In case you haven’t been paying attention, Norwegian black metal powerhouse Taake were slated to embark on a spring 2018 US tour after having canceled their 2017 dates due to visa issues. After ironing out their visa issues and expecting these hallowed dates to compensate for prior cancellations, the disingenuous cretins in ANTIFA exacted their warped sense of self-righteous justice by canceling multiple Taake shows through their (ironically) fascist protests. Despite the unflinching support of Brick By Brick and a handful of other venues, Taake was ultimately forced to scrap the tour altogether. Nevertheless, these hold-out venues were left with dates carved out and supporting bands booked. Determined not to let ignorant anti-fascist fascists ruin a perfectly good evening, Brick enlisted the help of underground death metal heavyweight Sadistic Intent to headline on April 6while keeping the original bill’s openers. 

      Inland Empire’s black metal terror troops Sicarius opened the show with their volatile, high-velocity brand of auditory fury. These up-and-comers have been on our radar practically since their inception and seeing them shove their barbed-wire fists across California has been exhilarating. Bassist Carnage was more dynamic than ever, and guitarist Merihim and vocalist Kurt Karcass maintained their fervent, devilish charisma. Nevertheless, something unexplainable was missing that Friday night. Nothing was wrong with their performance by any means, but their signature cohesive energy seemed slightly defective. Perhaps it was residual funk stemming from the band’s upcoming lineup changes or the meager crowd, but Sicarius had difficulty presenting the A+ craftsmanship I’ve come to know them for.      

      Unfortunately, not much could be said for Empyrean Throne either. Their studio tunes holds weight from time to time, but the incessant mic-cupping and gratuitous stage decorations made them difficult to enjoy. I understand a band’s desire to supersede the typical t-shirt-and-jeans aesthetic, but Empyrean’s use of props seemed like it came from a checklist; which was further soured by the shoehorned chalice of blood and kneeling in front of the altar. Simply put, the ornamental hands couldn’t be ominous if the front row can put a tall can of PBR in the palms, and the candles and crown seemed better suited for a birthday party. Empyrean Throne’s mammoth sound production affords them a grandiose vibe that most meat-and-potatoes metal bands can’t get away with, but that potential may have been more effective drawing from the fantastical/mythological tones of a Fleshgod Apocalypse or a Vesania, rather than being the new torchbearers of the moniker, “Young And In To Watain.” 

      Conversely, Los Angeles ensemble Highland’s minimalist aesthetic was a welcome contrast; more akin to early Black Sabbath than flashy costumes. The trio sounded just as crisp as their debut, Loyal to the Nightsky, which is a feat especially given how much shrieking resounds on their music. Highland are exemplary songwriters and assembled an engaging set which flaunted their propensity to perform mesmerizing melodies. They had an excellent command of their sound and style, with no complaints to be had from this writer.    

      Finally, Sadistic Intent took to the stage storming with menace. The crowd immediately erupted with fervent power as frizzy-haired headbangers with bald spots gnashed their teeth in the front rows with scowling pit warriors in full swing just behind them. It didn’t take long for the room to permeate with the stench of sweaty hair and hot, humid leather… in fact it was about as close to 1987 as could be! Although this was only my first live exposure to the band, I couldn’t be more impressed by the charnel riffs and diabolical dive bombs. Sadistic Intent is a thunderous embodiment of dark, death metal purity at its absolute finest. Given the howling reception they received, I can only hope they return to San Diego again soon. 

Thank you to Brick By Brick for their dedicated support of the underground, to Sadistic Intent for saving the night, and all the opening bands for the travel and thankless hours of rehearsals.