Calgary, AB, Canada
March 29, 2018
Presented by Voxx Promos
Review and photography by: Xavier Cattarinich (RavenKin Photography)
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It was just another one of those Thursdays in Calgary. What to do? Where to go? Fortunately, something’s always happening at Distortion - Live Music Venue on Thursday nights, and March 29 was no exception. On the bill that night? The Fatal Pursuit, with Juliet Ruin, Whyte Diamond and Bat Finger. Off I went to see the show.
It certainly wasn’t the busiest I’ve seen Distortion, but then again, those who did come out on the eve of a long weekend in freezing rain deserved a standing ovation. By the time I left the venue that night, my car was covered in ice, the parking lot was a skating rink, and the roads weren’t much better. Nasty stuff.
Inside, though, was a different affair. One by one, the bands—which ranged in experience from relative noobs to battle-tested mainstays of Alberta’s hard rock / melodic metal scene—heated up the stage and warded off the chill. Local trio Bat Finger kicked off the evening with a heavy blues set, consisting of their own material sprinkled with some Hendrix (“Little Wing”), J.J. Cale (“Cocaine”) and Nirvana covers. Although the group stumbled from time to time, one could easily tell that these guys had chops. The guitarist showcased some wicked licks, the vocalist exhibited a soulful voice that belied his age, and the drummer addressed the audience with a dry and self-deprecating wit. I can’t tell you much more about Bat Finger—not even the names of band members—as they keep a low profile. No Facebook page or Twitter account that I could find, no website, no Bandcamp. Photos on their Instagram account indicate that they’ve been laying down tracks in the studio lately, so hopefully they’ll be lifting their veil of secrecy as they release their debut material.
After that excursion to bluestown, Whyte Diamond brought the audience back to the 1980s, an era when Whitesnake, White Lion, White Heat, Diamond Head, King Diamond, and many more acts with similarly pale or sparkling monikers were at the top of their game. Given the last names of singer/guitarist Kalen Diamond and bassist Ben Whitham, as well as their musical inclinations, Whyte Diamond does seem to be a most appropriate name for their band. It was pretty cool seeing lads fresh out of high school with such an appreciation for the hard rock and melodic metal of decades past—not only did their name and look evoke the eighties, but so did their sound and lyrics. “You are the Sorceress / You hold the key to my heart / Unlock these doors / And tear my chains apart,” sang the lead Diamond on their first studio track “Sorceress,” a song with a pronounced Dokken feel to it.
The group, which includes drummer Cam Reiger and guitarist Jake Soltys, also took a stab at covering Scorpions anthem “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” Yes, nerves occasionally got the best of them, but no matter. Like pros, Whyte Diamond dusted themselves off and kept on playing with big grins on their faces. And did I mention the poses? These guys definitely were paying attention in their Metal 101 classes. With more practice and a greater focus on musicianship, Whyte Diamond are sure to make a name for themselves on the local circuit. Keep at ’er boys! And a tip o’ the hat to Distortion and Voxx Promos, for giving fledgling talent the opportunity to cut their proverbial teeth on stage.
Sherwood Park’s Juliet Ruin blew the audience away with a tight, high energy set featuring songs from their debut EP (which got an honourable mention in my top metal releases of 2017) as well as new material penned for their upcoming full length album. This was my second time seeing Juliet Ruin perform live—my first with new drummer Jesse Kyle Bauman as part of the line-up—and they haven’t failed to impress me yet. The band were in top form and delivered a flawless performance. Looking for a lesson in stage presence and chemistry? Search no further than the Juliet Ruin playbook, it’ll teach you a thing or two. Their hard work and dedication are clearly paying off, and I predict that it won’t be too long until they become a commercial success. Yes, I’m willing to wager on it.
Unfamiliar with Juliet Ruin’s sound? They are a study in contrast. Think beauty and the beast, with hook-laden melodies, catchy choruses, beefy guitars, heavy grooves, and dynamic song structures you just can’t ignore. Melodic enough for hard rock fans to get into, but definitely at the metal end of the spectrum. Contrary to so many bands straddling that rock/metal divide, their material is fresh and interesting. Don’t want to take my word for it? Then check out their videos for “Rogue Down” and “Ugly Side.” While Jess Ruin’s voice reminds me at times of a metallized Pat Benatar, she can also shriek with the best female leads in the extreme metal genre. And yeah, the band sounds as good live as they do on their EP.
For all that Juliet Ruin’s songs have a dark edge to them, the group was evidently having a blast on stage. Unable to contain their smiles, guitarist Wesley Rands and bassist/vocalist Cody Reid looked as though they were in on a private joke for much of the night. Jess Ruin revelled in her multiple personalities, shifting from charismatic front woman, to sultry temptress, to raging demon, to happily beaming gal and back again. Guitarist/vocalist Kent Gieslinger radiated manic intensity, his growls a well-balanced counterpoint to Jess’s soulful clean vocals. And Bauman? He fit in so well none would have guessed that he was the new kid in the band. The audience remained awestruck throughout Juliet Ruin’s performance.
Taking the stage after Juliet Ruin would have been a daunting task for anyone, but The Fatal Pursuit proved that they were up for the challenge. To me, these guys sounded like Nickelback and Metallica got pureed in a blender with some punk spice, complete with Chad Kroeger-like husky vocals courtesy of lead singer/guitarist Dylan Lock. The lads played songs from their album Sinful (2017), as well as an assortment of cover songs to get the crowd going, including some Misfits, Royal Blood, and, for an encore, the deadliest cover of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” that I’ve ever heard. I still can’t believe how closely The Fatal Pursuit managed to emulate the Motörhead sound, and Lock made a fine Lemmy. Lead guitarist Shayne Dunbar and bassist Braden Massey dazzled with their musicianship, as did drummer Will Grant, who blew people away with jaw-dropping drum solos.
And that was all she wrote.