It’s been my quest this year to bear witness to as many live underground metal shows as possible. I’ve seen so many I’d forgotten what it was like to go to an actual music venue instead of an endearingly homely dive bar. San Diego’s Brick by Brick is the real deal — a regal layout of bar, merch/waiting area, and a monstrous stage and show floor. Posters of upcoming entertainment cover the walls; I could pick out a handful of shows I’d be returning to the Brick by Brick to see in the months to come.
Much to my puzzlement, tonight was a free show with a killer lineup — I bought a vodka and Redbull to make up for it and assumed a spot on the floor near the stage. It was the day before a national holiday, so less than a handful of patrons occupied various parts of the bar area — band members or roadies, I couldn’t really tell. All I knew is I was there for one thing: my patriotism to metal.
Burnin’ for the Witches
I was feeling properly liquored up for Witches of God (Los Angeles — or so they say), a doom-heavy rock quartet sporting ‘70s and ’80s flair. With their tight dual-guitar instrumentation and occult/overtly Satanic lyrics, they reminded me of Blue Öyster Cult, Thin Lizzy, and other good stuff of that era. But they were that much and more — their punker bass player (clad in bandana, sunglasses, and sleeveless tee emblazoned with a yellow radioactive symbol) proved they accepted more influences than their first few songs hinted at. A couple punk-fueled cuts warmed me up to the Witches considerably, and that, in addition to their unified presentation, made for a worthy opener.
Worming Their Way In
A handful of people had crawled in since I’d last turned around, but oh, yeah — holiday, Monday. The anathema to crowds. I knew not everyone shared the same dedication I had, but I sincerely wish they had because up next was a band I’d been looking forward to seeing for months.
I’d been sold on Wormwitch (Canada) after several spins of their first full-length album, “Strike Mortal Soil.” I’m always sniffing around for bands that unleash a death/black deliverance that’s anywhere on a level of Skeletonwitch (and the fact that both bands share a suffix was music to my ears). As for their performance, a fog machine began rolling a hefty amount their way, casting the trio in hazy light. The poor attendance didn’t seem to affect Wormwitch’s delivery — they spent the set amping up the largely absent crowd with effortless playing. Guitarist Colby Hink brought plenty of black-rocking riffs that, surprisingly, I thought came across as more punky than another trio I’d had the pleasure of seeing the night before. Energetic bass player/vocalist Robin Harris spat and roared with unhinged aggression, but I’ve got to give it to drummer Cam Saunders, whose inventiveness was highlighted by the live setting. Seeing his fills performed up close was a real treat. I’d recommend Wormwitch to anyone who like a little rock ‘n’ roll with their grim spiked gauntlets.
Which Witches Were These, Again?
I’d grabbed myself a tallboy PBR (happy holidays, America) and watched, perplexed, as the same gear of the first band, Witches of God, was wheeled back onto the stage. Several of the same members returned as well, although gone was the heavy rock garb (as well as the punker bass player) in favor of more modest duds. The lead singer/guitarist was now on drums, the drummer was on bass, and the mostly-rhythm-now-sole guitarist had taken on vocal duties. Rechristened Sierra (Canada), my first thought as they began their set was if they would get paid twice…
Sierra had been added last minute onto the bill, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. At first they reminded me of Filter, although that was mostly in the low croon of the vocals. Their music became more assuredly doom metal as time went on, which didn’t endear me to the genre any more than usual — but what they were doing was tight (I could see how playing in two bands every night would have that effect on one’s musicianship). The drummer seemed a little stiff — the tubs didn’t seem to be his instrument du jour — but his playing was perfectly acceptable and solid, and the other members seemed natural in their roles. To sum, Sierra wasn’t really my jam, but damned if they didn’t do it well.
Tolkien ’bout Black Metal
It was almost 11 PM — it’d be a relatively early night for me if the headliner, Numenorean (Canada), finished in a reasonable amount of time. Then again, they played a depressive sort of post- black metal, which as you know tends to gravitate toward longer songs (the better to swirl in the sadness, my dear). I’d been listening to their debut album “Home,” which favored songs in the 10-minute range — not a bad thing by any means, but I was curious if they’d fare similar to another recent black metal band I’d seen.
I’ll be frank — Numenorean is a phenomenal live band. Their excellent sound that night (courtesy in part by the Brick by Brick’s commendably affable sound guy) was achieved where each member contributed to colossal, sweeping waves of grief-stricken melodies and painful, pummeling rhythms. Multiple mics appointed to several band members gave voice to the songs they performed, which were all (as far as I could tell) from “Home.” From the cacophonous intro to the cathartic closer, Numenorean’s set was unified by thematic melodic motifs; it felt like a cohesive package rather than the usual disjointed, song a la carte setlists most bands prefer. Overall, a powerful performance and one I’ll be remembering as a gold standard for live black metal.
Laying a Future Foundation
As a (mostly) lifelong San Diegan, my first visit to the lauded Brick by Brick was as stellar as I could have hoped. Four great bands, two of which were right up my dark, morbid alley (get your head out of the gutter), and a chance to support my local music venues — you know, the ones NOT charging $30 bucks for parking. I’ll be visiting the Brick by Brick a lot over the next few months. Witches of God, Wormwitch, Sierra, and Numenorean each are relatively young bands — only having been around for several years each — yet they all performed like seasoned vets. I wish all of them long, healthy careers and can’t wait to catch ’em again.