On April 15, The Bancroft in Spring Valley hosted metal bands Uada, Imperial Triumphant, Invocation War, and Sicarius on a gloomy Friday evening. The turnout was small, which ultimately made the concert intimate and visceral.

     Inland Empire’s Sicarius kicked off the night and promptly blew the roof off with their volatile sound and aggressive performance. For a group in its extremely early infancy, they demonstrated the live chops veteran bands spend years building. The blackened quintet writhed about the stage whilst delivering punishing blast beats, ultra-fast string picking, and one unholy hell of a presence. Their frontman had me completely (and justifiably) stunned with his style reminiscent of a hybrid between Watain’s Erik Danielsson, Mayhem’s Maniac, and the slightest twinge of GG Allin. Guitarists Argyris and Merihim possessed an excellent chemistry along with the tight rhythm section from bassist Carnage and drummer BZ. There were very few things to complain about since Sicarius kept my jaw rooted to the floor throughout their set. Watch out Southern California, Sicarius’ performances aim right for the jugular.

     Invocation War followed shortly after Sicarius. I found it odd that they didn’t have a bass player and their sound definitely suffered from it. Even though the guitar tone was loud and crispy, the mix just didn’t have any bottom end. Maybe it was the scorching set from Sicarius that raised the bar too high but I just couldn’t latch on to Invocation War. They played fast, and even snuck in a cover of Dissection’s “Frozen,” but they didn’t wow me. They certainly didn’t play a bad performance, and what I can positively say is that their drummer was an absolute animal on the kit. From fast timing to intricate fills, he was the best part of their set. Although Invocation War has good style, dynamic vocal patterns and more onstage gusto would go a long way.

     Another considerably new band, headliners Uada later took to the stage. Ample fog use and bright white backlighting covered the stage so that the hooded quartet appeared as silhouettes—a truly surreal arrangement that was further amplified by the band’s transcendental style of black metal. However, Uada didn’t use lighting as an excuse to be stationary and created a spectral ambience that lingered throughout their set. Touring in support of their freshly released debut “Devoid of Light,” Uada’s music boasted tasteful tempo changes, intense atmospheric passages, and crippling ingenuity. Though it’s clear they draw from the likes of Mayhem, Inquisition, and Agalloch, Uada take the traditional concept of black metal and filter it through their dismal landscapes of Portland, Oregon.

     When so many bands transparently try too hard to look tough, it was refreshing to see a band like Uada create such a profound atmosphere without the use of typical black metal gimmicks. Between the buzzing chants from “Devoid of Light,” and the tortured screams on “S.N.M.,” frontman Jake Superchi demonstrated extraordinary vocal range. Drummer Trevor Matthews played with pensive fervor and axemen James Sloan and Mike Beck added a great deal in both tone and presence. For the duration of their seemingly short headlining set, Uada imported something so intensely ethereal that I forgot I was at bar in San Diego.

     For the fortunate few in attendance, the evening was a memorable experience. It’s clear Sicarius and Uada are sure to electrify audiences wherever they may play, and I look forward to catching Invocation War again in hopes that they’ll perform with more charisma. Thank you to Inner Void Productions and deepest apologies to Imperial Triumphant for not being able to stick around, I know they traveled far to play the show.

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