Wacken Metal Battle Canada—a judge speaks!

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Invisible Orange proprietor Abelardo Mayoral—“Mayo” to his friends—has been to the prestigious German metal festival known as Wacken Open Air exactly one time, in 2009.

The lineup included Amon Amarth, Anthrax, Motörhead, GWAR, and the third-to-final appearance of the Ronnie James Dio fronted version of Black Sabbath, known as Heaven and Hell.

“It was the 20th anniversary,” Mayoral says. “Those were some of the best days of my life, and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. For various reasons, I haven’t made it, but it’s great, I highly recommend it.”

Mayoral’s background in metal is as a promoter, not a musician.

“I don’t play music, so my contribution to metal is organizing things,” he tells the Straight, calling from the Invisible Orange offices. A true devotee of the genre, Mayoral says he has a particular fondness for “old school death metal,” including the Florida-style intensity of bands like Morbid Angel and Death, but also the first wave of Scandinavian death metal like Entombed and Dismember and classic acts like Napalm Death and Terrorizer.

When he heard that there was an opportunity to organize a Vancouver chapter for the Wacken Metal Battle Canada, and possibly send a Vancouver band overseas, he leapt at the chance to book it.

This is the first year Vancouver has participated in the event, though the 2013 event saw Ontario band Crimson Shadows not only winning the chance to play Wacken, but taking first prize there.

Crimson Shadows kill it at the Wacken Open Air in 2013.

Five Vancouver bands will compete on Saturday (May 3) in the Wacken Metal Battle Canada semi-finals, each performing in 25-minute sets, starting at 6:45 p.m.

Competitors include OmnisighT, Witch of the Waste, Over the Coals, and Neck of the Woods. Then there will be a "wild card" contender, the female-fronted power metal band Unleash the Archers; plus guest headliners Dire Omen, from Edmonton, and Vancouver’s Mitochondrion (who are signed and thus barred from competing).

Portland black metal band Aevangelist, originally scheduled to perform, had to drop off the bill, Mayoral reports.

What does this whole “wild card” thing mean, exactly?

“Originally I had five battles planned, there were going to be 20bands, but then some bands couldn’t make it because of the dates and the commitments," Mayoral says. "They had to be available to be in Toronto on June 7, for the national finals, for example, and some bands were touring, and things like that.”

In the end, only four semi-finals were held, but the judges—also including Scrape Records ownder J.J. Caithcart, Chris Dyck of Anciients, Michael Johnston of Mykilling Digital Media, and Stu McKillop of Raincity Recorders—allowed themselves the luxury of allowing for five semi-finalists to be chosen.

“It was harder and harder to make decisions, so we decided to keep it open and keep a spot for a band we would select out of all of the battles. We had four battles and four winners and then we said, okay, who else do we have?”

Mayoral continues: “Putting numbers on a score for stage presence and musicality is very difficult. You have to decide, for each category, ‘is this a seven or an eight?’ But then we have very good discussions, about each aspect—the professionalism, the stage presence, the songwriting… we discuss and expose each other’s points of views. We don’t just say, ‘Okay, these are my numbers, and I’m choosing band number one.’ I think it makes for a very cohesive position. But it’s hard!”

If a Vancouver band ends up winning the Canada-wide finals, set to take place in Toronto on June 7, will Mayoral be travelling to Wacken with them? “The Vancouver band is going to go at least to Toronto, and I’m pretty sure that Vancouver bands can blow anyone away, so they will be the ones going to Germany," he states. "But I don’t think I’m going to make it this year. Maybe 2015…”

The Wacken Metal Battle Vancouver semi-finals take place at the Rickshaw Theatre on Saturday (May 3).

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