Vancouver’s beloved 3 Inches of Blood returns to action determined to draw up its own battle plans

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      When 3 Inches of Blood walked away from the battlefield in 2015, the members of the long-running metal mainstay discovered that unplugging for good is harder than it might seem. And that’s made this month’s multi-night reunion—including two instant sellouts at the Commodore—doubly gratifying.

      On a Zoom call, singer Cam Pipes and guitarist Shane Clark both acknowledge that interest in 3 Inches of Blood is at a high after an extended hiatus. As a result, there might be new chapters to be written for a band that, in some ways, never really went away.

      “The internet grew exponentially in the time after we stopped playing,” Clark says. “Not just with streaming but with live footage on YouTube and stuff. The music did resonate with a lot of people—guys I work with would talk about how much they loved the band, and how they’d introduced it to their kids, which is pretty crazy. Generally speaking, it’s almost like we’re more popular now than we were when we broke up. We were constantly being inundated by people asking, ‘When are you getting back together? We need more music.’ ”

      Before we get to what the longterm future might hold for 3 Inches of Blood, let’s rewind a decade or so.

      It’s not as if no one saw the breakup coming. After roaring out of the Vancouver indie underground at the turn of the century—hitting as hard with DIY hipsters as with throwback-metal revivalists—3IOB eventually found itself trying to navigate a music industry undergoing a seismic change.

      The roots of the band were planted deep in a time when albums mattered, titanic releases like Number of the Beast and British Steel making instant and enduring icons of acts like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.

      Committed to the craft of the full-length, and inspired by the early-’80s glory years of classic metal, 3 Inches of Blood rode a seminal DIY debut, 2002’s Battlecry Under a Winter Sun, to a deal with heavyweight American metal label Roadrunner. Four full-lengths—Advance and Vanquish, Fire Up the Blades, Here Waits Thy Doom, and Long Live Heavy Metal—would follow, the records offering a brute-power updating of an era that soundtracked Heavy Metal Parking Lot, and every house party in Surrey.

      The rise of streaming services upended everything, with singles gradually becoming more important than albums. The music industry’s one-per-centers increased their global dominance while everyone else discovered trickle-down economics isn’t a major part of the business plan at Spotify and Apple Music—especially where the artists are concerned.

      In a 2015 interview with Straight, Pipes acknowledged that the band’s members eventually got ground down by the fact that they weren’t making a lot of headway.

      On the plus side, there was no shortage of holy-fuck experiences, from touring Europe to hitting the road with Motörhead to playing with the mighty Iron Maiden. And then there was the reality that, five full-lengths into a decade-and-a-half career, 3 Inches of Blood wasn’t getting anyone any closer to their first million dollars.

      So, after a couple of years of inactivity, when no one really wanted to acknowledge they were losing interest, the band’s members decided to call it with a 2015 farewell show at the Commodore.

      Pipes and Clark say that they both got busy moving on after 3IOB ceased operations, working regular jobs and getting used to the idea of having a home base rather than living out of a tour van. Some members of the band kept busy musically. Drummer Ash Pearson toured with Revocation, eventually starting Ritual Dictates with 3 Inches guitarist Justin Hagberg. Clark devoted himself to Worse, which also featured former 3IOB drummer Matt Wood. Pipes just worked.

      Through it all, the band that had been their life for so long refused to go away.

      “In the almost 10 years since the band stopped playing, not a day has gone by where I don’t think about 3 Inches of Blood,” Clark says. “We did it for so long, and we were such a tight-knit group. We had so many insane experiences that some memory or other popped up on a daily basis for me. So even in the dark times when I really missed it I’d think of some of the cool stuff that we did. If I was in a guitar store I was thinking about 3 Inches of Blood. If I met someone from a certain town, I’d be like ‘Oh man, I remember that show when we played there.’ ”

      The guitarist wasn’t the only one. And for that, Pipes deserves no shortage of credit.

      “I kept our social media sites active by posting things like, ‘Throwback Thursdays—here’s some memories,’ because obviously we had no new stuff we could post for anybody,” the singer recounts. “And every post would be like, ‘Please do a reunion tour!’ And, ‘Please play a show,’ or ‘Please play Vancouver again.’ ”

      The dissolution of 3 Inches of Blood affected everyone in the band in different ways. Clark acknowledges that, for a while, he struggled to find his place in the world. Going back to school, he got his welding ticket, providing a sense of stability that the music industry often doesn’t. But for a stretch after the breakup, processing things was hard.

      “There’s a thing called post-tour depression, which is real,” Clark shares. “I remember it took me about two years after the band was done to sort of mentally turn into a normal person, and not constantly have the expectation that I was going to get all this dopamine from playing in front of a bunch of people. It’s such an exhilarating high that you get used to it. I think I really replaced it with drinking and drugs to get that feeling. And then it stopped working, which made it a good time to self-assess and then get healthy.”

      For Pipes, a return to normalcy was in some ways easier, which might be counter-intuitive considering he was 3 Inches of Blood’s longest-serving member.

      Recalling that the band had been largely inactive in the two years leading up to its breakup, he says: “I think Shane had to go through a bigger lifestyle change than I did. But I definitely went through a period where I was dealing with the fact that, ‘Okay, I’m not in this band anymore, and that was a big part of my life.’ In the break we had before breaking up I had sort of got used to working a regular day-job again—coming to grips with that.”

      He continues: “It didn’t bum me out, but I didn’t feel motivated to try and start a new project. In the past I’ve had bands break up, or I’ve been kicked out, and the next day I’ve gone ‘Okay, I’m getting a new project going.’ 3 Inches was a big part of me, and I was sad that it was gone. But I guess I just more or less turned into a regular working guy.”

      Almost always, stepping back from something will lead to a sense of clarity. Clark—who joined along with Hagberg before the recording of 2007’s Fire Up the Blades—suggests that the end of 3 Inches of Blood felt right at the time.

      “There was a collective thing where I think we were burned out,” he opines. “We toured pretty solidly for about 11 years, and that’s a really strange existence. Our entire lives were the band, so I think a lot of us were yearning to just build a normal life for themselves. The business of music is pretty taxing. It’s a game where you are constantly weaving and trying to navigate this and that, and that’s something you get burned out on as well. Sometimes the creativity and enjoyment of playing gets pushed aside a bit.”

      The return of 3 Inches of Blood started with Hagberg writing song snippets and sending them to Clark, who offered he was onto something and might want to contact Pipes.

      “I always had it in my mind that I’d be open to doing it again, but I never really made those feelings known to anybody,” the singer says. “It was more I wanted to see if, and when, the discussion would ever come up. Justin texted me and said he was feeling motivated and writing some traditional heavy metal stuff. And: ‘What do you think about the idea of getting the band back together and playing some shows?’ ”

      That was around a year ago, leading the five members of 3 Inches of Blood—including bassist Nick Cates—into a jam space.

      “We wanted to see if there was any muscle memory intact, and, yeah, it was a good time,” Pipes shares. “We’ve all been good friends through this, and the couple of jams felt good, so it was a matter of starting to talk about it over 2023—the idea of playing shows and wanting to make a good impression on everyone that we can still do this. That we can put on a kick-ass show. Or shows.”

      The important word to note there is “shows,” raising the obvious question of what the future might hold for 3 Inches of Blood after the Commodore stand.

      “There’s stuff that we’re talking about,” Pipes says cryptically.

      Pushed, he allows: “How should I put this—we’re going to do things our way and keep an open mind as to opportunities that may arise. We want this to be fun again, and to not feel like a job. I think we’re all in a good spot where we can take the reins and not be fearing the crack of the whip from labels and managers anymore. It’s about taking charge of this band again and regaining what we wish we had back then.”

      The battlefield awaits—let the blood flow.

      3 Inches of Blood plays the Commodore January 12 to 14, with the first two shows already sold out.