A City of Oak:
Sutekh Hexen // Alaric //
Worm Ouroboros // Bell Witch //

The dimming of the sickly yellow lights barely managing to fill Eli’s Mile High in Oakland signified that the extensive pre-set preparations San Francisco native black noise trio Sutekh Hexen had undertaken were coming to a close. The group took their place on stage cocooned by the rumbling feedback emanating forth from the front of the bar, surrounded by a fitting vanguard of effects pedals, loop stations, candles, and hard liquor. I was unfamiliar with Sutekh Hexen’s particular hybrid of seething hellnoises, but found myself intrigued by the band’s atypical approach to live music, though I’m not quite sure music is even the proper term I’d use to describe the hideous sonic atrocity these guys seem to excel at. This is ugly, hate-filled stuff that stands as an affront to the delicate post-metal that seems so prevalent at the moment.

Incense filled the air and candlelight played over the impressive effects chain littering the floor as the band’s stringed instruments began drowning themselves in layer after layer of reverb, distortion and delay. The noise continued on, a strange audio funeral procession that swelled in stature and density until the individual instruments were buried underneath the weight of their own descent into weirdness. The chaos halted only for the occasional soft guitar passage before plunging back into the mire, sporadic black metal riffs only briefly discernible before once again drowning in the dissonance.

Sutekh Hexen manages to capture some of the vitriol of second wave black metal and blend it with a healthy dose of Sacrificial Totem-esque dark and unsettling noises, albeit with (perhaps intentionally) none of the finesse of either comparison. If you’re the type who enjoys subjecting themselves to the soundtrack of a satanic summoning inside of a rusted machine factory, you’d do well to check these dudes out. It’ll be interesting to see what Sutekh Hexen is able to do as the band refines its sound in future releases.

Read the rest of this epic review plus view a mind melting photo essay after the jump!

On the heels of 2011’s successful S/T release and the verge of an anticipated split with Atriarch, Oakland’s own Alaric absolutely killed their set at Eli’s. The band’s psychedelic deathrock provided a lively, welcome contrast to a night otherwise filled with crushing, enigmatic and heavy music. Alaric’s animated vocalist flailed about on-stage and into the crowd as searing goth-y guitars filled the gap between bouts of furious crust riffing as the band tore through newer material and songs from their self-title both. Comprised entirely of Bay Area metal and punk vets, Alaric have nailed the perfect combination of melancholy apocalypse rock that isn’t afraid to ramp up the aggression and kick you in the dick when it needs to.

For a group who draws so heavily on natural imagery to tell their stories, a stage minimally wreathed in ornamental lights situated in a small, dingy bar within the rotting suburban landscape of North Oakland seemed an oddly apt setting for Worm Ouroboros to lay their beautifully crafted doom-smitten siren song bare. The autumn months proved fruitful for the trio, having completed the recording of their sophomore album Come the Thaw, the first to feature the skilled Aesop Dekker behind the drum kit.

The time spent writing and recording as one cohesive unit has resulted in a Worm whose live set is more polished than ever with the group now fully comfortable and acclimated to its newest member. The band’s skill for dancing between delicate and harmonious soft sections that suddenly rupture with the familiar swells of feedback and sludgy distortion are well noted and were beautifully showcased before an eager and attentive audience that night. Bassist Lorraine Rath and guitarist Jessica Way provide a near operatic vocal arrangement whose elegance belies the weight of the sonic pummeling that’s only ever a fuzz pedal stomp away. The subtle intensity of restraint that plays across Aesop’s face and movements as he keeps the reigns on years of technical fills and blast beats held tight is astounding to watch in its own rite, each strike a meticulously measured reflection of control. Worm have certainly reached a new height in synergy as musicians, a fact clearly reflected by the absolute fluidity of their live set.

Having heartily familiarized myself with the mighty Bell Witch‘s awesome 2011 demo, I was not expecting such viscous doom metal to be the product of only two musicians. Sure enough, drummer Adrian Guerra and bassist Dylan Desmond assembled their respective kits and began pounding out some of the heaviest doom I’ve had the pleasure to be encompassed by – I seriously have no idea how a two piece this talented has only one (albeit kickass) demo to their name. Desmond’s rumbling dirty bass seemed to constantly struggle for superiority with the drums, each instrument playing its own role in carrying and developing the songs as both members shared vocal responsibilities. Speaking of the bass, watching Dylan Desmond forge crushingly low doom rhythm grooves through tapping the sixth string while simultaneously tapping and sliding leads throughout the lower strings is nothing shy of fucking impressive. Likewise, the pure autonomous skill and raw fury of a drummer capable of mesmerizing the audience while shrieking his throat out is incredible to take in.

Bell Witch have just about wrapped up their short series of West Coast tours at the time of writing this, but an east coast tour is apparently in the works. I can’t wait to see what the Seattle doom duo are capable of crafting on a full length.

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