When you hear a vocal falsetto coursing over thrashing guitars, you know that 3 Inches of Blood has hit the stage.
It’s the voice of Cam Pipes, bringing back the classic vocals of metal bands past.
“There’s a long, long 30-year list of singers who do what Cam does,” said 3 Inches of Blood guitarist Shane Clark.
Groups like Iron Maiden and King Diamond were the first to usher in falsetto as a metal staple.
But starting with Pantera in the early 1990s, the genre was gradually overtaken by gritty “Cookie Monster” vocals.
3 Inches sees its throwback style as celebrating the origins of metal.
“We play music that is heavily influenced – and you can hear those influences,” said Clark.
Crowds at 3 Inches concerts typically include a smattering of 40-plussers.
“A lot of the older guys enjoy the music because it reminds them of what got them into music in the first place,” said Clark.
Other have derided the 3 Inches style as parody.
“People hear the sounds of Cam’s voice and they don’t understand if he’s joking or not,” said Clark.
“It’s really kind of funny, there’s a guy actually singing really good high register stuff, yet there’s a guy who sounds likes Cookie Monster, and nobody says, ‘Is this a joke?’” he said.
Pipes himself breaks it down on Wikipedia, “Just because we’re a bunch of young guys singing about the greatness of heavy metal doesn’t mean we’re some joke band.”
Pipe’s voice has helped give 3 Inches of Blood its signature sound, and quickly divided the 3 Inches-haters from the 3 Inches-lovers.
Clark compared it to Geddy Lee, the vocalist/bassist for Rush.
“People either love (Rush) or they fucking hate it, because of his voice,” he said.
Lyrically, 3 Inches stays firmly detached from political or personal issues.
“You’re not hearing someone cry about their horrible day, or their dad was mean to them when they were young; you’re hearing escapist lyrics when you listen to our music – much like when you go to a movie, or read a book,” said Clark.
The band’s fantasy leanings has endeared them to the Tolkien and video-gaming crowd.
Two weeks ago, 3 Inches of Blood played a set at the San Diego Comic-Con.
The concert was sponsored by Brutal Legend, a soon-to-be-released game about a roadie accidentally transported to a fantasy world inspired by heavy metal album artwork.
3 Inches of Blood has seen many different lineups in its mere 10 years of existence.
Nine people can now count themselves as 3 Inches of Blood veterans – for varying reasons.
Scream vocalist Jamie Hooper dropped out last year due to vocal problems.
At a UK festival in 2007, drummer Alexei Rodriguez beat up Nigel Glockler of Saxon. Glockler walked away with a black eye, but four security guards quickly left Rodriguez with a broken elbow.
3 Inches of Blood issued a formal apology to Saxon and immediately sacked Rodriguez, replacing him with Ash Pearson.
High band turnover is nothing unique, said Clark.
The perils of road life are often what drives members away, not to mention the intense social cohesion required in any band.
“It’s like having a monogamous relationship with five other people,” said Clark.
“Touring is 98 per cent hanging out, so it has to be a good personal mix.”
Whatever the lineup, 3 Inches is considered by many as being in the top tier of Canadian metal music, a fact Clark humbly denies.
“We’re not really that popular; maybe in some metal circles – but not really,” he said.
Whatever their success, as metal musicians 3 Inches of Blood will never face the self-destructive trappings of superstardom.
Metal just doesn’t have the numbers.
Money-wise, 3 Inches of Blood can scrape the pinnacle of their genre, but still remain “regular guys.”
“If you’re talking about the ‘rock star lifestyle’ as having a chance to play music every day and getting shit-faced everyday and partying everyday – then maybe I do live a rock star lifestyle,” said Clark.
“But if it’s being on television shows and talking about what you’re wearing then hell no, I’m not a rockstar.”
In the early 1980s, metal enjoyed a brief foray into the mainstream.
Ever since, the genre has gradually slipped into subculture.
“True, honest metal music is always going to be in the underground,” said Clark.
But just as typewriter repairmen will never fully die out, metal’s longevity is assured.
“Underground music will always be there,” said Clark.
And within that underground, 3 Inches can count a fan base so loyal that it would make indie rockers drool.
Die-hard fans count themselves as members of the Goatrider’s Horde – 3 Inches of Blood’s official fan club.
Plastic swords and Viking attire are standard dress for a 3 Inches of Blood show.
“We’ve got some really loyal fans – and hopefully – fans for life,” said Clark.
Strangely, both sexes can be seen headbanging in a 3 Inches of Blood audience.
“It’s not only dude rock – we get lots of girls out as well – which is kind of rare by the standards of my old bands, anyway,” said Clark.
3 Inches of Blood is playing Coasters on Saturday night.The show starts at 9 p.m.
Contact Tristin Hopper at