Twenty-one years ago, a 12-year-old kid from Seattle named Wyatt Olney stood outside the original Hell’s Kitchen location on Sixth Avenue in Tacoma, where 3 Inches of Blood were playing a show. Olney was too young to get inside, but his newfound love of the Vancouver, BC heavy metal heroes was enough to keep him glued to the back door, catching short glimpses of the band as metalheads left the club. 

Fast-forward to 2024, and Olney, now a successful musician himself with his hard rock band Wyatt Olney and the Wreckage, saw his favorite band more than 50 times before they disbanded in 2015.

“I truly believe that 3 Inches of Blood is the greatest live metal band of all time,” Olney explains. “Absolutely untouchable in their genre. The performance is always intense, visceral, and triumphant.”

It was a no-brainer for Olney to make plans to travel to Vancouver, BC the second he heard 3 Inches of Blood announce that, after nine years away, they'd be playing a weekend of comeback shows at their hometown venue, the Commodore Ballroom in mid-January.

“I would be lying if I said that I didn't have tears in my eyes seeing my heroes return to the stage,” Olney says. “So much life has passed by. At the farewell show in 2015, I was a 24-year-old kid with a newborn at home. Now that baby is 9 years old. But the moment they took the stage, that time gap no longer existed. We were all transported to youth again. Full of passion and aggression. It reignited a fire that we had forgotten.”

On Friday, June 7, 3 Inches of Blood will bring their over-the-top brand of Judas Priest-meets-Lord of the Rings heavy metal wizardry to the Showbox. Much like those three Vancouver shows, it sold out almost instantly.

“It's pretty bonkers,” said vocalist Cam Pipes. “We've played the Showbox before, but we weren't the headliners. We were the opening band on that tour. We've never played a show this big in Seattle in the whole existence of his band. So, the reaction to the ticket sales has been… frankly, I’m just kind of floored.”

The band will be celebrating the 20-year anniversary of their Roadrunner Records debut Advance and Vanquish, which features fan favorites like “Deadly Sinners” and “Destroy the Orcs.”

Back in 2004, thanks to heavy rotation on MTV’s Headbangers Ball, a strong publicity push by Roadrunner Records, and a road-tested in-your-face live show, 3 Inches of Blood blew up from their successful regional act status. Their debut was a game-changer and completely opened up a new world, but Pipes remembers that time as a difficult one for the band. 

“It was a pretty tumultuous period,” Pipes said. "We basically lost a drummer and bass player before we even recorded [Advance and Vanquish]. Then [we] recorded it. Then our two guitar players quit. Things were kind of in a state of flux pretty much from when we were recording through the whole touring cycle.”

During their 16 years as an active band, 3 Inches of Blood released six albums, toured the world extensively, took part in legendary rock festivals like Ozzfest and Wacken Open Air, and partied their asses off while writing some all-time catchy metal anthems with unapologetically nerdy lyrics straight out of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. 

Bassist Nick Cates recalls a particularly drunken date of the Ozzfest tour at the Gorge that reinforced his nickname, Liver of Steel.

“I drank way, way, way, way, way too much vodka and started Paul Stanley-dancing around the Gorge and up to people such as Zakk Wylde,” Cates said. “After flying around the Gorge all night, I ended up in my bunk and I got the spins. Somebody shoved me out the front door of the bus. Of course, I yacked everywhere. I woke up in that pond at the top of the Gorge and I heard the bus start. I was like, ‘Oh, shit, I gotta get back on the bus!’”

After nine years away from the band, preparation for their first shows back took close to a year.

“We want to make this not just like getting onstage and saying, ‘Okay, we're playing again, that's good enough,’” said Pipes. “We really wanted to step up the show in every aspect of it.”

Reflecting on the first few times they got back in a room together, drummer Ash Pearson knew it wouldn’t take long to get back into fighting shape.

“There's always gonna be rust, but it's like, once we jammed, I was like ‘We sound fine,’” said Pearson. “Everybody made mistakes, but I can just tell that it's not going to take us long to get back up to snuff.”

As far as the future plans for 3 Inches of Blood, the members assure me they have some things in mind, but they want to keep them special. 

“It won’t be a great many engagements,” Pearson says. “We all have kind of stable normal lives now. And one surefire way to put a wrench in that is to get back in a van and disappear for six months.”

3 Inches of Blood play the Showbox Friday, June 7, 8:30 pm, 21+. The show is sold out but resale tickets were available starting at $74.95 at press time.