San Diego will always be known for its flawless weather, its drool-inducing Mexican food and its co-starring role in the Will Ferrell quote-a-thon, Anchorman; but if the local headbangers union have their say, “A Whale’s Vagina” will continue to offer a friendly and enthusiastic port of call for journeying metal crews striking through Southern California. Tonight sees the Conquerors Of The World tour arrive in Ramona, just outside of San Diego proper, for what promises to be a face-melting firestorm of industrial, goth and death metal.
Deathstars  initiate the hedonic ritual with a bare-knuckled barrage of scything, industrial grooves and pulsating rhythms that draw generously from their four previous outings. That it has taken the band fifteen years to reach the shores of North America is at once baffling and maddening, as they could have easily eclipsed their genre peers in the US had they landed five years ago. Bristling with lustrous glam hooks, neckbreaking tempos and dark gothic atmospherics, the Swedish four-piece elicit a thunderous response from the house that suggests that they should consider wasting little time on a return trip.
If t-shirts and lobby banter auger a reliable measurement of the crowd favourites tonight, Moonspell  take the prize. Nearly twenty years to the day after releasing their studio debut, the Portuguese goth metallers open a deep portal into a mesmerising torrent of propulsive riffs interlaced with Middle-Eastern-flavoured synths and sharp, serpentine melodies. Frontman Fernando Ribeiro points, gesticulates and throws shapes, conducting both band and audience in a sacramental celebration of all things heavy. Extinct, Breathe (Until We Are No More) and Funeral Bloom play out enormously well, with the unqualified high point being the magnificent Alma Mater, from their 1995 debut, bringing the enthralling ceremony full-circle.
Like the bellow of the Kraken, Septicflesh  erupt with a concussive heft normally reserved for the collapsing of suns. Since 1990, the Greek outfit have expanded parochial notions of ‘extreme’ into profound and jaw-dropping expressions, investing their foundation-cracking death metal roar with chest beating symphonics that are both cinematic in scope and breathtaking in sheer ambition.
Deftly moving through a siege of circle pit-inducing onslaughts like Communion, Order Of Dracul and Pyramid God, Septicflesh offer little regard for the fitness of the pit-swirling punters, with frontman Sotiris Vayenas daring the crowd to keep up with the band’s breathless pace. Closing with the twin-sledgehammer beatdown of Anubus and Prometheus, Septicflesh have left nothing in the tank, delivering an utterly stunning and transfixing showcase of a veteran band operating at the very top of their game.