Seasoned metal veterans XUL are back for their eighth year at the Armstrong MetalFest and they’re bringing their energy with them.
Lead vocalist Levi Meyers remembers the first MetalFest when he went as a fan.
“I watched XUL play,” he laughed.
Meyers joined the Vernon band in 2009, as he was friends with the original members who formed the band in 2008.
Metal heads come from all over B.C. to celebrate MetalFest, and the atmosphere doesn’t get old, said Meyers.
“Everyone that attends has it circled on their calendar.”
Meyers, 27, is looking forward to playing MetalFest. The festival runs from July 15 to 16 and features 36 metal bands from all over B.C. and Alberta.
The best part of the festival is the “spiritual energy” that is shared between audience and performers, said Meyers.
“There’s a melding of crowd and band energy. It builds us up,” he said. “Last year when we finished playing, I had goosebumps.”
Meyers has had the privilege to see the festival grow each year.
“It’s a great atmosphere. It gets bigger and better every single year.”
A few hundred participants show up each year, added MetalFest media publicist Jon Asher.
Every year is different with XUL, as they try to keep things fresh by providing new songs and having unpredictable sets.
“We wing it,” said Meyers.
Being in a death-metal band takes its toll on the vocal cords. To reach that harsh guttural growl, Meyers has to properly train to avoid damaging his voice.
“It’s good to stay hydrated,” he said.
Meyers remembers a B.C. band that had a singer who “wrecked his voice” and couldn’t perform.
He takes note of different vocalists’ styles.
Behemoth’s frontman Adam Darski is his biggest influence, but he also enjoys the vocals from Opeth, a Swedish heavy-metal band.
Darski’s vocals are “so badass,” he said.
Meyers learned to accompany XUL’s hard, fast-paced riffs and slow, powerful bridges from YouTube.
“YouTube is my best friend,” he said.
XUL means “evil one” in ancient Sumerian, according to Meyers.
The band first heard of XUL from Behemoth’s track Xul.
Meyers got his start in the metal genre through bands like Iron Maiden.
“I actually didn’t like the (death metal) vocals initially,” he said. “(I thought) ‘oh, you can’t understand the words.’”
Something “clicked” when he found Nile, an American death-metal band.
Now, Meyers tries to bridge the gap by providing understandable vocals while growling.
XUL hopes to hit the studio this winter to start working on a second full-length album.
So far, they have four songs out of 10 completed.
Creating songs takes time, and for XUL the process starts with the guitar. The lyrics are usually the final elements to the songs, Meyers said.
The band’s last EP, Extinction Necromance, is full of fantasy imagery and lyrics.
As a songwriter, Meyers draws on fantasy novels like the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.
Armstrong MetalFest is Western Canada’s largest and longest-running European-style metal festival, according to the festival’s Facebook page.
Nomad, Eye of Horus and Odinfist are just a few of the bands performing at the Hassen Arena in Armstrong.