The heavy metal landscape in Whitehorse was once dotted with dozens of bands with names like Nemesis, Sanctuary and Bushwhacker. As recently as 2011, there were enough of them to organize an all-ages show called Heavy Metal Halloween.
But most of those bands have since moved away or split up.
Now Warrmauth, a five-member act made up of 15- and 16-year-olds, wants to create a heavy metal revival in Whitehorse.
The band recently finished third in the battle of the bands competition at the Future Routes Festival held at Yukon College, meaning they get to perform on the youth stage at next summer’s Atlin Arts and Music Festival.
“There used to be a half-decent metal scene here,” said lead singer and guitarist Manus Hopkins, who grew up listening to bands such as Judas Priest and Motley Crue.
“Maybe some of the older bands will see us play live and decide to re-form. There are a surprising number of metalheads in Whitehorse.”
Warrmauth puts a heavy emphasis on its live performances, wearing demonic masks inspired by bands such as Slipknot and GWAR.
Slipknot, an American heavy metal band whose members have been accused in the past of wearing masks as a gimmick to sell more albums, have always insisted the masks are used to draw attention away from themselves and to the music.
Warrmauth has adopted a similar stance. Hopkins, who also wears bunny ears and striped pants as part of his costume on stage, said the mask and adopted persona turn him into a completely different person – a superhero.
“You don’t get to be that awkward kid you normally are in real life,” he said.
“When you have the mask on, people see you as someone who is larger than life. I like to consider myself confident in real life but definitely not as much as when I’m on stage.”
Hopkins began writing songs in Grade 7. He also draws inspiration from the glam metal band Motley Crue, who made it big combining elements of punk rock and pop music with the aesthetic of 1970s glam rock.
“If you’re going to see a show, there has to be something to see, it has to be an experience,” Hopkins added.
Electric percussionist Isaac Pumphrey, who joined the band last year with guitarist Milan Lapres, said they don’t let anyone see them without their masks on the day of a show. It’s a big part of the allure, he said.
When Warrmauth played its first show with all five members at Epic Pizza last year, the band had to figure out how to eat without taking their masks off, Pumphrey said.
The band was nervous, Hopkins said. They’d been invited to open for local rockers Speed Control.
“No one knew us except our parents,” he said.
Created in late 2013, the early incarnation of Warrmauth was made up of Ragn “Cousin it” Royle and Hopkins, who knew each other from Vanier Catholic High School, and drummer Brandon Butler.
Both Royle and Butler had already been part of other bands, despite their young age. Royle was a member of Solid Fuel, while Butler played with the Butler Code in P.E.I. before moving to Whitehorse. Early last year, the band decided it wanted to add new members and change its sound to something closer to nu metal, a genre that emerged in the late 1990s by combining heavy metal with hip hop, alternative rock, funk and grunge.
Pumphrey, who also plays the turntables, met Warrmauth through a rock band program at Vanier. Lapres, who has taught himself to play the guitar in the past 18 months, is Royle’s best friend and joined soon after.
The group began rehearsing in Royle’s garage, which is covered in pentagrams and cave drawings.
The band’s name comes from a furnace in the garage that turns on from time to time and makes “these big rumbly noises.”
“We thought it sounded like a device Satan would use to communicate with us – his war machine,” Hopkins jokingly said.
Warrmauth has already released a three-song EP and its members are currently raising money to record a full-length album with local sound engineer Jim Holland, who runs Green Needle Records.
They recently played a show at Splintered Craft, the arts drop-in centre, and raised about $400.
The new album, titled Angry Christian Moms, will feature 12 or 13 of the band’s original songs.
“Then we hope to make it into a movie,” said Lapres.
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