On Saturday May 9, a handful of San Diegans visited the Brick By Brick to catch our installment of the West Coast Destructors Tour. Led by co-headliners Madrost and Brain Dead, the show also featured local openers Gravespell and Christ Killer. Although I didn’t make it early enough to catch Christ Killer, Gravespell kicked ass.

The blackened death metal quintet has been a staple of the San Diego metal scene for a good while, so I’m glad I could finally check them out. Their raw blend of brutal melodies and intricate song structures contributed to their fierce performance. Gravespell exhibited smart technicality, excellent stage banter, and a strong style which maintained a captive crowd throughout their whole set.

Ultimately, I came for Madrost. Although the band has difficulty maintaining consistent members for a good chunk of their career, their most recent lineup is definitely one of their strongest. That said I couldn’t wait to hear what the band was going to bust out. Their latest album, Into the Aquatic Sector is a brilliant piece of modern heavy metal. And that coupled with their debut release of the speed/thrash album Maleficent would prove for a whirlwind of a set. Despite minor technical difficulties, the band showed why they deserve to be paid attention to.

Somehow, Madrost gets better with each performance. Drummer Cesar Escobar is a monster behind the kit, bringing the older catalogue to new life and nailing the new songs. Bassist Richard Orellana commands one hell of a stage presence and is the only person to make green bass strings look badass. Singer/guitarist Tanner Poppitt continues to grow as a frontman and never runs short on energy.

Touring guitarist Necro Nick did an excellent job adding to the live chemistry and the violent quartet made their time worthwhile for the few people present. The set included the best of both Madrost albums, including “Desecrator,” “Universal Energy,” and “Frozen Beneath the Snow.” Tough act to follow, but Brain Dead closed the night after Madrost’s set.

Brain Dead. Wow. Unrestrained energy from the moment they took the stage to the moment they left. Very few bands possess the special charisma those four have, and it shined through in their set. No bullshit, no frills, just the wild spirit of punk and thrash that’s often cheaply replicated elsewhere. Frontman Joey Dalo left no inch of the stage untouched, and even jumped offstage to mosh with the crowd! Brothers Adam Axe and Rez Peterson (guitar and bass respectively) played with unbridled passion while drummer Josh Angel held down incredibly tight covers. Brain Dead’s set even included covers of Overkill’s “Fuck You” and Slayer’s “Raining Blood.” And while seeing bands cover the latter usually makes me groan, the Brain Dead boys played with such vigor and livelihood everyone couldn’t help but yell along.

It didn’t matter that the already bare crowd had dwindled down even more. It didn’t matter that members of the band had a full blown flu (I later found out). It didn’t matter that they were on the tail end of their tour with only one date after San Diego left. What did matter is that Brain Dead played heavy metal like their lives depended on it, and the remaining shreds of the audience were more than grateful for it.

Photo Credit: Jason Bang

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