Nightside Over USA Tour Adventure and Exploit Extravaganza Featuring Behexen, Sargeist, Ritual Combat, Verräter, and more. July 10th, 2014 – Metro Operahouse, Oakland, CA; July 12th, 2014 – Black Castle, Los Angeles, CA; July 13th, 2014 – Til-Two Club, San Diego, CA

Sunday, 31st August 2014

This article targets inquiring minds, for this is not an average concert review but a retrospective narrative from behind the scenes. Having disappeared from north Cali for three days, there are many folks out there I owe an explanation to, so listen up, here it is. This wild adventure began at the Oakland Metro Opera House on July 10th; on a spontaneous whim, I barely made it to Oakland after working all day in Santa Rosa. No plans for show reviews, no dates for interviews or anything of the sort yet in spite of that, not to mention completely unpermitted and without an access pass, I walked backstage to see if I could pull any tricks from my sleeve or what kind of trouble I’d stir up.

The first person I saw was Horns (Behexen/Sargeist) sitting all alone at a small table in the corner so I introduce myself (again) and asked if he’d be interested in a quick and short interview for the tour. He agreed but only by email. Thanks, I’ll do that (not). Being that we’ve already interviewed Sargeist, something told me I’d never get around to it but my backstage investigation wasn’t over yet, especially since Horns didn’t tell me to leave the backstage area. Just as I think I’m safe, two whimpy looking men (Metrohouse security I assume) walk up to tell me that I’m not supposed to be back there and asked me to leave.

Feeling edgy and utterly unintimidated by them, I ignored their request and snaked over to the tatted-up man wearing torn clothes, chains and combat boots lurking in the shadows by the back wall – no other but Psykho, bass and vokills of Ritual Combat (ex-Nokturne). The moment I started talking to him, security backed off and stayed off the whole evening. Quickly I learned that as long as I was with Psykho, nobody questioned who I was or why I was there. And I’ll tell you this: nobody roams with Psykho but for some crazy reason I did. There’s definitely more than one reason they call him Psykho but oddly enough (other than being himself) he had no part in choosing the pseudonym but it sure as hell stuck!

Backtracking a couple steps, in that first meeting I didn’t know what else to do but ask Psykho for an interview. He gives me this big spiel about how they don’t do media and don’t give a damn about us reviewers’ opinions and whatnot, figures he’d say that but I didn’t give up pursuing him and that’s how I earned his respect. “Don’t fuck with me, I’m a witch” he said, no kidding, my response to that was “Oh really? I’m a witch too and I’m fucking with you so come on and try to fuck with me.” We exchanged waywardly evil grins to one another and that was when he had a change of mind and said “come back ten minutes after the show.” I exited through the hefty black backstage curtain with a mischievous smirk on my face. Truth be told, I didn’t know what I did or what I had gotten myself into but I did it, I worked some magic and made something happen.

Soon as I saw Ritual Combat step up onto the stage I squeezed my way to the front to see these guys in action. And wow what a show! They ruined the whole night, absolutely destroyed it. The energy of the venue was at the highest frequency when Ritual Combat played, none can match up to the same neck-breaking force that they emit onstage. As planned, I met up with Psykho ten minutes after. Forget the interview, he invited me to go on the tour and cover the remaining three days from Oakland to LA and the finale in San Diego. Of course my initial response was “good and bad idea, I’d get fired from my restaurant job but it would make a great story for Dead Rhetoric.” My subconscious whispered, what means more to me: a tedious restaurant job or an exciting concert coverage opportunity?

Overcome by my passion and devotion to music, the little voice in my head screamed: go for it. “Let’s do it,” I said, “but, I’m tossing a bunch of shit off a cliff for this (mostly just a lame hostess job) so this better be good!” Something told me it was going to be great. Without hesitation I jumped right into that rickety old tour van with Psykho and several other metallers. Being late to the Oakland show, I was one of the dumbasses who missed Verräter. I heard Verräter’s music long before the tour, even some stuff from Garoted, but prior to going on the road with them I didn’t know what they looked like so I had no clue who these other guys in the bus were until Psykho introduced all of us. Fun stuff.

Anyhow, most of the Verräter guys got some shuteye, or at least tried, while Psykho and I chatted about black metal until the sun broke on the horizon and as it predictably killed our conversation, we simultaneously hissed at the sight of that blindingly bright south California sun. All anyone could say at that moment was “good morning and welcome to Los Angeles!” Yes indeed didn’t take me long to make one of the best and worst decisions possible. Surely enough I was fired from the restaurant within 18 hours, via text message too, how fucked up is that? I admit, not as fucked up as calling in the next morning fifteen minutes late for work to tell them I can’t come in for the next few days because I’m a few hundred miles south on a black metal tour. Psykho and the Verräter guys encouraged me to lie, to tell them I’m sick with projectile vomit and diarrhea or whatever it’d take for my workplace to say “it’s ok.” Lies always come back to bite me in the ass so I didn’t lie. Drastic impulses combined with honesty left me temporarily without a day job but gave me one hell of a story. Was it all worth it? I think so.

Regardless of what you read above, let it be known that the award for the most fucked up deed of the tour goes to Verräter for stealing a homeless man’s cheap crap wine. Congratulations guys! Poor quality wine like that couldn’t have been worth the steal, solely for ludicrous kicks and bitter alcohol. “We robbed a homeless man of his bottle of wine!” – Nolan.

Silly me, one second I’m thinking how stoked I am to be the first to interview Ritual Combat AND have them cooperate, given all past interviews have been answered in statements such as: “fuck it,” “go to hell” or “no comment.” The next second I’m realizing the interview’s never going to happen and it never did, which was ironically great because the thing about interviews is musicians are usually focused on being aware of every word they say but with touring it takes less than a day for everyone to remove their masks and/or reveal the person behind the grease paint, so to speak. This tour allowed me to really get to know these underground, undercover artists.

This article is every reader’s ticket to a three day trip in front, behind and inside the scenes of Behexen/Sargeist, Ritual Combat and Verräter plus a few bonus notes on other participating bands like Nightbringer and Black Fucking Cancer, plus all the noteworthy chaos that went on during these shows. Like many underground black metallers, Ritual Combat “don’t do media;” well, not anymore they don’t! That all changed the moment this avid black metal journalist was invited on tour.

Now that you know how and why this all came to be, let’s start simple and discuss the headlining bands, Behexen and Sargeist. Though these two different bands consist of the same members, I prefer the music of Behexen over Sargeist, but that’s evidently why they are separate bands. I was one of the few that got to see both Behexen and Sargeist take the stage, rotating headliners every other night; obviously I was stoked to see Behexen twice! Whether they go by Behexen or Sargeist, these Finnish metallers know how to shred up a stage. If you think they sound harsh, viscous and tumultuous on album but haven’t seen them live yet, you don’t even know how sharp their shards of black metal are. All things considered, comparing the shows is about as pointless as looking at separate tours because everything changed so much. Every single show was its own, every time worth attending and killer as the next.

A special note from the Oakland Metro Opera House, Oakland locals, Akatharsia, put on an outstanding performance with their entrancing, raw and ritualistic black metal. Luckily I snatched up one of the few last copies of their limited hand-numbered demo tape, number 28/200. After hearing them live, every time I listen to the cassette is reliving the performance. Akatharsia sound excellent on tape and are phenomenal live because there’s barely a difference in sound, easy to see that they have every measure of their music down. Considering it was their hometown and only shot on stage in this tour, it’s evident they gave it their best shot and hit dead-center on target. My full support goes out to Akatharsia.

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