***All pictures and text by Jaime Viejo***
Saturday night was my first night at The Vex, a venue/arts center located in Alhambra that is actually booking some of the best metal shows in Los Angeles. It is refreshing to see that somebody is trying to do something outside the show bubble that is Hollywood with its crazy traffic, overpriced parking, and tight venues.
The Vex on the other hand offers free parking and has plenty of space inside for people to walk around and check out the merchandising without worrying about losing their viewing spot. Also, they had the brilliant idea to set up a taco truck and smoking area in the patio, but most importantly you feel that this is a venue run by people that really care and not some corporate company trying to pack as much people as possible. It is all about the experience and the music.
The night started around 6.30 with Insentient giving one of the best performances of the night. I was aware of the band’s music but seeing them live is kind of like, excuse the comparison, seeing Death again. Leslie Medina (guitar, vocals) is Chuck Schuldiner’s daughter, and I’m amazed that they didn’t choose her to be part of the Death to All tour. Regarding the band’s performance and music, their style is a super catchy technical death metal with emphasis on the riffs and the dynamics. Great chemistry between them, the bass is present all the time, Kimberly Orellana complements Medina on the guitars with a great smile and impressive guitar skills while James Coppolino’s drums were begging for mercy. They have an ep coming out in March called Remnants that looks really promising.
The next ones to appear were Icon of Phobos, another band from L.A but that moves in a different territory. Their style is atmospheric and a little bit dissonant black metal in the vein of Deathspell Omega with some theatrical elements. I didn’t get into their performance; in my opinion, they were downgraded because of the excessive lightning and the constant movement of people around. Their music is more enjoyable when the surroundings are dark. Their set started with the Mayhem inspired “Revelations of the Void” and continued with some other tracks for their impressive self-titled debut. It’s a good band that needs some more intimacy to really send their message out there. Still, great to see that there are new bands coming out that have good ideas and are hungry for metal.
One of the qualities about this tour is the variety of bands included in the bill, and Death Wolf is one of those odds. The quartet, formed by Morgan from Marduk now playing bass, is a hybrid of old school hardcore/punk with some Danzig/Samhain that is really interesting and enjoyable. Their performance was energetic and had a good number of classics like the outstanding new single “Noche De Brujas” from their second album, “Night stalker” or one of my favorites from the album, “Wolf Serpent”. I see this band more as an entertainment for their members, but maybe if taken more seriously it could become something more than a “hobby”. They had a performance that really didn’t get much from the audience.
I never heard of The Foreshadowing in my life; maybe because gothic-inspired metal is not really my cup of tea, but tonight the band impressed me, first of all because of the vocals of Marco Benevento and then because of their good songs and lively attitude; the problem is that their style was too laconic and their studio albums just sound too good for their own good. The sound wasn’t really the best as the vocals were a little bit buried in the mix, but the rest of the instruments were well balanced. Also their stage presence is a bit amateur with the singer wearing some ripped clothes and matching shirts sporting their logo. After listening to their albums I have to say that this is a really worthy band in their style, but if they want to go further with their career they need to work a little bit more on their live show.
My favorite band of the night besides Insentient was Inquisition. I was absolutely excited to see Dagon and Incubus delivering their masterful vision of black metal. It was surprising to see how many people were wearing patches and shirts of the band. Their set was really professional, energetic and seamless in terms of any flaws or cracks during the delivery of their evil hymns. One of the signature qualities of the band is the huge barrage of great riffs that Dagon can create; riff after riff it was a constant attack to the senses perfectly complemented by the terrific drumming of Incubus. The show started with “Embraced by the Unholy Powers of Death and Destruction” from their 2002 album Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan but most songs were a mixed bag of tracks from Nefarious Dismal Orations and for me, their also critically acclaimed masterpiece Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm. They finished their set with “Astral Path to Supreme Majesties” leaving everybody drained and asking for more before disappearing without saying a word. Probably one of if not the best black metal band out there.
Lisbon legends Moonspell were greeted like heroes by the audience. The sound of their set was probably the best one of the night, and they were the perfect band to include in the bill as they are a good middle point between brutality and melody. While their music has never been ultra-technical, they know how to write catchy and brutal songs with the right amount of symphonic elements. They played classic like “Opium”, “Alma Mater” and “Finisterra” but most of their set was based on tracks from their latest double album Alpha Noir/Omega White like “Axis Mundi”, “Em Nome du Medo”, “Lickanthrope” and “Love Is Blasphemy”. Besides the silly decision of using the gladiator mask at the beginning of their set, their 20 years as a band playing shows all over the world shows as they really have a good command of the audience, great sound, and a wide array of songs to choose from their solid discography.
After some delay caused by technical problems, Marduk started their set with no desire of taking prisoners. Their live act is violent, blasphemous and defiant without gimmicks. The sound was at certain points far from perfect; the drums were buried deep down in the mix and all we could hear was a buzz of guitars and screaming vocals. Shame, because they were really into their set and the audience was also waiting to see them for a long time in their only southern California appearance. There were no surprises with the songs performed and I wasn’t blown away by their show, which is somewhat lineal and a little bit boring to watch. Bodies started flying to the stage, Mortuus kept “insulting” all of us there, obviously as part of the show, and nothing really worth mentioning happened besides the constant and brutal delivery of one the best and most respected black metal bands from Sweden.
Epic night at The Vex, a good number of different bands, great venue, good food and nice people besides a disturbing guy that keep bothering and insulting the ones that were in the front row taking pictures or just enjoying the performance. Watch out for The Vex and the guys from The Chuch of the 8th day because they are responsible for booking some of the best metal acts out there.
See you soon.
Thanks to Daniel Dismal and the whole team at Church of the 8th Day and The Vex for letting me cover this show.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
“Jaime Viejo AKA Spanish Fly, is an insatiable devourer of any music genre that gets in his way, especially Metal and Alt country. When he’s not listening to music, he most likely will be doing something related to music or to the world of the absurd and bizarre in the city of Los Angeles. Sound engineer graduated and frustrated Journalist, he started listening to music thanks to his rock ‘n’ roll uncle. Now he’s involved in every aspect of the music creation, from songwriting, producing to playing music in some of his projects like MindWarmer, Slam Door, or Ley De Pendulo. Big Trouble In Little China and Pulp Fiction are his favorite movies, and he still thinks that it is possible to lead a healthy lifestyle while doing all these things. Good Luck!”