Samhain heralded another Isengard Promotions black metal show at the Boston Arms. This was Crom Dubh’s first live performance in over two years, and a welcome return to the stage for their drummer Hay, who endured what the band described as a ‘serious’ motorcycle accident  last year. Northern black metal outfit Funeral Throne were headlining; sadly Virophage, who were initially announced for the show, cancelled, but it was still one of the most promising shows of 2013 for me.

I missed the first band but saw most of Scutum Crux’s set. It’s the second time I’ve seen them and this occasion didn’t tend to change my earlier impressions. It might be harsh, but I don’t particularly like this band. There was nothing bad about their set, which consisted of competent thrashy black metal. Like last time I saw them, their stage presence was impressive for a three-piece, and they tick all of the necessary genre boxes. Their songs do have occasional interesting passages, but for the most part it’s fairly generic and muddy-sounding. There’s nothing notable or stand-out here. There are a lot of bands out there playing the same style, but doing it better.

Crom Dubh were next. Crom Dubh’s third guitarist, Satyrus, left the band last year, so they took to the stage as a four-piece. It doesn’t seem to have affected their live sound, though. That’s no mean feat, because there are very few bands anywhere that exhibit the same level of craftsmanship and artistry in their composition as Crom Dubh. Their blend of avant-garde, artisanal black metal, encompassing passages of Celtic folk and postrock or shoegaze elements, is stunning on record and hypnotic in a live setting. They played a similar set to their last show, with two songs from Deifr (‘Decline and Fall’ and ‘Insurgent Blood’) and three from the upcoming full-length, Heimweh. The Deifr EP is one of my favourite recordings of all time and the newer songs are of comparable quality, which bodes very well for the forthcoming album.

More live performances from Crom Dubh can only be a good thing. Their music evokes a sense of space and time that few bands can match (Fen is the only comparable UK band I can think of), and they do so without the exclusionary nationalist trappings that taint most other bands that aspire to play this sort of music. Crom Dubh have the potential to become the most important black metal band to emerge from this country, discounting Venom. This live performance was mesmeric, a stunning achievement considering their two-year absence from the live arena. The popular tendency to value preening, posturing, and self-aggrandisement, rather than artistic merit and meaning, might militate against Crom Dubh’s music ever reaching the audience it should. But with the new album around the corner, and performances such as this, all the pieces are in place.

Funeral Throne were excellent when I saw them play in 2011, and their album Nihil Sine Diabolvs is superior, so I was looking forward to seeing them very much. I wasn’t disappointed. Describing their sound as ‘Heavy metal blackened by death’, Funeral Throne play a blend of traditional black metal in the style of Watain and Dissection, but with the old heavy metal feel. There are no other bands in the UK I know of who can pull off what Funeral Throne do. Fucking hell this band has attitude. But they also have the repertoire to back it up. They have an intense and visceral, vicious sound, interspersed with surprisingly appealing guitar progressions and melody. The triple vocal attack deserves special mention for cranking up the aggression, as does Wakelam’s drumming.

It was an excellent set rounding off one of the best gigs of the year for me. It is good to see Funeral Throne headlining a London show, and hopefully this will be followed by more return trips once their much-anticipated second album is released.

The Boston Arms gets seemingly endless slagging for its sound, but I thought it was fine for Crom Dubh and Funeral Throne. Just like it was for other sets there this year by bands like Sonne Adam, Grave Miasma, and Venenum. I’ve always found that good bands sound good at this venue, and that’s about what you can hope for, isn’t it? (The sound was fine on stage when I played there as well.) What was more irritating was the engineer putting out all the incense sticks during Funeral Throne’s set. Also, the disgusting admixture of blood, vomit and piss in the gents at the end of the night deserves a mention; another fitting tribute to Halloween, I suppose.

Funeral Throne:

Crom Dubh:

More here:

Edited: forgot to include links.