That day (Thursday, March 10th, 2016) was an exhibition of non-traditional black metal bands who wield a wealth of creativity in their later endeavours so black metal purists are best advised to avoid The Camden Underworld tonight. While Secrets Of The Moon are not too rare a sight in the capital, Norway’s Dødheimsgard scarcely perform here, their last appearance being in 2007.
Support comes from Germany’s Thulcandra, a melodic black metal act that received a good dose of attention following the release of their 2010 debut ‘Fallen Angel’s Dominion’. The quartet is known for bearing an uncanny resemblance to Sweden’s highly revered Dissection with blistering black metal harbouring rich melodic guitar leads. Fronted by Obscura’s main man Stephen Kummerer, the Germans storm though all three of their albums deploying dark tracks such as ‘Night Eternal’, ‘Ritual of Sight’ and ‘Demigod Imprisoned’ to the sparsely occupied venue. Blast beats are paired with more intricate drumming while sinister guitar leads realise a frosty atmosphere. Stephen Kummerer discards the stereotypical black metal frontman image by showing clear appreciation at the opportunity to play the capital and the audience’s response is equally encouraging.’Spirit of the Night’ concludes the showing of Dissection worship and whets the attendees’ appetite for more.
The crowd swelled in size for the next act. Beginning life as a black metal act in 1994, Dødheimsgard escaped the black metal template to produce their idiosyncratic brand of avant-garde metal, incorporating progressive rock, jazz and electronic influences among others into their sound. The musically bipolar ‘Sonar Bliss’ opens the set with frontman Aldrahn immediately drawing attention with his interpretative dance-style movements that mirror the unorthodox nature of the music. The sound is somewhat murky, which subtracts from the performance but not to the point of severe disruption.
The set is very illustrative of the boundary-pushing the Norwegians commit. From the mechanical ‘The Snuff Dreams Are Made Of, the black metal aggression of older ‘Nårvihardolket Gudshjerte’ to the progressive contemplation of ‘God Protocol Axiom’, Dødheimsgard intransigently refused to stagnate or recycle ideas and the results are delectable. Guitarist Vicotnik and drummer Sekaran proffer a range of styles throughout the set and the music never loses its intriguing appeal. The audience response is encouraging for such unusual soundscapes and they deserve no less. In a world of mediocrity and limitations throughout the metal consciousness, Dødheimsgard still stand out and are hugely underrated in the metal world.
Also dramatically shifting their sound throughout their discography are headliners Secrets Of The Moon, opening with ‘No More Colours’ from last year’s ‘Sun’ album. Beginning life as a scathing black metal act, the Germans’ last studio offering draws on cleaner vocals from sG rather than his prior black metal growls with a substantial goth rock character and some prog rock sensibilities. Guitar leads are meandering and mournful. ‘Dirty Black’ and ‘I Took the Sun Away’ hammer home this change further, edged thickly with despairing tones.
Those who relish the older black metal style are treated to the rhythmically robust ‘Miasma’, the doom-laden ‘Worship’ and the melodic ‘Ghost’. Despite the songs clocking in at over seven minutes, the set flies by as the band command an austere stage presence. The highlight of the show is the staple ‘Lucifer Speaks’ with untiring black metal vigour that grasps a headier response from the punters but the closing song is the new ‘Man Behind the Sun’, punctuated the set with a softer but just as foreboding conclusion.
Secrets Of The Moon once again have put on an excellent show in London and The Camden Underworld should have been busier. Dødheimsgard were a solid compliment to the Germans and together, the pair did a formidable job at showcasing the flexibility of black metal without pandering to popular trends within the scene.