|“In an already thriving Vancouver metal scene, HELLCHAMBER has arrived. Killer riffs, thundering rhythm and bad ass songs. You have been warned! ”
99.3 C-Fox Vancouver
GODLESS SET TO STORM STAGE AT METALLION FESTIVAL 2016
The Metallion Festival has its aerial roots growing all around founding band Deveined and their musical friends who started the annual heavy metal showcase, but if you trace the taproots you'll come to a pair of Prince George bands from the 1990s and early 2000s.
Those roots all tangle on the Metallion stage this weekend, with a special Prince George heavy metal historical event.
Godless and Skin Cell were actually the same three guys, although the lineup changed a bit back then. The core trio was Brad Foster, James Dean "JD" Eckert and Ross O'Byrne. Dave Rosin was in the group for a time, as well, but left to pursue show biz in the Lower Mainland is now a co-founding member of superstar rock group Hedley. O'Byrne remained in Prince George but isn't actively in music anymore, Eckert moved to Vancouver and has been a busy player most recently in the bands Hellchamber (metal) and Lawless (country). Foster is a co-founding member of Deveined and thus the Metallion Festival itself.
A sonic loop causes feedback, and in metal music, that's often a very good thing. The big local metal loop circles around at Metallion 2016 when Hellchamber comes up from Vancouver to perform alongside host band Deveined, and since two-thirds of the old trio was there, it only took a little bit of effort to arrange for a Godless/Skin Cell reunion.
"It wasn't that hard to convince me and Brad. The holdout was Ross, we had to twist his rubber arm to do it," said Eckert. "He's a really introverted person, but I could always get him to do (stuff). He has a lot of talent and he writes a lot in his basement. I want to see him out there doing something on the stage. But now, I think me and Brad are more nervous about it than he is."
The trio was more than just a garage band, back in those days. They recorded albums, performed in professional settings, got their songs on rock radio, and had a fan base. It was before the days of social media, but they got their word out.
Godless formed in 1996. They put out a full-length album in 1999, an additional EP came out after that, then in 2001 they changed their name (too many other bands called Godless, and more forming all the time) to Skin Cell and put out another album under the new moniker. They lasted a bit longer but Eckert's move to the Lower Mainland in 2004 caused an amicable split-up of the group.
It was even more amicable when the one-time-only reunion idea started to gel.
"We found a lost track, actually, called Drawn & Quartered," said Eckert. "It was supposed to go onto Skin Cell's Relapse & Recovery album. It was written before the name change, and it just never made the album. I don't know if we will play it at the show or not, but it was fun to find that little surprise. We are playing one rare track for sure, Alien Specter. It was released on the first album, but we stopped playing it live. We might throw some Skin Cell songs in there, too. And we might do a Black Sabbath cover."
Although the communication channels have stayed crisp between the band members over the years, this is the first time in the three-year history of Metallion that Eckert's current band has been in a position to come play, and the timing couldn't be better from their point of view. Some lineup changes to Hellchamber mean this roster is making the best music the unit has ever created, said Eckert.
"We managed to scoop the singer from Jar - they were called Flybanger at one point - Garth Allen, just a few months ago," Eckert said. "We had a singer who got to a point of parting ways with us, we had the opening, so Garth filled in a couple of shows and didn't want to leave. Now we have the best frontman in Vancouver. Hellchamber has really taken off. We're not the biggest dog in town, but we're in the running. We played with Primal Fear when they came over here from Germany. We got to play with Into Eternity and Untimely Demise."
They are heading into the studio to record a new album, and who is at the production helm? Chris Holmes, of course, with his experience twiddling the engineering knobs for a couple of Korn albums plus work by Katy Perry, Ricky Martin, Mandy Moore and many other A-listers. Oh, and Holmes is also from Prince George (now living in Kelowna and Vancouver).
"Chris has done all of our recordings so far: the EP we released in 2012 and the full-length album in '13. He was responsible for all that," said Eckert. "I knew him from Electron Sound & Percussion back in Prince George. I knew a bunch of the P.G. guys from Over The Coals and Chris was working for them, so I was hearing about that. We loved what he did with them, so when we wanted to make an album, finally, we just made a phone call to an old buddy."
The old metal bands of Prince George factor heavily in the health of Vancouver's music scene today. Eckert rattles a number of names off the top of his head that used to also shake the foundations in his formative years back home.
"Jer Breaks is doing country with Dallas Smith, Jimmy Baldwin is doing country with Washboard Union, Mike Vanderlans is with the Chris Buck Band. Over The Coals had two lineups and they were almost all from P.G. Dead River Wasteland was from P.G. You could even include Hedley, with Dave there. And Chris Holmes being the big producer guy. So many of the most talented people in Van are from P.G. Must be something about needing something to do on those cold winter nights."
One of the best is also one of the most underrated, Eckert said. His old frontman O'Byrne was an A-lister in his mind, and he can't wait to work with him again even for just one thunderous night.
"We were lucky, back then. We had good tunes. Ross was an amazing writer, and it was that post-grunge era so people wanted to hear that kind of music. I'm one of the lucky ones who got to keep doing it."
He'll do it with Godless and he'll do it with Hellchamber both this weekend. He'll be joined on the Metallion Festival 2016 stage by acts like The Order Of Chaos, Cocaine Moustache, West Of Hell, Tyrants Blood, Saints Of Death, Zuckuss, Iron Kingdom, and many more. There are also food vendors and merchants with tents and tables to add to that festival feel.
The festivities happen Friday and Saturday at Brookside Resort west of Prince George. Tickets are available in advance from Electron Sound or online from the Metallion Festival page on Facebook. Tickets are $80 for the weekend or day-passes for $40. They will be available at the gate, while supplies last.
Brookside Resort has a breakfast cafe, burger bar, liquor outlet and camping amenities.
Saturday, Sept 22, 2012