Friday, October 30, 2015

Concert Review: Vital Remains at the Phoenix Theater

Photo of Sepulchre

    Sonoma County Metal and Hardcore really brought something satanically special to the Phoenix Theater last night. Six bands who all offered some extreme headbanging and mosh pit forming music took to the stage for one epic show. Ever since the show was announced, I had been anticipating the chance to see and hear these six bands decimate the Phoenix Theater with their sheer brutal force. Sure enough, they did just that last night and really gave the crowd a show to remember.

    When arriving at the venue I could tell everyone was in good metal spirits. I was glad to see a decently sized turnout that seemed to grow as the night progressed. The six bands billed were Sepulchre, Barren Altar, Embryonic Devourment, The Kennedy Veil, Necronomicon and the headliner...Vital Remains. Being an old school death metal band that has released a fair amount of albums, one would expect Vital Remains to attract more older metal fans. However, there was a mix of old and new fans with one fan being twelve years old. Another example of parenting done right by having your kid listen to awesome extreme music like Vital Remains.

    Kicking off the show on the side stage of the concert venue was Sonoma County’s young ambitious progressive death metal trio, Sepulchre. Having seen them three times before, I was thrilled to see them open this show. There was a decent amount of people who came early, so Sepulchre was greeted with a loud response once they tore into their first song. Playing in a lower tuning to add an even heavier tone to their songs, the band threw down some thunderous jams. Introducing two new songs, “Iniquitous Indiscipline” and “Immolated Conscience,” the guys seemed to be having a grand old time on stage and the music flowed naturally. I really want them to keep exploring their musical creativity, because the new material sounds great. Of course, “Destiny Destroyer,” is a song they should always keep around since the riffs in that song, especially the guitar solo, literally annihilate my mind every time.

    Second up and switching over to the main stage was Embryonic Devourment from Willits, CA. This technical death metal group really put on a blazing set. Their drummer seemed as if his mind was specifically programmed to perform technical blasts on his kit. The guy was sweating profusely by the end of the set! Overall though they delivered an extremely tight sounding performance. The bass player/vocalist was running around the stage banging his head, while the guitarist shredded his way on an amazing looking white guitar. The crowd was definitely beginning to come alive and the front of the stage maintained a passionate amount of energy during the band’s set.

    Once Embryonic Devourment finished their last song, everyone’s attention went back to the side stage where the third band had already set up and was ready to go. Taking the third slot was, Barren Altar, a blackened death doom band who puts on one haunting ritualistic display of soul crushing music. I could already smell the incense burning towards the end of Embryonic Devourment’s set, and by now Barren Altar had the candles out and were ready to destroy. Once that first riff hit with a force like two planets colliding, I felt instantly drawn to the heavy doom atmosphere. The band’s singer would hit himself with the mic before unleashing a brutal growl to cover the sinister slow compositions. Their final song, which was well over ten minutes, featured some brilliant dynamic parts. I saw the band put on a great set about a month ago, and somehow they were able to execute an even better one last night!

    After Barren Altar finished, the final three bands all performed on the main stage. Fourth up on the night was, The Kennedy Veil, who are one of two bands on tour right now with Vital Remains. The Sacramento, CA based band received plenty of roars from the crowd when they started their first song. They played some technical slamming death metal riffs and sounded pretty solid. Also, the singer maintained great stage presence by constantly interacting with the crowd. He had a strong death growl too, so the brutality from their songs never ended. I think the band has a good formula going, but I would like to hear maybe a little more variation in their songs.

    Once the Kennedy Veil walked off stage, the Phoenix staff and next band were ready to set up. Necronomicon, from Eastern Canada, was a black metal trio who at times conveyed some death metal elements. Dressed as traditional black metal warriors with corpse paint similar to that of Immortal, the band delivered a true frost bitten brutal sounding live show. I especially liked when the guitarist and bassist would headbang in unison. The drummer was wearing chainmail and perfectly playing intense blast beat rhythms. During the band's entire set the audience was going crazy and throwing the horns up. I think the crowd appreciated how far this band had come to play and the black metal style that they have made for an epic live set.

    Finally, the blasphemous death metal lords in Vital Remains were ready to give the concert attendees at the Phoenix Theater a lesson in satanic death metal. I swear, once the band hit the stage and began their first song, the energy in the place was massive. The band’s singer kept trying to get the crowd more ravenous and by the end of the night people were dog tired from all the headbanging and moshing. Vital Remains band simply sound great the whole time on stage. Their lead guitarist was shredding through quick scales and played with tremendous fluidity. To cap off the night, the band was able to create a wall of death and towards the end of their set the crowd began ripping apart a bible that some fan had brought.

    Truly an extreme Thursday night of heavy metal music at the Phoenix Theater. All six bands deserve tremendous respect for their hard work on stage. Of course, the fans deserve credit for coming out and giving their full support. I really hope we see more shows in the same vein as this one. Also, I hope more Sonoma County metal fans continue to find their way out to these awesome shows. More metal maniacs equals larger pits of moshing chaos... Hey, beats going to church! \m/

Photo of Necronomicon

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vastum "Hole Below"

    Creeping across the Bay Area like the shrouded fog of impending doom, Vastum purges the land with a behemoth death metal sound. Their new full-length offering, “Hole Below,” takes listeners on an old school death metal trip through brutal riff battle fields and skull crushing sinister ritualistic rhythms.

    Being from the Bay Area, I am proud to hear a band crafting such an extreme old school sound. I hear influences ranging from such greats as Bolt Thrower, Autopsy, Entombed and Master. When first listening to Vastum one can hear a very straightforward death metal sound, yet even pick up on elements of black metal and sludge. Overall, this album’s sound is captured in a brilliant manner which gives the band a vicious edge. Each of the six songs on this release conjures up some massive amounts of raw musical expression.

    Starting off the album is the track, “Sodomitic Malevolence. How can one go wrong with a song called, “Sodomitic Malevolence?!” Distorted noises slowly come screaming in and eventually explode into a forceful riff. The drums feverishly pound away to the main rhythm. Vastum’s overall sound is extremely dark and bombastic on this release. Songs like “Amniosis” instantly lay down aggressive verse riffs with vocals of tortured death growls. The artistic expression is down right unforgiving and undeniably heavy. I especially enjoy the mammoth sounding distorted guitar riffs that can lead to some wicked solos.

    Track number three, “In Sickness and in Death,” screams old school death metal, but also offers that bone chilling death doom vibe. The following track, “Intrusions,” starts out with a slow sinister pounding guitar riff. The guitar sounds like the footsteps of a giant coming out of his cave ready to unleash vengeance upon a village of fear stricken villagers. “Hole Below,” continues to show the band holding true to that raw death metal sound and keeping the brutality going strong. The album’s final track, “Empty Breast,” was one of my favorites. Vastum really put thought into the song and deliverers a creative morbid musical creation. The song’s tone and presentation is relentless to the bitter end.

    What more is there to say about Vastum’s new release, “Hole Below?” ...How can I keep you people from listening to such a solid extreme music?! Literally, stop reading this review and check out Vastum! Bay Area old school style death metal keeping the raw aggression alive with no remorse and plenty of heavy riffs to scare the neighbors.

Vastum Facebook Page:

"Impious Noise Massacre" Featuring: Grave Desecration, Putrid, Diabolous666, Vlad

    From the dark depths of the Peruvian underground comes four bands who all worship extreme music and shall scare away any priest who listens to their blasphemous brand of metal. This four way split is a great representation of what Peru has to offer right now in the extreme music department.

    The bands featured on this split are Grave Desecration, Putrid, Diabolous666 and Vlad. Pentagram Records will be releasing the split and the label has been active in getting these extreme Peruvian acts out among the global metal community. After reviewing a few bands from the label before, I am thrilled to hear more brutal passionate black/death metal cuts of corpse grinding terror.

    Opening the split is Grave Desecration, a band with a name that leads you to believe their music will not be anything too cheery and upbeat. “Triumphant March of War,” begins with a sample of battle field noises and then transitions into a blast beat intense riff slaughter of noise. The band’s sound is explosive! As the singer is growling over the adrenaline pumping compositions the guitar rips through different chords with pure aggression. The next song, “Unholy War Tyrant,” is just as extreme as the first track and incorporates a morbid demonic sounding growl. Grave Desecration pours more energy into the track with a brief guitar lead that returns to a solid black metal style riff.

    The next band on the split is Putrid. I swear the way Putrid recorded their two songs is very similar to early Bathory and Hellhammer. They have this old school black metal sound that at times can take on old school death metal elements such as Deicide and Morbid Angel. For the song, “Necrovomitor,” the band simply hammers away at a vicious sounding riff. Personally I think Putrid’s second track, “Tearing Wings Apart,” is one of the most brutal sounding tracks on the split which is saying a lot, because all the songs on this split are pretty damn brutal. There are some haunting compositions featured in the track and the band conveys such a raw sound.

    Diabolous666 is third up on the split and continues the unholy brutal sounding theme. With the songs, “Funesta Anima Universal,” and “La Luz Carmesi del Fin,” the band crushes my speakers by turning the distortion up and pounding away feverishly at the drum kit. Vocally, the singer has a terrifying black metal style growl which sounds as if he recorded his vocals in a mortuary. When listening to them I felt as though my head was spinning, because Diabolous666 was playing so fast and taking their extreme sound into multiple directions.

    The final band, Vlad, presented a more grindcore fused black metal style. First, the singer’s voice is not human and had to be altered via some hellish vocal effect. “Cokaine Out of Control,” begins with the band slamming through wicked riffs of low tuned horror. Following it up is, “Lust and Death in Your Fucking Life,” which follows the same musical blue-print as the last song. Vlad turns up the heat with a crushing black/grind finale to close the coffin lid on a solid release.

    I am really impressed by the Peruvian extreme music scene and their dedication to creating such diabolic sounding music. “Impious Noise Massacre,” is recommended for any fan of black and death metal who wants to hear some underground extreme mayhem!

Putrid Facebook Page:

Diabolous666 Facebook Page:


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sonoma County Battle of the Bands Concert Review

Thought Vomit

    For the five bands playing last night’s Sonoma County Battle of the Bands, there was an opportunity to win some sweet prizes such as a demo recording from NB Recording, a video filmed by Red Fox Productions and have a show out of the area put on by Pinup Productions. Although this was called a, “battle of the bands,” the night seemed more like a celebration for all those who came out to support Sonoma County Metal and Hardcore community.

    The five groups who played and were hoping to take home the big score were: Thought Vomit, Trecelence, Predation, Gangrene and Abscission. Besides Predation I had seen the other four at least once with this Friday being the third Friday in a row seeing Trecelence. The show was booked at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, CA. This was my first time visiting the venue and I instantly noticed how intimate the room was where the bands would play. The stage was not very high at all, but brought the bands and fans very close together.

    Taking the stage first and right on time was Abscission. For an opening band they had a decent amount of people in the audience. I think that the scene came out for this event in full support. Unfortunately, Abscission was without a bass player so the guitarist and drummer were left to fill the void by providing some extra crushing parts. Compared to the last time I saw them, Abscission played with a little more aggression and that might have been due to the lack of a bass player which the singer pointed out a couple times. If you are a bass player in Sonoma County and want to join a death metal band...Abscission is looking for one.

    Second up was Gangrene, who have just really started and I remember seeing them play their first live show. Their unique death doom style is still taking form, but they always put on a solid set. I think they need to keep pushing themselves by adding some more dynamics to their music. The last song they played really interested me, because the guitar parts stood out from the band’s usual riffs.

    After two bands I was starting to feel the heat...of course I am pertaining to the venues warm stuffy setting and not the band’s attitudes towards each other. All the bands seemed to be enjoying themselves and were talking with each other. The third band of the night was Predation. Yet another group just starting out and I was wondering how they would make a first impression. I will say the band played with passion and the riffs had a powerful groove to them. However, the style was not exactly my cup of tea. I respect the singer for jumping into the pit on occasion and most of the crowd seemed to enjoy their set. 

    Setting up faster than the lightening from Thor’s hammer was the night’s fourth band, Trecelence. They have been playing for some time now and really have down a solid technical thrash sound. After playing two weeks in a row you think there is no way they can top the last two. Wrong! Trecelence took their twin guitar attack, speed demon technical drumming and epic metal screams to put on a wicked performance. There were times where bassist Zane Covington, guitarist Donnie Small and guitarist Chris Olney Burnett looked possessed by the metal gods as they banged their heads throughout the set. Even when Zane was having troubles with his amp during one of the songs, he was able to put the technical difficulties behind him and give all his energy for the next song. I think their relentless work ethic and passion for the music shows why they can put on impressive shows week after week.

    After Trecelence went off the stage the final band, Thought Vomit, began setting up. After seeing them twice already, I wondered if Thought Vomit would bring the same amount of intense energy? Sure enough Thought Vomit took the crowd at the Arlene Francis Center and turned them into wild animals. Singer Spencer Clark was in the pit running around screaming his head off. Guitarist Chris Meyer offered up some killer solos and riffs. Drummer Clay Prieto and bassist Jordie Hilley maintained a heavy rhythm section the whole night. I enjoyed the fact that Thought Vomit played some new material at the show and the new music was met with a very positive response. Also, to point out the local band camaraderie, one could see the Trecelence guys moshing during Thought Vomit’s set. Just another reason why this battle of the bands was less like a competition at times and more like a night full of people enjoying great local music.

    Once all the bands put away their gear, the winner was soon to be announced. Finally, after the judges had evaluated each band’s performance, Seth Stephens got on the mic to announce the winner...(drum role Neil Peart)...and the winner was Trecelence. I think all the bands put on a solid show and one could have made the case for some of the other band’s too. In the end, everyone who showed up last night was a winner because their support keeps the Sonoma County metal and hardcore scene going. Hope to see these bands put on more awesome shows and hope to keep seeing more people at the shows rocking out!


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Under the Church "Rabid Armageddon"

     Swedish death metal that comes from the depths under an abandoned church to where dark abysses lead to worlds of ultimate chaos and infinite destruction. Hell, if you told me that is where the band, Under the Church, recorded their debut full-length album, “Rabid Armageddon,” I might believe you! 

    Under the Church takes brutality and turns the volume up with this release. You hear that gritty corpse tearing death metal sound that captures the true essence of bands like Grave, Entombed and Dismember. Also, the band throws in some catchy hardcore punk style riffs to give the extreme death metal sound a vicious groove. I think listeners will be instantly drawn in by the high pumping blasphemous drive that this album has to offer.

    The recording for each track on this release solidifies the old school sound and allows Under the Church to put together some malevolent pieces. “Sodomy and Blasphemy,” the opening track on this release, is out of this world extreme. Picking away at sinister riffs, the guitar playing on the album rings out notes of terror. The following track, “Rabid Armageddon,” hammers out more grave yard inspiring sounds of brutal force. Tracks like “Triad Ov Inquisitors” and “Suspended in Gore,” begin with a darker and harsh doom like vibe. I personally enjoyed the vicious lyrics on “Suspended in Gore,” which compliment the haunting composition. Under the Church’s vocalist does a tremendous job narrating these vivid lyrics with such a bold death growl.

    Never losing their edge, Under the Church somehow finds a way to create an even stronger second half on this album. Songs like “Mangled to a Bloody Mess,” are gore filled cuts of extreme musical old school genius. “Penance” and “The Trail of Cthulu,” are two of my favorite tracks on this album. The recording of the drums and guitar create these thick thunderous walls of cyclopean power. If you want something heavy and loud to scare the it is!

    For their debut full-length, “Rabid Armageddon,” Under the Church demonstrated one wicked world of old school sounding Swedish death metal. I really enjoyed how Under the Church took from the past and created their own brand of hellish extreme music. This album is a must listen for fans of death metal that sounds as if the band recorded the album in the catacombs. I swear, Under the Church did something outlandish to record this album...maybe sold their souls to the Ancient Ones.

Under the Church Facebook Page:

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Concert Review: Skitzo, Trecelence, The Leaders, Shadow of EVE, Scrape the Earth, Gangrene, Kaptowka

Trecelence Live

    After attending an exciting metal show last Friday at the Phoenix Theater, I found myself returning to the Petaluma based venue for another night of talented local metal acts. The night would feature seven local acts from the Northern California region. To put it simple, there was a substantial amount of metal inside the Phoenix Theater last night...enough to build another Bay Bridge...okay, that example is an extreme exaggeration.

    Still, the billing for this show was quite solid and the venues ability to handle seven bands with two stages worked out perfectly. The acts who performed last night were as follows: Kaptowka, Gangrene, Scrape the Earth, Shadow of EVE, The Leaders, Trecelence and Skitzo.

    Opening the show on the main stage right when I arrived to the Phoenix was Kaptowka. Interesting band name that I am still trying to figure out how they came up with. This four piece seemed to play a very basic form of heavy metal with plenty of modern metal influences. One could tell they were just starting out and still need to work on getting down their timing. They covered a Killswitch Engage song and some people in the crowd responded positively.

    Following Kaptowka was Gangrene who played on the stage set up at the side of the main floor area. I had the opportunity of seeing Gangrene before when they played in Sebastopol. I noticed the young death doom dudes were maintaining their slow casket crushing sound. The band’s singer has a powerful death growl which adds a heavy foundation to the music. Their set was short yet for the most part solid, and I think they are still working on crafting a unique extreme sound. Overall, they seemed to be in good spirits which carried over into the audience.

    The third act of the night was a band called Scrape the Earth. This Novato, CA trio played a mix of death and thrash while adding a variety of other metal elements. Their instrumental compositions were clever and fairly technical, but the lyrical delivery area needs some more attention. The band’s bass player had really good stage presence and I commend him for interacting with the crowd in a way that did not come across as too desperate. I honestly get tired of those bands who constantly tell people to form a pit or come close to the stage. Win them over with your music and then they will form pits and come close to the bloody stage!   

    Switching back over to the floor stage and taking the fourth slot was Shadow of EVE. These Sonoma County Metal newcomers were positively welcomed by the crowd. For their first show, I was impressed by how this young group of headbangers was able to conduct themselves on stage. One could tell they have been working on getting their songs down and each member played their instrument well. Also, the younger fans were starting to form a more energetic mosh pit, so Shadow of EVE looked to have won the crowd over which is great to see for their first show.

    Once Shadow of EVE finished their set the crowd began to focus their attention back to the main stage. The Leaders, were the fifth band to lay down some metal riffs of brutal destruction. Unfortunately, the Leaders seemed to have lost half the crowd as I noticed the floor was not as full during their set. The band’s music was slightly repetitive with a continuous style of composition. The Leaders finished in a quick fashion and came and went just like the 49ers chances of winning another Superbowl.

    After seeing Trecelence put on a smashing set last week, I was expecting to hear them offer up that same mind shredding technical thrash sound once again. Bassist Zane Covington worried me at first as he took his time setting up, but he eventually allowed me to put my worries aside by leading the other three members in a furious metal jam of battle like proportions. Some of these songs are full of technical genius and standout when listening to the different parts. I especially cannot stop focusing on how well Trecelence utilizes the two guitar attack approach. The riffs are amplified to another level while the bass and drums maintain a tight backbone. Trecelence you could tell has been working hard for a while now and the hard work is paying off through their strong heavy metal sound.

    The final act Skitzo, added a veteran presence to the night. These guys have been around for some time now and even though they may be older, they connected with the young fans who began moshing around right away. The band’s bass player wore a kilt, the singer/guitarist had on his shades and the music was thrash’n good. Throughout their set I was banging my head along withe the other enthusiastic concert goers. Then out of nowhere the band brought out a female with a shaved head and the singer/guitarist “spit up” on her chest. I have seen Gwar live and can say at least I knew what I expected to happen before hand. Skitzo literally threw a curve ball at me and I was still processing what I had just witnessed while the band closed their set with covers of Motörhead's “Iron Fist” and Kiss' “Love Gun.” They know how to add shock value to their set...that is for damn sure!

    Well, a night of young talent working to improve their musical chops, Trecelence continuing to strive for thrash excellence and Skitzo completely leaving me with a live set that I will never forget, it was a great night to be at the Phoenix Theater! Just another reason why you should go check out your local scenes. You never know what you might see?...Trust me.

Shadow of EVE Live

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Concert Review: Thought Vomit, X-Method, Trecelence, Hereticide, Vile Riot Villains, Channel the Suns

     October is just beginning and the Phoenix Theater started the month off with an explosion of local metal talent. Six bands took to the black stage to appease the passionate and ravenous concert attendees.

    I must say that this was one of the best turnouts at the Phoenix Theater that I have been present for. Also, the crowd’s energy throughout the whole night never faded, which fueled the six hardworking bands. Besides Thought Vomit who I saw back in July, this would be the first time for me seeing these other five bands. Now, I was especially excited to see Santa Rosa’s Trecelence who I interviewed for the radio show a few months back.  After a week of tests and being sick, I was ready for a metal show! 

    The opening band, Channel the Suns, started the show off with some unique prog metal jams. I was intrigued by the band’s dual vocal delivery where one singer used a death growl style while the other vocalist used a clean style. Their instrumental compositions where creative, but seemed to be all over the place. I think the talent was there and I applaud the desire to be dynamic. The bass player and singer who did the clean vocals was extremely energetic and would run around on stage with a superhero cape. For the most part Channel the Suns did a solid job kicking off the show.

    The second band Vile Riot Villains, whose members had painted markings on their faces as if they were part of the 1979 cult classic movie The Warriors, had a strong response even before they started their first song. I could definitely tell the band’s groove/thrash style clicked with most of the fans in attendance. People were banging their heads and starting to move around more. Vile Riot Villains really exerted plenty of energy during their set and did an efficient job building up the momentum.

    Taking the third slot was Hereticide from Los Angeles. This out of town bunch of brutal death thrashers brought the heavy metal thunder to the Phoenix. One of their guitar players looked like a Viking Warlord and played his guitar as if he was beating down upon an enemy. The band would shout, “Oh Yeah,” throughout their set to keep the crowd going crazy and alive. For the most part their sound was nothing new that I have not come across before, but the energy and passion elevated them to a level where they stood out. Also, any band who gives free CDs away after their set is cool in my book.

    Fourth up was the band who literally stole the show, Trecelence. This group of Santa Rosa, CA based musicians sounds solid on their demos, however, put them in a live setting and they will knock you over. I mean, the dual guitar attack was in high gear with plenty of wicked technical solos being traded by guitarists Donnie Small and Chris Olney Burnett. Bassist and singer Zane Covington was full of passion while he hammered away on his sunburst Rickenbacker bass. Zane’s vocals were very strong and conveyed the lyrics with such potency. Of course I cannot leave out drummer, lIan Cabrera, who was a technical beat master behind the kit. Overall, the crowd was worked up into a thrashing frenzy throughout the whole set.

    On stage next was, X-Method, a group of Bay Area thrashers who knew a thing or two about laying down some heavy riffs. Their singer had amazing stage presence and did a great job interacting with crowd. Also, one of the band’s guitar players successfully did that swing around guitar trick without it falling, so that added to their live show. The band even played a sick Sepultura cover which I can honestly say sounded not too far from the original. From the beginning of their set to the end, X-Method never let their foot off the gas pedal.

    The final act of the night was Sonoma County’s Thought Vomit. If any one is looking to see a furious mosh pit, just attend a Thought Vomit show. Even if the crowd at first is not moving around, Thought Vomit’s singer Spencer Clark will do something about it. The guy is in another world while up on stage...or in the middle of the crowd. The band’s songs are pure unapologetic expression which comes from each band member’s inner rebellious musical soul. Thought Vomit had the singers from X-Method and Vile Riot Villains come out and perform a cover of Black Sabbath’s, “Paranoid.” A perfect way to end a metal and punk filled evening of nonstop entertainment.

    Well, one show down and plenty more to come this month for the Sonoma County Metal and Hardcore community. Try to make your way out if you can and keep headbanging and supporting the local scene!