May 26 saw the welcoming of Norwegian heavyweights Helheim. Southern California residents Morphesia, Sicarius, and Empyrean Throne acted as the evening’s openers. News of Taake’s visa rejections were met with upset and disappointment, however Helheim stepped in to give those who stuck around a strong performance. Local soloist Morphesia got the night rolling with reverb-y chords and dark lighting. Abandoning their fervor for all things Satan, Morphesia, led by local soloist Zombie, instead opted for a modern, shoegaze sound. This stylistic change has overall improved Morphesia’s act since its less reliant on traditionalist laurels. While there’s still much to be desired as far as crowd engagement, Morphesia put on a decent set.
Next, Inland Empire’s Sicarius proceeded to assault San Diego with their self-labeled black metal terrorism. The quintet was an explosive ensemble full of vigor and talent. Frontman Kurt Karcass engaged the audience between his wild microphone antics as well as jumping into the crowd and screaming into the skulls of surrounding metalheads. Axemen Argyris and Merihim smoothly switched between vicious riffs and chaotic solos. Drummer BZ laid down exciting and technical percussion while bassist Carnage showed a stronger initiative to move around. The dagger men’s music was a fast but hypnotizing black metal experience that was as punishing as it was loud.
Soon after, Empyrean Throne began their set accompanied by their onstage ornaments which included candles, flags, and a skull. The symphonic southern Californians improved a great deal since their last performance in San Diego (which also included Morphesia & Sicarius). While their aesthetic is a little too polished to come off as menacing, their music was catchy and made for a good fit to the night’s bill. Especially for local bands, lineup changes can set a band backwards performance-wise, but Empyrean Throne seems to be soldiering on with vigor.
Headliners Helheim had much to prove given the circumstances, however the Norwegian four-piece immediately delivered a satiating blend of black metal and Norse mythology. Vocalist/bassist V’gandr (who also plays live bass for Taake) howled the lyrics with raspy intonations while vocalist/guitarist H’grimnir sang the clean sections beautifully. Hot off the release of 2017’s landawarijaR, Helheim’s setlist featured a sizeable chunk of songs from the new record. Drummer Hrymyr never let the smile sag from his face, while guitarist Reichborn maintained a calm demeanor whilst playing.
Helheim’s heavy chords and passionate performance went over well with Brick By Brick. A band of that caliber certainly deserved a larger turnout, however those in attendance seemed to have appreciated the commendable set. Thankfully, Brick By Brick as well as all the bands worked hard to make the night go as well as it did.
*Thank you to Karila @ Metal Life Magazine for the photos*