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 can’t-miss 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 band rehearsal in downtown St. John’s. “I’ve been in Category VI for eight years now and to hear that news and see it, I felt like I won the Price is Right. 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 give 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.”
While the band has designs of embarking on a potential Atlantic Canadian tour in future, and putting off a release show proper in St. John’s this fall, all four members share a common grievance when it comes to performance in Newfoundland and Labrador – the lack of acceptable performance spaces 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. “I grew up in central Newfoundland. When I was in high school I played in little bands. 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? … even if it’s a small club show in Gander, Grand Falls, Corner Brook. Why can’t we play somewhere like that? 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?”
This weekend will see the culmination of the efforts of the entire metal community, as Category VI join the likes of Ashes to Ammo, Winterhearth, Devastator, The Birchmen and The Hellfire Club at the Headbanger’s Ball for Andrew O’Brien, which will serve as a fundraiser and fitting tribute to longtime friend and brother to the local metal scene Andrew O’Brien.
“Andrew is someone I’ve known since 2007-8,” Gosse shares. “He’s not just amazing as a metal fan, but as a person, he’s amazing.”
“All the bands know Andrew, because Andrew is a guy who will show up at 10:00 p.m. to see bands, all the bands,” adds Waye. “He doesn’t just go to our band, or another band, he supports the scene period. He’ll go to rock shows, blues shows. He’s just a big fan of music.”
The Headbanger’s Ball takes place Friday September 8th at Distortion in St. John’s. To donate directly to O’Brien and aid in his battle with cancer visit https://www.gofundme.com/fridaythe13th
For more on Category VI visit them on Facebook and online at categoryvi.com. ‘War Is Hell’ is available in physical and digital formats now.
Stay tuned to The Newfoundland Herald for the full, uncut, interview and article with Category VI, on stands in the coming weeks.