Early last year, I discovered Psalm 88, an offshoot of Berkeley, CA-based cassette label Acephale Winter Productions. While all of the sub-label’s initial batch of wares were impressive in their own right, the one that impressed me the most was Behold Darkness’ I, a gripping nineteen minutes of frozen-soul black metal that was easily the most complete sounding of the four releases reviewed. Indeed, it was a recording I found myself continuing to revisit on the regular, which is really saying something when one considers how often I burn out on the music I choose to review due to the sheer number of repeat listens involved.
Like any good metalhead, I try to keep track of all the shows happening in my neck of the woods, even though I can only make it to a fraction of them. This is how Belgium’s Goat Torment popped up on my metal radar. Turns out the band will be tormenting Sacramento as part of a handful of West Coast dates in conjunction with their appearance at California Deathfest in Oakland (no, I will not be in attendance), which is right around the corner.
This past weekend, my wife and I ventured down to Anaheim to get our Disneyland fix. But the magic kingdom wasn’t the only destination on our agenda; Mrs. IG built some time into our busy itinerary to make a stop at the mighty Dark Realm Records. For those unfamiliar, Dark Realm is the Los Angeles area’s only all-metal record store and is run by brothers Rick and Bay Cortez of the legendary Sadistic Intent. I first visited the shop roughly six years ago and was blown away by the selection of CDs, shirts and various other heavy metal goodies, so I couldn’t wait to finally make my second pilgrimage.
Sacramento gets a ton of great shows, but we’ve been more than a bit lacking in the black metal department of late. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the shit out of seeing the likes of Melt Banana, Ufomammut and -(16)-, but I’ve also been absolutely dying for the visceral experience that only a straight-up black metal show can bring. So, I was extremely grateful to Wretched Earth Productions for treating us to this killer lineup of Cali-bred BM at Starlite Lounge, which is quickly turning into my go-to spot for kick-ass metal shows.
My first exposure to Sacramento’s Church came back in September of last year, when I witnessed them nearly level the Starlite Lounge while opening for the mighty Dispirit. Like a complete idiot, I didn’t write about them at the time in spite of being thoroughly impressed with their set, largely due to the fact that they didn’t have much of a web presence or any recordings to point IG readers in the direction of (I did however post some footage to my YouTube channel). But much has changed since that early show; Church have finally released their debut album in the form of Unanswered Hymns and rest assured friends, this three track, forty-five minute long beast is every bit worth the wait.
Things up to now have been quiet for San Francisco’s Pale Chalice. The band released their debut EP Afflicting the Dichotomy of Trepid Creation via The Flenser back in 2011, and I think we can all agree that in today’s metal climate four years is a freakin’ eternity between releases. But give just one listen to Negate the Infinite and Miraculous, the quintet’s inaugural full-length for new label home Gilead Media, and it will become readily apparent that Pale Chalice favors quality over quantity.
I haven’t really heard much straight-up death metal that tickles my fancy in 2015, so it was a pleasant surprise to get a copy of Negative Vortex’s Tomb Absolute in the mail from the ever-reliable Caligari Records. Indeed, the Oakland, CA-based quartet kicks up quite the storm of burly ‘n’ bulldozing DM on their debut demo, which will surely appeal to fans who can’t get enough of the genre at its most crushingly traditional.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Sacramento in the ten months I’ve lived here, it’s that this city loves its doom and sludge. I’m sure as hell not complaining, especially when we get shows of this caliber; long-running LA sludge godfathers -(16)- descending upon the Starlite Lounge along with Oakland sludge/punk legends Brainoil, SF noise rockers Kowloon Walled City and hometown doom-lords-in-the-making Church was indeed a dream show for fans of all things slow ‘n’ low.
Gore House Productions is on a mission to brutalize the living hell out of 2015. First they pummeled us to a pulp with Bloodscribe’s Prologue to the Apocalypse, now they’re stomping the bloody remains into the ground with Completely Devoured, a short sharp shock of an EP from Riverside, CA’s Hideous Rebirth. It’s ten-and-a-half minutes of chainsaw guitars and gristle-gargling vocals that manages to leave a mark in spite of its brevity.
Alright, you guys know I’m not much for “news bits,” but Sacramento’s Church are a band I’ve been super-duper excited about ever since seeing them open for Dispirit late last year, and now that their debut recordings are finally available on ye olde interwebs in the form of Unanswered Hymns, I wanted to make sure THKD readers had the scoop before all the big online metal outlets get a hold of this great band.