GIG REVIEW: Dark Tranquility, Warbringer & Striker Live at Dickens Pub, Calgary
Gothenburg’s godfathers Dark Tranquility landed in Calgary earlier this week on the tail end of their North American headlining tour supporting their latest album ‘Atoma,’ released in 2016. Supporting Dark Tranquility on this continental quest were LA’s Warbringer, and Alberta’s own Striker.
Monday nights in Calgary are pretty barren; the beginning of the work week means that shows are typically quiet, with only the most dedicated metalheads making the effort. This show was absolutely the exception! I arrived just as openers Striker were about to start, and Dickens Pub was full of already-ripe smelling headbangers.
Hailing from Edmonton Alberta, Striker are one of my favourite bands and I will take any opportunity to see them live in Calgary. Clad in leather jackets and packed with more energy than a coffee enema, Striker launched into their set. The first three songs of their set were the first three from their latest self titled album that came out in March this year (you can read our review here.) “Former Glory,” “Pass Me By,” and “Born to Lose” were punched out quickly and with an energy worthy of playing the Saturday afternoon slot at Wacken Open Air.
I assumed position right in front of guitarist Tim Brown, who was so animated and energetic it was hard not to grin stupidly up at him, as he whipped his guitar over the front row and made over exaggerated faces redolent of bands like Helloween and Van Halen.
This was the first Striker show I had seen with returning guitarist Chris Seger. Striker have often included another guitarist on tour, and it was nice to see Chris return to the band. Crowd favourite “Pheonix Lights” was up next, and it felt like three quarters of the song was one massive guitar solo. Happy headbangers in the crowd sang along with vocalist Dan Cleary as he hit all the high with ease.
The final song of Striker’s very short set was “Fight for your Life” from their 2012 album ‘Armed to the Teeth.’ At one point Cleary shouted “Fuck it’s great to be back in Canada” with a happiness that couldn’t be more sincere. And, in a moment they were done. My only criticism of this show was the length of Striker’s set; given that doors opened an hour before they went on stage, there was plenty of time for a longer set!
Up next was LA’s Warbringer. For their set they decided to play their latest album ‘Woe to the Vanquished’ in its entirety. The band entered the stage to fist pumping chants from the crowd. As the lights went down the band exploded into their set. Singer John Kevill has the screech of a banshee and let it loose as he leant menacingly over the crowd.
Highlights of Warbringer’s set include “The Spectral Asylum,” “Divinity of Flesh,” and “When the Guns Fell Silent.” These are the last three songs on their album and differentiate themselves from the thrash-infused, Slayer-inspired tracks at the beginning of their set. Specifically, “When the Guns Fell Silent” is by far the best song of the show. It felt like Kevill invoked the power of King Diamond at times, with a wail worthy of waking the dead.
Dark Tranquility’s dramatic presence on stage was what everyone was waiting for. Singer Michael Stanne seemed to appear out of thin air, and launched into “Force of Hand” from their 2016 album, ‘Atoma.’ Stanne’s presence on stage was joyful, and he wore a massive smile throughout the first song.
This was my first time seeing Dark Tranquility and they did not disappoint. I was instantly drawn to their sound. Stanne looked like he was somewhat out of time; with his denim jacket and on-stage charm, he looked like he could belong in a 70’s rock band. His stage presence was friendly and kind; he made no attempt to adopt the menacing, brutal frontman persona.
It is hard not to notice bassist Anders Iwers on stage. Dickens is a very small venue, and Iwers’ physical size added to the way he interacted with the crowd really made him a focal point. He was very engaging and a terrific addition to the line up.
“Forward Momentum” was a highlight of the show. The alternating between Stanne’s clean and scream vocals and the composition of the music of this song is beautiful. I wasn’t expecting to experience such a beautiful song. After seeing Warbringer, I guess I was expecting something different. It was a welcome surprise.
Their set included an excellent mix from their discography, including “Terminus(Where Death is Most Alive)” from their 2007 album Fiction, “Monochromatic Stains “ from 2002’s Damage Done, and “ThereIn” from 1999’s Projector.
Overall this was a great show. It was an honour to see such a big band like Dark Tranquility play a small club show, and having supports like Warbringer and Striker on the bill added a diverse sound that catered to everyone.