Local metal bands interest me more than touring ones now. That's not how it's supposed to work. Usually for local bands, familiarity breeds contempt. Members of Intronaut told me that they considered forming a joke band called "10 Local Death Metal Bands". Imagine the havoc that would wreak on live bills!

But as City of Devils - which has become required reading for Los Angeles metalheads - said, there are very cool up-and-coming bands here. Each show brings changes and improvements. These processes intersect as bands share bills and become friends. As mainstream venues shut down in this economy, shows move into weird, funky places. The resulting dynamic is fun to watch.

Case in point: a recent show at Three Clubs involving Moab, Huntress, and Lightning Swords of Death. Stoner, traditional, and black metal: strange bedfellows for a night. But the lights were dim, and darkness is a great equalizer. Everyone looks better in the dark.

Three Clubs is not made for metal. It's two rooms, one of which is a low-key lounge. The other is an intimate space that typically hosts burlesque and comedy. The stage is a circle about one foot high. It's so tiny that monitors can't fit on it. Instead, they're perched at its edge. In the dark, they're almost invisible. At least one patron took a drink-spilling stumble over them.

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How are Moab unsigned??? They were as if YOB were less doom and more stoner. The trio carved out downtuned grooves with deceptive ease. It's tough for metal to groove - even stuff that claims to do so - but Moab hit that sweet spot and stayed there. Space opened up around the beat. One couldn't help but fall into it. Snares smacked hard, riffs dug trenches, and a high-pitched voice wailed. Heads nodded all around - helplessly, appreciatively.

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To my surprise, Huntress brought a party vibe. After the dark theatrics of their first show, they decided just to rock. It worked, mostly. The small stage presented problems for the quintet. The bassist ended up standing next to the stage. Singer Tuesdae didn't know quite what to do with herself. She crouched down out of sight during a few solos. Then she donned a robe, which lasted about half a song. But when she got down to singing, she was all business. Hair doesn't lie - it was flying all around. The set ended with an ecstatic sort-of-moshpit in which a gaggle of women encircled Tuesdae: divine secrets of the hell-yeah sisterhood.

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The lights went down - and stayed down - for Lightning Swords of Death. They proceeded to scare the hell out of some Friday night couples (he: untucked button-down shirt; she: "cute top") who were out to catch "some live music". In a David Lynch movie, they would have danced like demons, then later had disturbing sex. Instead, they retreated to the other room with disgusted looks on their faces. Perfect - more room for the nighthawks.

As with the best black metal, Lightning Swords sucked the oxygen from the room. Guitar and bass wallowed in distortion. At times they channeled Morbid Angel's ragged relentlessness. Drums hammered out steel-plated blastbeats and thrash beats, as Farron Loathing (what a name!) growled, shrieked, and moaned. His eye grease and dirty battle jacket made him look like a freshly exhumed corpse. To his right, the bassist finger-tapped, sweep-picked, and bent strings like they were putty. At one point, he stood his bass on its headstock and opened his chest to the sky. If lightning had arced through him then, I wouldn't have been surprised.

— Cosmo Lee

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See better photos from the night here and here

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