Published Sep 22, 2013The final day of this year's Noctis metal extravaganza was the longest and best, a fitting close to the three-day event. The metal expo and marketplace at the Ramada opened before noon, as did the various conference sessions, and much like the day before, guests could choose between business-oriented and more general interest sessions, shopping or lining up for autographs from some of the speakers and performers.
Session topics covered a lot of ground, from advice for young bands, to the role of women in metal, a scholarly talk on black metal fandom, Laina Dawes discussing her book What Are You Doing Here?, and a highly entertaining interview with studio guru and multiinstrumentalist Dan Swano (Witherscape, ex-Edge of Sanity, ex-Bloodbath). Meanwhile drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan and guitar whiz Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders) were holding music clinics just down the street at Vern's Tavern.
The conference part of the weekend wrapped up late in the afternoon, giving attendees just enough time to get over to Mac Hall at the University of Calgary if they wanted to catch openers Evil Survive. Up next were critically-acclaimed Portland doom band Witch Mountain, quickly followed by Canadian thrash legends Sacrifice, whose ferocious set climaxed with "Reanimation." The band lamented that their time was too short, and frontman Rob Urbinati jumped down to shake hands and even hug some of the fervent followers packed in tight against the security barrier.
Possessed's set was riotous and raw, culminating in the threatening viscera of "Death Metal" and offering a stark contrast to the more rock-oriented sounds of Girlschool to follow. Girlschool have maintained the longest career of all the bands at Noctis and they definitely performed like pros — lively, a little bad ass, and a lot of fun, especially their catchy riffs and tight vocal harmonies. As the metal matriarchs left the stage, Candlemass introduced another shift in tone: dramatic doom. They came out to "Marche Funebre" and moved straight into a track off their latest and final record, mixing the classic and the newer throughout their set. They seemed to be modifying their set list as they went to fit the relatively condensed time slot, eventually settling into "Solitude" to bring things to a close.
Finally, Carcass (pictured). The band just released their first new album since the '90s, and it is everything we could have hoped. Their headlining appearance at Noctis was the same. Their performance didn't need any visual support, although there were moving projections on screens set either side of the stage. Jeff Walker's between-song banter was amusingly entertaining — also unnecessary, but important to the Carcass ethos that takes death metal to unusual "surgical" extremes. With two younger musicians on drums and guitar, original members Walker and Bill Steer demonstrated that Carcass are still undeniably relevant 25 years after their debut.
That message of lasting relevance sums up Noctis. The rare appearances, killer performances and cross-generational span of the festival and conference attractions demonstrate not just the importance of this Canadian event — tapping into some of the most buzz-worthy facets of the current metal world — but the importance and vitality of the genre it represents.