. . .

Ah, the glorious convenience of venue re-entry. When you're faced with $6 beers and claustrophobia, nothing's better than dipping out between (or during) sets and heading to the parking lot for fresh air and cheap brew. Hopefully the management at Daniel Street doesn't cite this review as a reason to change their policy, because on this night we needed the break.

There was urgency to arrive early, as Vancouver heavyweights Bison B.C. were the openers. Their debut Quiet Earth showed much promise, if not originality, but these jams were made for the stage. The crowd shuffled toward the stage with each song; it was easy to see the band was making new fans. The heart of Bison B.C.'s live show was bassist Masa Anzai. He ripped on a duct-taped no-name 4-string almost bigger than he was, flailing and stomping like an Asian Ace Frehley. There were hiccups here and there, but the mistakes made the show exciting and vibrant. If this band poured half the energy from their live show into their new Dark Ages album, it will be a winner.

Things then got tricky. Doom duo Black Cobra were up next, and I was interested to see if they could pull off the dynamics from their albums in a live setting. Unfortunately, a combination of parking lot beers and conversing with one Matt Pike derailed me. From there, it was even easier to avoid going back inside, because Priestess was playing. They've always come across as pseudo-parody retro rock, like the music was secondary to the style. It's inauthentic, and I can't get behind that.

After a shot of Jager, High on Fire took the stage as the entire crowd crushed forward. Songs were culled from all five albums, with Pike simply calling each one out: "Devilution!" "Fireface!" His playing style is unlike any I've seen; his fingers look spastic and tremble across the fretboard much of the time. Chords hit like (frost) hammers, and Jeff Matz and Des Kensel, one of the best rhythm sections in metal, kept things in check as Pike lurched back and forth flashing sneers and wild-eyed grins. As "Rumors of War" kicked in, I grabbed the closest person to me and screamed along – "Spit in the evil eyes!"

Does it get any better than this? To quote Brian Regan, I submit that it does not.

— Chris Rowella