It's been a heavy decade for Vancouver. BC metallions 3 Inches Of Blood. Respected for being one of the few bands to bridge the devide between new and old metal fans by amalgamating classic metal's soaring vocals and galloping riffs with the hyperactive attack and searing, grit-laden screams of more modern assailants, their sound has become a power unto itself.
However, despite releasing three unforgettable albums, their history is plagued with issues. Member changes, political ordeals, label woes and now the parting of founder/screeching vocalist Jaime Hooper have indelibly altered the 3IOB foundation. It left virtually all responsibilities with soaring falsetto vocalist/only remaining original member Cam Pipes.
Undaunted, Pipes, guitarist/vocalist Justin Hagberg, guitarist Shane Clark and drummer Ash Pearson have completed fourth full-length Here Waits Thy Doom and released it via new label home Century Media. Pipes discusses Hooper's departure, its impact on 3IOB, the shift to Century Media and how "metal" it is to have a shoe created in your honour.
So, you finally got the new album out after a bit of inner turmoil.
Yep. Now we're curious to get out there and see what people think.
How is it being the primary vocalist this time out?
Jaime was an integral part of this band but shit happens. He can't do what he does to the full extent anymore; he wrecked his voice. Looking on the bright side, there's a little more room onstage. It's challenged me to take on the full extent of writing. It gives me more freedom but more responsibility at the same time.
Backtracking, can you explain what happened? Did Hooper just overextend his voice?
Over time, he damaged his voice from singing the way he does. He screams from his throat and it wasn't the soundest singing technique. Nobody could do it the way he does and it took its toll. He can't sing without causing himself physical pain. He could get by doing a couple of shows here and there but there's no way his voice could hold out for an entire tour; he'd lose it. So he decided to bow out instead of keeping us in limbo, or waiting for him to get better, if he ever did.
When the situation arose, how'd you handle it?
We gave him lots of time off to see how it went, did some shows here and there to see if there was improvement but nothing got better. He still sounded the same but it was causing him great discomfort. He could have kept on but he'd have been hurting himself. As a listener, you'd never notice because he was belting it out but you couldn't hear the pain it was causing him; he never did things half-assed. He went to specialists and doctors but no one could figure out what it was. Different vocal teachers tried to show him different ways to sing but he couldn't do his thing without paying for it. None of the techniques could help him sing the way he does. He'd have had to change how he sang and he wouldn't do that. We understood: you don't want to compromise your sound.
In jest, does this mean the classic metal vocal style wins out over the new school?
Classic will always win out because there's a reason you call it "classic." A lot of times, those other styles come in waves — are flavour of the month. Inevitably, people always come back to the more traditional stuff: Maiden, Priest, Sabbath and Dio. They'll always have staying power.
You're now the spearhead where you were splitting time before. How do you feel about it? What's the reaction from others?
I'm fine with it. I was always comfortable being in the forefront anyway. The reaction from outside of the band has been mostly favourable. There are people who understandably miss Jaime. Justin has taken over most of Jaime's vocals. People think he's filling in quite well [while] doing double-duty on guitar. It's not like he was inexperienced, he's sang in extreme bands before.
You haven't had to eliminate any of your back catalogue?
Right. I do what Jaime was doing when the guitar parts are too tricky [for Justin] to sing and play at the same time. Then I do his parts in my way: clean or gravely. Whatever works. But Justin does it, for the most part.
All of this means Here Waits Thy Doom is pretty monumental because it marks a shift in the 3IOB attack. How do you feel you've progressed with this record?
We don't go into it thinking about reaching a certain point on the evolutionary scale but it's definitely not a repetition of any albums we've done before. It's a reflection of our writing mood at the time. We're all happy with it, especially after hearing the final version. The whole process was faster than writing and recording the last time. It all seemed very seamless and fun. We're all pretty relaxed about it.
Any forays you took that surprised you? There's one song with a groove metal feel to it.
There are some more rock-influenced tracks, that's for sure. It all depends on who wrote the tune. We all bring very different elements to the table. That's going to show itself here and there but it's also going to bring out a very diverse sound when we're writing together, as opposed to listening to one guy's song versus the other guy's song. It's a good mix but at the same time, nothing feels too out of place to us. Some stand out in different ways [but] they all make a unified album. We try to maintain the 3 Inches Of Blood sound, if there is one.
You've had quite a few bumps over the years but you're surviving.
Like Nietzsche said: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We've had a lot of bumps with people coming and going over the years but the strong survive and the desire to do this is there amongst those who are still here. We're not going to be deterred.
And it's resulted in your own pair of shoes.
It's kind of weird, huh? It's surreal having a Nike shoe but it's awesome at the same time.
Well, you won't have to buy shoes anymore.
That'll be a good thing but I'm not necessarily going to wear my band's shoes all the time. We're the kind of people who frown upon bands wearing their merchandise. That's kind of tacky but we have gotten a few pairs of regular Nikes out of it.
T-shirts are tacky sure, but footwear? Shoes aren't cheap, nor are they that obvious.
Yeah but these really stand out. That's a pretty wild colour match.