the group became a popular local concert draw, and recorded one well-received album, BATTLECRY UNDER A WINTER SUN, in 2002. That record, full of Dungeons and Dragons fantasy imagery and lightning-quick guitar riffs, set the tone for the group. First rule of 3 Inches: metal. Second rule of 3 Inches: metal. Third rule: no angst. "My first bedtime story was Lord of the Rings, which was read to me when I was three," says Hooper. "So that influenced me a lot, and my lyrics. We just want to be a story-based, imaginative band that plays metal."
Although the group had little distribution for the record, they did share the same U.K. label as The Darkness, who at the time were on their way to becoming the UK's latest rock sensation. When 3 Inches went overseas, they hooked up with The Darkness for a UK tour. The pairing, as it turned out, could not have been more natural: both bands forsake modern, formulated music in favor of the undeniable giants of rock's past. The tour was a smash success. The Darkness fans loved 3 Inches, and Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins soon became a huge fan. So much so that on one of the tour's final nights, Hawkins asked to go on stage with 3 Inches and scream backup on their speed-metal blitzkrieg "Deadly Sinners." Unfortunately, Justin's appreciation of the track, and his own experience in upper-register anthems, where not sufficient to get him through unscathed. "By the next night, he had crazy laryngitis," says Pipes, laughing. "So we kind of feel responsible."
Since inception, this purity of vision has earned the band critical acclaim in metal and alternative circles alike. Due to this bubbling under at the press level, Roadrunner Records took notice of the group's demo, and signed the band in 2004. "We're kind of in a weird position, considering the more modern leaning line-up of that label," says Hooper. "We're nu-metal's greatest enemies, so it's a weird juxtaposition for us. But let's just say that we fit in very well with their back catalogue - Annihilator, Pestilence, King Diamond, Suffocation. We're very pleased to be a part of that."
3 Inches began work on ADVANCE AND VANQUISH early this year, determined to make it a "classic" metal album in every sense. That meant hiring a classic metal producer (Neil Kernon, of Judas Priest and Queensryche fame), an engineer best known for his work with Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death (Colin Richardson), and a cover artist with an old-school metal past. Like that warring barbarian on the cover? That comes courtesy of Ed Repka, the man behind all those cool Vic Rattlehead images on the early Megadeth albums.
Musically, the band has expanded on their classic metal roots, developing into one of the tightest hard rock bands of modern times. Hooper's screams, coupled with the epic guitar lines on "Lord of the Storm," bring to mind classic Cradle of Filth, while "Deadly Sinners" features an almost hardcore-style vocal chant. But for all their modern touches, the band still lives in a world where Priest and Maiden rule the airwaves. After all, they do have a three-part pirate-theme metal epic on the record (subtitled "Upon the Boiling Sea"). And then there's "Wykydtron," which may be the closest thing to a 3 Inches singalong.
"An unnamed band that opened for us wasn't very good," explains Hooper. "Somebody ripped their name of a poster and wrote in 'Wykydtron.' I don't know what it means, but it sounded cool and futuristic. So we developed it into a space-themed tale of cyborg warfare."
Before the recording, the band went through some line-up changes, bringing in former Trial bassist Brian Redman and Goatsblood drummer Matt Wood. To fully incorporate them into the group, the band delayed recording for a month. The end results speak for themselves. "Our band has been reborn and intensified," says Hooper.
3 Inches of Blood will hit the road this August with Machine Head and Chimaira for the "Road Rage" tour, and then have tentatively planned to continue on in the fall on the annual (MTV2) Headbangers Ball jaunt. The group will use this time to convert fans to their old-is-new style - just like Slayer did back in the day, winning over fans one at a time. "Once people see us live, everything changes," says Pipes. "They all come to me and are like, 'we thought maybe you were a joke. But we just saw you play, and you're pretty fucking serious!'"
All hail the arrival of 3 Inches Of Blood. If there's a sub-genre label to apply to them, let it relate to how they draw from a hard rock scene that pre-dates concert riders, rented jets, remixes, and trysts with pop divas. We propose you call it this: "Pre-Suck."