An aura of darkness and chaos descended upon The Merrow on Saturday, January 27. A ritualistic atmosphere pervaded the evening, with candles aplenty and a smattering of skulls helping to set the scene. The only thing missing was the sacrificial lamb. Musically, the line-up was far from being a collection of orthodox black metal. With performances ranging from the avant-garde eclecticism of Hadron to the raw puritanism of Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, the diversity of approaches was worthy of note. In short, it was an exciting night for the black metal aficionados of San Diego.

Tijuana’s Hadron opened the evening’s festivities. The performance that they presented was certainly unique. The hooded garb of the front-man gave one the impression of an oracle channeling cosmic forces through shrieking vocals. Quickly changing between riffs and playing around with multiple time signatures, Hadron’s musical complexity was admirably ambitious. Unfortunately, this ambition did not always translate into a smooth performance. I’m unsure whether it was due to nerves or a lack of chops, but Hadron’s instrumentation lagged behind their ambition. To their merit, Hadron managed to maintain an aura of unrestrained abandon – an aura certainly worth witnessing in live performance.

Mystic Ritual represented the home side for the evening. The four-piece brought a display of conventional, but intensely aggressive black metal. Mystic Ritual’s performance was tight to say the least. The sound was well-balanced, the drums were consistent yet insistent, and, best of all, moments of melodic perfection shone through the maelstrom. It’s easy to see why they have acquired a dedicated following in San Diego – they’re veritable professionals.

After an intermission during which most of the concertgoers left, it was time for the Bay Area bands to take to the stage. I must profess disappointment at the dispersal of the crowd after Mystic Ritual’s performance. Despite a diminished audience, the Bay Area bands put on an impressive show, refusing to relent even an inch.

First was Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, the project of a man who performs under the pseudonym Domignostika. Pandiscordian Necrogenesis is a band you have to witness first-hand to fully appreciate – Domignostika performs as a one-man unit, simultaneously shrieking, thrashing on his guitar, and playing the snare and bass drums with his feet. The novelty of this performative feat would be enough, but the music that emerged was spectacular in its own right. It was both devastatingly brutal and jarringly beautiful. Raw, angry, almost misanthropic, and deeply individualistic, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis seems to embody the very spirit of black metal. I was truly impressed.

Closing the show was Oakland’s Funeral Chant. Existing somewhere on the border of black metal and death metal, Funeral Chant melded impressive riff-work with a dizzyingly unrelenting soundscape and pervasive blast-beats. Many of the riffs had a distinct old-school death metal vibe, which worked nicely with the over-distorted guitar tone. Funeral Chant were authentic and tight, and they provided a satisfying end to the evening’s musical lambasting. Chaos was the word for Funeral Chant’s performance much as it was the word for the evening as a whole. I found myself leaving energized by that aura of chaos.