Dropdead / Full of Hell / Noisem / Plague Widow / RAD @ Midtown Barfly, Sacramento, CA 08/24/14

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My second show in Sacramento was in some ways a throwback to my younger years in Des Moines; I used to walk down to Hairy Mary’s by myself to see shows because my sorry ass didn’t have a car and to make matters worse I didn’t know anyone else who gave a shit about the underground.  Not being much of a grindcore fan, my wife decided to sit out Sunday’s matinee at the Midtown Barfly, and as a result I found myself flying solo once again, which is always a delightfully awkward experience given that I’m not exactly the most outgoing person out there.  Also, many of those shows I hoofed it to back in the day were heavy on grindcore bands such as Black Market Fetus, Strong Intention, Catheter, Entrails Massacre and Phobia, to name but a few, so I was excited to experience a show in a similar vein in my new city.  A complete and utter lack of social skills doesn’t matter much when you’re being pummeled at a million miles an hour by some of the most vicious and unrelenting music out there.

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Fiends at Feast / Tragic Death – Purgatory Rites (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, 2014)

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I’ve been following Santa Cruz’s Fiends at Feast ever since they self-released the excellent Shadows of Extinction EP back in 2011.  In that time, they’ve signed to up-and-coming metal label Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and released an impressive debut full-length in the form of Towards the Baphomet’s Throne, an album that saw the band building upon their already considerable strengths, sharpening their songwriting and upping the musicianship factor.  Continuing to capitalize on the momentum they’ve built for themselves over the past three years, the Fiends are back with what might be their most compelling set of songs yet on Purgatory Rites, a split with Madison, Wisconsin’s previously unknown (to me) Tragic Death.

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Belphegor – Conjuring the Dead (Nuclear Blast, 2014)

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If there is one thing metal critics hate, it’s consistency.  Satan forbid a band should find a sound that works for them (not to mention their fans) and stick with it, dooming their albums to forever be referred to in print as “more of the same” “a rehash” “nothing you haven’t heard before” etc, etc.  Luckily, I’m not a critic, and I love it when bands I enjoy give me exactly what I want. Such is the case with Austrian black/death heavyweights Belphegor, who’ve returned from an uncharacteristic three year silence with Conjuring the Dead.  To say that it’s everything you’d expect from a Belphegor record would probably be the understatement of the decade, but predictability isn’t much of a factor when what you’re predicted to do is kick ass.

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Harassor – Into Unknown Depths (Dais Records, 2014)

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One of my favorite things about digging into the metal underground is when one great band leads me to another great band.  That’s exactly what happened when Lord Time mastermind Andorkappen (aka Sandor GF) turned me on to Harassor, the LA black metal trio he plays drums for.  They’ve just released their fourth full length, Into Unknown Depths, via Dais Records and it’s a damn fine slab of bulldozing USBM if ever there was one.

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7 H. Target – 0.00 Apocalypse (Sevared Records, 2014)

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What the hell is going on over in Russia?  Over the past several years, the country has become a hotbed for slam/brutal death metal, as evidenced by the likes of Abominable Putridity, Traumatomy, Disfigurement of Flesh and Katalepsy.  But as good as they are, none of the aforementioned bands could have prepared me for the awesomely bizarre 7 H. Target, who specialize in schizophrenic/futuristic Tetsuo The Iron Man-obsessed slam that pretty much obliterates everything else out there.  Their latest album is titled 0.00 Apocalypse and it does a great job sonically of living up to that title, coming off like the soundtrack to an ungodly war of man vs. machine.

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Gloam – Vanquished (self-released, 2014)

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I first encountered Santa Cruz’s Gloam a while back thanks to the band sharing a guitarist with Fiends at Feast, another Santa Cruz-based outfit I’ve been shouting about for quite some time.  But in spite of this connection, Gloam is assuredly a very different animal.  The quartet’s debut demo was a rather stunning piece of atmospheric black metal, but with Vanquished they have surely surpassed it, pushing their sound forward while at the same time adhering to black metal’s time-honored traditions.

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