Powerhouse metal four piece Category VI raise the stakes with their intense sophomore album War Is Hell
If you’ve heard the name Category VI, you’ll be familiar with one of the island’s giants of heavy metal. Fronted by the fiery powerhouse vocal stylings of Amanda Gosse, anchored by longtime stalwarts of the scene and bonafide masters of their craft Geoff Waye and Keith Jackman, and the welcomed addition of newcomer and drumming prospect Patrick Tarrant, Category VI pull no punches and leave no sonic stone unturned with their visceral punch of a record, War Is Hell.
An appropriate response to their fan-favourite studio debut Fireborn, War Is Hell is war-cry, statement piece and homage to metal legends all in one. It is also one of the finest offerings by a band, genre be damned, in Newfoundland and Labrador this year. So much so the praise that the band has defied convention and has been nominated for a MusicNL award for Alternative Artist of the Year. “I cried like a baby, to be honest,” Gosse says during a rehearsal in St. John’s. “It’s not expected that a metal band would get such notoriety or respect so quickly like that. To also be accepted and respected, finally, after all of these years for our hard work, I can’t even put it into words really. To be among all of these people is just icing on the cake. They’re looking at us as not just metal but as in these guys are a talented bunch of people and they have something to offer us. That’s high praise and we’re really excited.
“In order to create change you have to kind of insist on it yourself,” she adds. “You can’t just expect that you’re going to get offers or respect without a reciprocity of it. You have to give respect in order to get it back. With a lot of people there’s a fear or hesitation because the alternative thing turns them off if they’re in the metal community. ‘I’m not Nirvana, I’m brutal!’ But the thing is if you’re in the metal community it’s all about proving your worth and being strong. I feel like that’s a big proponent of what metal is, banding together and being strong. We feel like we’re taking it for the team here.”
For War Is Hell the band reunited with established engineer and producer Rick Hollett, who lent his renowned talents to the bands debut Fireborn, and at this stage has acquired unofficial bandmember status.
“He’s not just a random guy who doesn’t know about heavy metal or what we want,” Waye says. “If we refer to an album or say ‘I really like the drums on Judas Priest’s Painkiller,’ he knows what I’m talking about.”
Choice cuts of the sophomore release like Strike of The Axe and Full Metal Jacket have been fine-tuned and trimmed down over the course of the past year through a slew of live performances. The end result of an admitted lengthier gap in releases than desired was an album that lacks filler and one that has been rehearsed and polished to perfection.
“A lot of these songs we had been playing live and in clubs for over a year and a half and they have changed,” Jackman said. “We’ll come back to the rehearsal space and say ‘well that worked pretty good,’ and that’s how the songs are built.”
“Nothing that we put out into the universe can we say ‘well that was crap, we shouldn’t have done that.’ I always feel really confident what we put out and produce to the masses,” Gosse adds. “We’d come back and edit things down to make it final for the album and to make sure the structure is proper.”
‘The Metal Scene’
While many metal bands in Newfoundland and Labrador fall back on guttural vocals and hard thrashing instrumentation, Category VI is a more refined and restrained sound, yet one that never sacrifices on power.
Nods to greats of the genre like Dio, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are apparent throughout the bands discography, resulting in a sound that is a hybrid of modern metal mutation and tried and true classic throwback.
“We’re not just the typical sound for what’s around here,” Gosse says. “Most of what is in the metal scene here now is guttural singing and what’s important to me in terms of a melodic singer is to have perfection come from that. Perfection takes time. Gladly enough on my vocals on the first or second album I don’t think it took very long to go in and do what I had to do. You want to make sure that it does sound like you, but also those influences you loved from the 80s that you love need to be there in order for it to sound cohesive. We were very lucky.”
“In our own scene we’re very different in everything else of what is going on,” Jackman adds. “The melody type stuff and arrangements are quite different. If anything I’d say it’s more classic metal. It’s just different, a more 80s sound.”
Of course, the addition of Tarrant, who has garnered a following in the local punk scene as a member of the Green Day tribute Nimrods, has been immediately fruitful for Category VI
“Patrick came in and joined the band in the last couple of months and it’s like he’s been here the whole time,” Gosse shared. “He just came in and slaughtered the music in the best way possible … we like how he’s enhancing the sound of the songs. We’re lucky to have him as well.”
While the band has aspirations of embarking on an Atlantic Canadian tour in future, and putting off a release show proper this fall, all four members share a common grievance when it comes to performance in Newfoundland and Labrador – the lack of acceptable live music venues outside of the capital city.
“The only unfortunate thing I’d say about our scene is it’s St. John’s only. Where is the rest of Newfoundland?,” Waye asks. “Where are the bands outside of St. John’s? We’ve reached out asking ‘are you in a metal band outside of St. John’s?’ No one responded. Why can’t we drive three hours and play a show somewhere? When I was a kid, 18 or 19 years old living in central, I would have went to see a metal band even if I hadn’t heard of them because they never come to town. It’s a chicken and egg thing. It might be a pipe-dream, but why not?”
Hopefully venues outside of St. John’s begin to take note and open up their doors for a wide array of genres and hungry artists. In the meantime, Category VI will continue to aim to blow open doors and burst barriers, something they’ve done, with pride, since day one.
“My whole life it hasn’t been easy and getting in this band was like a dream for me. I had to prove myself to be in this band,” Gosse explains. “You have to continuously prove yourself to other people in order to get something in return. It’s almost like a business exchange. You have to voice that you want to play other places. You’re almost like a pioneer for your genre and have to advocate for your genre. That’s what we’re trying to do by being a part of MusicNL, by wanting to play in other places. It does go a long ways and it has helped us along in these past seven or eight years.”
Visit Category VI on Facebook and online at categoryvi.com. ‘War Is Hell’ is available in physical & digital formats now. Category VI perform as part of MusicNL Week on October 13th at Club One in St. John’s. Tickets are available at the door and more information can be found at musicnlweek.ca