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

Ritual Combat. July 12th, 2014. Til-Two Club, San Diego, CA. Left to right – Psykho: Bass/Vokills; Jackson (Verräter): Drums; Rudy: 666 Strings

The most frustrating thing was seeing multitudes of people showing up late to the shows. Since Verräter were first up, late-comers didn’t just miss their performance they missed out on a rare opportunity to see a freakishly great band, one must see for oneself but nobody would want to miss out on Verräter if they knew better. Let it be a lesson, doesn’t matter how early the show starts, next time a band like Verräter is on the set list everyone who’s going to be there should be there when it starts.

For one, we have to love the way Jackson screams at the audience. Even with or without the microphone and several feet away we can read his greasepaint black lips roaring “come on!” Whether it’s his own nihilistic way of saying “fuck all of you” or an attempt to evoke the mosh in aggressive tantalization, its great stage performance on his part. Most vocalists try to catch their breath in between verses or stand there awkwardly not knowing what to do but not Jackson who seems to never run out of breath or energy. The fellows slaughtering the stage with Jackson are mean as hell in a blackened death metal fashion. Drew, for instance, only seems mellow until he’s got a guitar in his hands and Nolan is undeniably an absolute beast on the drums. Verräter really unleash their inner beasts onstage, don’t waste a minute and give it their all. Truth be told, wouldn’t expect anything less from a band called Verräter (German for betrayer or traitor). Besides the fact that they’re a bunch of chill and friendly dudes from Nebraska, they live up to their name with their oozing in hate and abhorrence, mutinous, monstrous and radically raw black metal jams.

The LA show at Black Castle was a madhouse. We were all pretty certain people were being let in even after tickets were officially sold out, we could barely move in there! People crammed in every direction, gathered all around the stage, all around the merch tables and blocking the bathrooms. It was a massive turnout. Ritual Combat’s performance is available on youtube for all who want to see, that is, see Psykho hitting the audience with his bass and snagging my beer while putting on a terrific show. The video quality is pretty good and the audio quality is audible enough but it isn’t even close to matching how pronounced they sound upfront live in person. With kickass songs like “Black War” and “Infernal Wolfpack,” Ritual Combat are about as solid as their breed of black metal comes nowadays. When close enough to the stage, one can see fire in their eyes and furor in their body language as their vicious tunes bellow across the venue. Yet another under-recognized band who give it their all, all their talent, sweat and blood. “There’s not enough Satan in here!” – Psykho.

A word of appreciation and admiration goes to an LA band called Manik Thorns. At some point during the LA show, amongst a recklessness group of head-bangers I bumped into this one guy (duh, it’s a metal show, everyone’s constantly bumping into each other) but then he hands me a cassette tape. I admit it was a little weird, but who gives a damn? Randomly free black metal cassette tape! Hand numbered 240/250. A week or two after the show I finally pop it in the stereo, the first song instantly baffled me as it would anyone. I’m listening to it thinking, what is this a Jamaican party? That’s what it sounded like anyways with its smooth, tribal jazziness. It was pleasant but didn’t come off as black metal at first, which was odd because the artwork and logo is distinctively black metal enthused art so I keep listening in anticipation of change.

Then the next song comes in, followed by another, totaling 50+ minutes of incredibly soul-wrenching depressive suicidal black metal, some of the finest I’ve heard in quite a while. The diverged instrumentals are textured like blood strewn on velvet and the desolate vocals sound like the echo of wolves howling, gloomy and scenic as DSBM often is. Thanks random guy for the wicked-awesome gift! Though he’ll probably never read this and, as far as I know, he had no idea who he handed the tape to, I assume he was just handing them out to people. Regardless, random tape deserves a random short review. I cherish Manik Thorns’ Ritual Dolor Atavista in my DSBM collection. Strange what the world throws at us sometimes.

Typically I might say it’s rather difficult to get in touch with certain underground artists but I wouldn’t say these were typical nights, therefore all everyday expectations are erased. Besides the bands in the line-up, we convened with quite a lot of people whether we liked it or not, musicians and fans alike. One particular person I was especially pleased to meet was VJS from Incursus. As many of us know, Horidus took his life not long after the making of the duo’s final album, Adaestuo. VJS was obviously still hurting from the loss because Horidus was more than a music partner, he was a close friend. It was a surprise to meet VJS in San Diego and, inexplicably, he brought the spirit of Horidus with him. Music is immortality.

San Diego’s Til-Two Club marks the end of the tour. It didn’t end with a bang, per say, but it was a satisfying conclusion. Question is why were Behexen in such a good mood? Maybe because it was the last show of that tour but more likely because they invested on a shiny new black tour bus on that very last night of the show, leaving us all thinking, what’s up with that? Whatever the reason be, they nailed it hard in San Diego. If you’ve never been legitimately thrashed around and/or seriously injured in a mosh pit it’s probably because you’ve never been in one with Psykho; all who survived the San Diego show knows exactly what I’m talking about. Few of us in the audience had the pleasure of standing back and watching everyone else in the mosh get completely mashed while Behexen performed. That particular mosh was a tribute to Behexen and largely instigated by Psykho who might’ve had a few too many tequila sunrises judging by the way he mutilated the center of the pit like no one’s business. After all, a decent moshpit is one of the best compliments we can give for a good show. Complete chaos broke out. People hit one another so hard beers went flying out of their hands, bottles were smashed on heads, and bodies were pummeled and beaten by everybody inside that raging tornado of belligerent moshers, several of whom fumbled to the floor drunk out of their gourds. By the end of the night, blood and beer was all over the floor. What a fantastic end to a black metal tour!

Regardless of the tour’s relative success, there’s bound to be conflict. Believe it or not, wardrobe dissention even became an issue when too many bands started taking on the black cloak and grease paint look early-on in the show. One after another, the image does begin to lose its mystique. Behexen had no choice but drop the cloaks before the show to avoid appearing as a copied image of the previous bands, Nightbringer for example. Problem two: tug-a-war with evil spirits! Here’s where ritual issues came in, sage is traditionally used to ward away evil spirits and I think it’s safe to say that a number of black metal bands would prefer to lure evil spirits to the show if anything. Nightbringer burned tons of sage during every show so much so the venues were practically hot-boxed in sage smoke, by the end of their set anyone trying to evoke and/or welcome evil spirits to the show were quite frustrated.

I know this for I witnessed the evil spirits inside Psykho blistering in torture from the stench of sage, not literally of course, but nevertheless it conjured a degree of disgust. Don’t get me wrong, aside from these inane clashes in imagery and sage burnings, musically speaking, Nightbringer are a great band, they wouldn’t have been there in the first place if they weren’t. Problem three: more grease paint issues! Vesterian put on a good show and all that but I’m not the only one to say that grease/corpse paint is a ritual for performance, not for flaunting after-show. Problem four: lighting, an issue not welcome from the start. Personnel at the Til-Two Club in San Diego refused to stop obsessing about messing with the lights’ flashing color changer and other miscellaneous special effects regardless of how many times they were specifically told not to. Come to think of it, they were probably doing it to spite those telling them what to do. It’s a black metal gig therefore we don’t want nor need excessively colorful lights; we’re quite comfortable in the dark.

When all’s considered, the tour was fantastic. Every band put on an impressive show, more or less. As far as underground black metal, the line-up couldn’t have been arranged better. We west coast black metallers require events like these once in a while, for it’s the only thing that motivates some to “crawl out of their cave.” Keep a sharp eye out for the next time these bands come to town, a tour like Nightside Over USA is a one-off spellbinding experience that nothing compares to. Thanks again to all the bands for performing and all the fans for attending. Also, thanks to Hate War Productions (no they are NOT anti-war) for organizing this spectacular event.

As a bonus, here are some post-tour comments/statements from the musicians:

Drew (Verräter): “The west coast tour for Verräter had a great response from the individuals who supported the bands. It was an honor to share the stage with those who were part of this.”

Nolan (Verräter): “It was an honor playing for our heroes in Sargeist and our new friends in Ritual Combat. California’s back metal scene is incredible.”

Psykho (Ritual Combat): “I was annihilated the whole weekend.”

Well that just about explains everything doesn’t it?

Behexen official site
Sargeist official site
Verräter on Facebook
Not kidding when I say Ritual Combat don’t do media, they have no website whatsoever! But, as noted in the review, here’s a clip of their show at LA’s Black Castle. One final exploit, perhaps meant to be a secret, they are in the works of a new album so lookout for that as well. Cheers and hails!

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