Vancouver reggae-metal fusion trio Ninjaspy headline Friday night of the ninth annual Armstrong Metalfest at Armstrong’s Hassen Memorial Arena July 14-15. The festival is B.C.’s largest celebration of heavy metal music and culture. (Taya Fraser photo)

Celebrating heavy metal culture

In the past, metalheads had to travel to Germany to experience the rush a big festival

In the past, metalheads had to travel to Germany to experience the rush a big festival, such as Wacken Open Air. But local headbangers decided to bring that feeling home with Armstrong Metalfest.

The ninth annual festival, running July 14-15 at Armstrong’s Hassen Memorial Arena, is B.C.’s largest celebration of heavy metal music and culture.

“As soon as I graduated, I took a bit of time off, saved up, and backpacked in Europe,” festival co-founder Jesse Valstar, who plays bass and sings with Armstrong’s power and thrash metallers Odinfist.

“When I was over there I thought, ‘Why don’t we have this in Canada?’” Valstar said.

After returning from his trip, Valstar worked towards bringing the European metalfest to Canada, and started it off as a backyard metal party in 2009 with 11 local bands.

“It grew exponentially, so we moved it to the IPE grounds,” Valstar said. “The first couple of years we were kind of hesitant, but we’re pretty comfortable with Hassen Arena. It’s been fantastic. It gives people a break and a reason to get out of the sun.”

The festival set-list now boasts more than 30 bands.

“It encompasses everything that I want out of the festival experience,” Valstar said. “The team members of West Metal Entertainment poured their sweat and blood into making this year’s lineup for Armstrong Metalfest the best year yet.”

This year, a large portion of the festival’s bands will be releasing albums.

“The fact that so many (metal) bands in Canada are able to write and record quality material is a real testament to the thriving metal scene we have,” Valstar said.

“The band submission process is a grueling gauntlet of awesomeness, but personally I love every second I dedicate to the brilliant artists of Canadian metal.”

Headlining the festival alongside Vancouver reggae-metal fusion trio Ninjaspy is Boston’s technical death metal thrasher Revocation, who Valstar is excited to see.

“Their style is hella-fitting for the festival and I know they will be well received,” he said. “I’ll be front row centre screaming my heart out for sure.”

Other headliners include Canadian thrash legends Aggression and Broken Neck Radio’s People’s Choice winners The Golers. Local acts performing include Odinfist, Vernon-born blackened death metal band XUL and Kelowna’s psychobilly trio the Dragstrip Devils.

“I am very proud of the work our team has put into year nine of Armstrong Metalfest,” Valstar said. “As a community, we built this festival from the ground up, (and) as the festival grows, so does our community.

“We are all proud of this big beautiful beast.”

Weekend passes are available prior to the event for $120, or for $160 at the festival gates, both include camping. Day passes will be available at the gates for $70, with an additional $20 per night for camping. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit armstrongmetalfest.ca/tickets

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