Friday, December 4
Black Dahlia Murder
Since their formation in 2001, this Michigan group has weathered multiple trend storms in metal by sticking to their tried-and-true formula of bruising melodic death metal. Newest album Abysmal is anything but. Guitarists Brian Eschbach and Ryan Knight continue to excel equally at shredding technically and pummeling aurally while vocalist Trevor Strnad wields one of the most durable blood-curdling shrieks in the genre. The location of this particular performance is especially appropriate — just a few blocks away from where Elizabeth Short was reportedly last seen before her 1947 murder.
Friday, December 4
The Blvd (Boyle Heights)
This San Francisco black metal collective is one of the rising stars of today’s Bay Area scene. Their newest work, Negate the Infinite and Miraculous, will satisfy those black metal fans looking for a more primal display of riffage to sink their teeth into. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of atmosphere in the galloping aggression Pale Chalice slings — but it's atmosphere generated by pure darknes, swallowing any beacons of light trying to poke through.
Wednesday, December 9
This Seattle drums-and-bass duo’s latest work, Four Phantoms, is one of the most haunting doom-metal records we’ve encountered in recent memory. A four-song record consisting of two separate two-song suites titled “Suffocation” and “Judgment,” the album captures the dread that comes with each of those experiences. Bell Witch's funeral dirges hypnotize and immerse the listener in a powerful, apocalyptic shell of bleakness. Most impressive, though, are the shockingly warm tones achieved by bassist Dylan Desmond on his leads, which lend an IMAX-sized cinematic feel to the proceedings.
Friday, December 11 and Saturday, December 12
Fully Fk’n Loaded
This two-night festival allows metal heads to gorge on a bloody buffet of locally sourced underground metal. Promising acts gracing the stage here include Skeletal Remains, whose newest work Condemned to Misery is a solid slab of death metal drowning in technicality and blood-and-guts; Infinite Death, whose 2014 EP Beyond the Gates presents an expertly adept take on the more melodic side of death metal; and Kaustik, whose 2014 EP Forged in the Bones of Our Freedom showcases an infectiously catchy display of thrash and groove-metal.
Wednesday, December 16
Sweden’s Graveyard is at the forefront of a movement to travel back to a time when the phrase “heavy metal” was used to describe acts like Deep Purple and Mountain. Vintage-sounding production, a focus on dark lyrical subject matter, and soul-laden, Ian Gillan-esque psychedelic howling by vocalist/guitarist Joakim Nilsson on albums such as this year's Innocence & Decadence take Graveyard beyond your average retro-tribute act. Earthless is an instrumental trio who weave their way through 20-to-30-minute psychedelic freakout jams on albums such as 2007’s Rhythms From a Cosmic Sky.
Wednesday, December 16
Almost 30 years after their inception, these Bay Area thrashers are not as well-known as contemporaries in their scene like Testament and Exodus — but their discography is much more consistently excellent from start to finish. Bursting onto the scene as teenage phenoms with their genre classic The Ultra-Violence, Death Angel have weathered a few hiatuses over the years, but are forging forward and aging gracefully to this day, with superb new contributions to their thrash legacy such as 2013’s The Dream Calls for Blood.
Thursday, December 17
Art of Shock
This rising Los Angeles act partakes in a Sunset Strip-friendly variation on the ‘80s thrash metal sound. Eschewing speed for a more melodic approach on their 2014 EP Open the Cage and new song “Deathstar Supernova,” Art of Shock hits a comfortable middle ground between the thrash power of classic Anthrax and the popular rock-radio accessibility of modern acts like Avenged Sevenfold. There is no confirmation yet on a new album dropping in 2016, but the group’s recent online posting of “Deathstar Supernova” is an encouraging sign that more new music is coming soon.
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Friday, December 18
This tour is a one-two punch of darkness shrouding all who get in its path. Wolvhammer’s 2014 release Clawing Into Black Sun was an impressive display of black metal tempered with bluesy sludge and depressive doom riffage. Portland’s Atriarch can be loosely classified as doom-metal, but their 2014 effort An Unending Pathway envelops their din in a goth-rock veneer, giving their music a black aura that references everything from Bauhaus to Neurosis.