As a heavy metal fan, I’ve seen dozens of amazing shows. But I can probably count on one hand the number of shows that fully immersed me, the ones that made real life and all the horrific mundanity that goes with it melt away completely, the ones that made me feel like I was alone in the universe with nothing but the band and the music. Dispirit’s headlining set at the Starlite Lounge last Sunday night was one of them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve always believed that there’s something to be said for staunch traditionalism, especially when it comes to black metal. I often tire of the progressive tendencies the genre has picked up in recent years, especially here in the US; sometimes I just want to scream “cut the shit and get to the ear-raping already!” Fortunately, Sacramento, CA’s Killgasm exists, and their second album A Stab in the Heart of Christ is the ultra-corrosive antidote to the overly pretentious, meandering mess that much of the current crop of USBM has degenerated into.
When my wife and I first started talking seriously about moving to Sacramento, one of the main draws for me was the opportunity to take in a lot of live music. Sure, metal shows do happen back home in Des Moines, but they are few and far between, seemingly getting more and more scarce by the year, so in this respect moving to the West Coast was a total no-brainer. I started looking for shows well in advance of coming out here, and the one that immediately caught my eye was the sole Northern California date on Finnish black metallers Sargeist’s current US tour, w/ support coming from Killgasm, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis and Valdur.