@ The Underworld, Camden
20th October, 2014
Review by Caitlin Smith
It may have been a Monday night, but black metal at the Underworld was well and truly alive that evening with the arrival of German black metal veterans Dark Fortress. Arriving to finish the last of their European dates in London’s Underworld accompanied by some of the finest names in black metal, it promised to be one of the cities finest underground offerings this year.
Its not often you catch the opening band drawing a reasonable crowd, but the rising Swiss band Schammasch [4/5] enter to an excited following. With the release of their album Contradictions earlier in the year which received praise across the board, the band have already begun building a serious reputation in the black metal scene. Bathed in waves of smoke and doused in red light, the band manages to hold the audience captive despite low interaction with the crowd. Vocalist Chris S.R. has a particularly imposing and powerful presence onstage donned in a gold and black cape, face painted black with tribal markings. Despite their short set time, they made up for this in sheer power. While perhaps some of the more intricate details of the album were lost in translation, this didn’t seem to matter when enclosed by the huge sound each track achieved.
With Schammasch setting the bar high, it was up to German black metal titans, Secrets of the Moon [4/5] to follow up. Despite usually being somewhat prolific, recent years have seen a period of silence from the band, with no releases since their 2012 album Seven Bells. Boasting a lengthy discography however there was still plenty to draw upon from across the years. Bringing with them a more experimental take on the black/death combination, the sound is both cold and unrelenting throughout as they rip through favourites such as ‘Shepherd,’ ‘Nyx,’ ‘A Million Suns’ and ‘Carved in Stigmata Wounds.’
With the suicide of long standing member LSK the previous year and the welcoming of bassist Naamah Ash and drummer Erebor into permanent positions in the band, the welcoming of the new members is dampened by a sense of sadness that hangs over the performance. Through all the recent upheaval, the band channelled this energy into a devastating performance that shows how this band have made it this far, and will continue to for years to come.
It may have been a long road for German based Dark Fortress [2.5/5], with a career spanning over 20 years and 7 albums but they have managed to forge themselves a respectable reputation in the community, and the recent release of their latest album Venereal Dawn sees them pushing their own boundaries of black metal further than ever before. Pitching themselves at the more melodic end of black metal, their set is filled with wild guitar sweeps form V. Santura, elegant keys and deadly vocal work from frontman Morean.
Unsurprisingly, the set majorly consisted of songs from their latest album, with ‘Chrysalis,’ ‘Betrayl and Violence’ and ‘I am the Jigsaw of a Mad God’ making the cut, alongside older favourites ‘Baphomet’ and ‘When 1000 Crypts Awake.’ While there is certainly passion in their performance and the band were devastatingly tight, compared to the previous acts on that night they failed to truly inspire. While they may have easily held their own against different support acts, the monolithic nature of the previous performances left them flagging in their wake.
It’s hard not to respect the bands passion for their music however and the commitment they make to every album and performance. For those with an appreciation of the more melodic/progressive black metal bands, this is certainly one to watch out for.
While the Underworld was certainly nowhere near filling up that night, both the bands and the crowd were certainly testament to the remaining strength of the black metal scene.