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Von, Sumeria, Icon Of Phobos, Harassor, Ghoulgotha and Maledict Concert Review

Review of the November 9, 2012 Show at the Black Castle in Los Angeles

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating




Dave Schalek/About.com
I must admit to hearing about the legendary Von rather late in the game. In 1992, Von released the eight song demo Satanic Blood that soon began a legend in the tape trading underground. Boosted by a word of mouth campaign, copies of the original pressing of the demo on cassette are now exceedingly rare, and are basically considered priceless. A primitive slab of early black metal, Von and Satanic Blood are revered icons within the pantheon of early black metal, an exalted status held by only a few bands.

At the time, my ear was not very attuned to the underground as I was concentrating on school. However, as I became aware of Von’s existence rather late in the game I admit, I was soon able to snag a copy of the Von compilation Satanic Blood Angel. Essentially, Satanic Blood Angel is a CD pressing of the demo with an extra rare live performance tacked on as a second disc. The CD pressing has been periodically reissued over the years by a few different labels.

Von have recently reassembled with a new lineup around band founder, bassist/vocalist Venien, and have begun to record material and to play a few shows. For example, October 31st saw the release of Satanic Blood, a new re-recording of classic material that is being issued on Von’s self titled label. To promote the release, Von are playing three exclusive live shows this year, the first of which occurred on November 9th at the Black Castle in Los Angeles, a weird underground venue within the bowels of the city.

Local concert promoter Hatewar Productions promoted the show, and you never know quite what to expect from Hatewar. However, you can definitely count on a slew of good opening bands, mostly locals, as Hatewar has a discerning eye for quality. Sure enough, that’s exactly what the Black Castle crowd was in store for on that evening.


Primitive blackened thrash trio Maledict kicked off the evening with a short, sloppy, and thoroughly enthusiastic set. Although obviously not a veteran band, Maledict made up for their lack of sophistication with a display of energy.


San Diego’s Ghoulgotha were up next and were immediately plagued with technical difficulties, through no fault of their own, as they were getting set up. After about 15 minutes, Ghoulgotha managed to get squared away, but had to limit their set to two songs.

But, what a set that turned out to be! Playing a crushingly heavy form of downtuned doom/death metal with gimmicky guitars, Ghoulgotha turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t exactly surprised to find out later on that Ghoulgotha had recently been signed to Dark Descent Records, a natural home for the band. Great stuff.




Dave Schalek/About.com
Locals Harassor are sort of legendary in Los Angeles for their bizarre blend of horror, grind, black metal, and performance art. Vocalist Pete Majors, the manager at local staple Vacation Vinyl Records, belts forth primal screeches over simple riffs laid down by guitarist James Brown. Drummer Sandor GF completes the trio, giving Harassor a unique sound with a “clickety clack” cadence to his drumming.

Majors also begins each performance by dumping blood over his head, and exits the stage to wade into the crowd, literally getting in the face of concertgoers as the set proceeds. The tactic is very effective, bringing a feeling of performance art to Harassor that is almost unique to the band. That tactic set the crowd at the Black Castle into motion, as a spree of wild headbanging ensued with a pit opening up around Majors.

Icon Of Phobos

Icon Of Phobos were up next, another local band with which I have no familiarity. Once again, however, Hatewar Productions comes through as Icon Of Phobos were thoroughly entertaining with their baroque, grandiose style of horror/black metal with plenty of atmosphere. A diminutive stature did nothing to mute the huge stage presence of the vocalist, clad in a black robe on a darkened stage, as Icon Of Phobos demonstrated songwriting flair and prowess, proving to be yet another band worthy of investigation.


Downey’s Sumeria were the last opening act, playing a straightforward form of raw black metal. Obviously influenced by the Second Wave of Norwegian black metal, Sumeria were typically fast, raw, and oozing with power while appropriately decked out in corpsepaint. Although not as baroque as Icon Of Phobos, or as unique as Harassor, Sumeria were another good band to watch within what was already a very good concert.


The main draw began after midnight as Von, adorned in blood, strode across the stage. The crowd went nuts as Venien, drummer Anthony Mainiero (of The Atlas Moth), and guitarists Xaphan (of Kult Ov Azazel), Lord Giblete, and Hammer Of Dread launched their assault. With a deeply powerful sound not captured on the original Satanic Blood demo, the droning quality of Von’s music leapt to the forefront as the set wore on.

Individual songs soon disappeared into a crescendo of droning cadence and chaos. Von simply did not let up without a discernible break as the set soon became one long song that lasted for well over an hour. The powerful, hypnotic quality of the music cannot be overstated, a quality that is apparent on the newly released re-recording Satanic Blood.

Von have proved their worth as a founding father of American black metal. Should Von choose to release new material in the future, that material could possibly take the USBM scene, and black metal as a whole, in new directions.



Dave Schalek/About.com
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