On Friday January 12, Til-Two Club kicked off the new year with an exhibition of Californian death metal. The home side was well represented, with the three opening acts hailing from San Diego. The set list was topped off by Scolex, travelling in from Oakland. The crowd in attendance was modest, but crammed into Til-Two’s space it felt like a full house. Whatever was slightly lacking in regard to the presence of bodies was more than made up for by the energy and quality of the performances. It’s not every day you get to go to a gig where every single one of the acts is tough as nails. The organizer, Inner Void Productions, gets props for putting together a show that was impressive from start to finish.

Temblad set the scene for the evening, roaring onto the stage with a brutally heavy and powerful sound. The fact that frontman Lorenzo Kemp maintained a power pose for the whole set is a decent analogy for how solid and formidable Temblad are as an act.

Impure Consecration changed the tone somewhat, their occult emphasis present both in their aura and in the embellishing candles and skulls across the stage. Their satisfingly old school death metal approach was well-accentuated by more than a few hints of black metal, nicely contrasting Temblad’s grindcore-influenced death metal. Their performance was quite reserved in comparison to the other acts, but that managed to work to their advantage for building a ritualistic atmosphere.

Cave Bastard were next in line. This concert marked the last for their drummer, Steven Reed, who is leaving San Diego for shinier pastures. He went out with a bang. It took some processing time to assess Cave Bastard’s performance. Maybe I was a few drinks deep, but I don’t think that’s the only consideration. The experience of watching Cave Bastard perform was magical, transcendent, fucking orgasmic. It’s not just that their riffs are gluttonously heavy. It’s that they manage to be so groovy in the midst of that heaviness. I still can’t wrap my head around the immensity of their sound.

Oakland’s Scolex closed off the show. They were in the thick of an 11-show West Coast tour, and still managed to muster a wealth of energy. Their riff-work was catchy as hell, and the mixed female/male vocals gave them a creative edge over standard death metal line-ups. The integration of doom metal into their repertoire had a refreshing effect, and provided a blissful ending to an evening of frenzy.

In sum, this show had a brilliant choice of line-up. There was enough consistency between the bands for it to feel like a properly curated show, and enough diversity that there wasn’t a dull moment.