Annie’s is constantly cementing their status as the best no-bullshit punk and metal venue in the city, and they pulled together a powerhouse weekend bill with a little something for everyone. Tarrakian kicked things off, representing the stoner/doom contingent, and the thunderous quartet did much to please the reddened eyes and ravaged ears of that subgenre’s faithful contingent. I first heard them while on unrelated business at Soundwave Studios–siren-song ten-ton riffage was bleeding out in the hall and eventually enticed me into banging on the door of their practice space and soliciting identification. They gave me a sticker. The band sounded even better on Saturday, making good use of bassist/singer Kelsey’s she-Ozzy delivery and a number of dueling, psychedelic solos.
Elk were next, churning out that folk-tinged sort of black metal that is becoming increasingly au courant. The sound reveals some effective compromises, being raw, but not too raw, and thick without losing that trebly, black ened guitar sound high in the mix. The vocals are surprisingly satisfying, evoking the classic Abbath croak without bald-faced imitation. Hailing from Oakland, Elk will benefit from the camaraderie of many like-minded local headbangers while they hone their as-yet fuzzy antlers. Huge, cloyingly heavy builds defined their outing at Annie’s, and even those most frostily kvlt could hardly quibble with their black metal bona fides. Added bonuses included a full panoply of spiky accessories and the unlikely sight of an extreme metal drummer playing traditional grip.
Local institution Saros appeared in direct support, mining a more exotic black metal vein. Is there a way frontwoman Leila Abdul-Rauf can be nominated for some kind of Interstellar Badass award? All of 5’3″, Abdul-Rauf effortlessly deploys all the vocal power and guitar wizardy of a towering, corpse-paint-slathered Norwegian, and she and the rest of the band kick out black metal that is both traditionally grounded and impressively inventive. Drawing on a rich range of influences and penning multi-part, atmospheric odysseys, Saros can be counted on for razor-wire, low-end gallop, as well as intriguing, amelodic asides. The more I see them, the more they suprise me, incorporating unexpected sounds and patterns while hewing effortlessly close to the core of their sound.
Lest too much black metal cast a pall on proceedings, headliners Insanity offered a classic repertoire of old-school death metal, thrashy in the vein of Possessed while incorporating elements of early Death. All of this is appropriate, of course, because Insanity were founded in 19-fucking-85. Mostly overlooked and unknown to many, most of all me, they’re back with new line-up after the unfortunate passing of founding drummer Bud Mills, one of the percussion pioneers of the now omnipresent blast beat. Sporting infectious, throwback riffs, and endowed with the heady energy of death metal’s early days, they provided a rousing conclusion to an already raucous night. Singer/Guitarist Dave Gorsuch was the clear ringleader, putting his team of youthful shred acolytes through their paces with songs that recalled the boundary-pushing excess of death metal’s most fertile epoch. Undaunted by obscurity and a long, tumultuous career, one wishes Gorsuch and company the best in their ongoing race against the metronome.