Tinnitus is a bastard of a condition to live with. Apart from the incessant ringing in the ears, it also involves physical pain when subjected to loud noises, particularly crashing or high-pitched sounds, like babies crying or screaming. It’s a form of hearing damage and it has certainly changed my own hearing, meaning that I rarely enjoy listening to the same kinds of music that I used to (that would be metal). As a result, I rarely go to see bands these days; but I’ll always try and make an exception for Crom Dubh.

Crom Dubh are a rare band indeed. They are a black metal band but their music is heavily tinged by folk as well as ‘noise’ or shoegaze. The result is an exceptionally evocative and dense sound, which can be attributed primarily to the very high level of songwriting as well as quality musicianship. They released their debut album earlier this year on Ván Records, which was very well-received, and has earned them a lot of deserved praise.

Crom Dubh gigs are something of a rarity, and this show at the Black Heart was a joint album launch for them and Scythian. Crom Dubh played first, with a 45 minute set. Their material comfortably fills a longer time slot and I hope this is something we get to see more of in future. The crowd was a pretty decent size and filled out the room quite well. The Black Heart is not a pub I’m fond of these days but it does lend itself well to atmospheric or ‘intimate’ gigs. I played it once or twice and it’s a pretty good stage.

Anyway, the crowd was into it and there were a good number of people who seemed to both know the material (including the newer songs) and were getting into it a bit with heads pumping and fists banging, or whatever, which is always nice to see. I thought it was one of the best Crom Dubh gigs I’ve been to. The Invulnerable Tide came across particularly well–which surprised me as it’s not one of my favourite songs on the album. I was delighted they played Decline and Fall off their EP, Deifr; but sadly there was no Insurgent Blood, which is a bit of a shame as it always feels like a signature song to me. Oh well, maybe next time. I’m still holding out for The Widening Gyre as well. One day.

The set closed with Sedition which got a very good reaction from the crowd. Sedition is certainly a good song but it has a different feel to the rest of ‘Heimweh’, and kind of makes me think of Opeth. Maybe that’s just my hearing damage.

Seeing Crom Dubh is always an inspiring and emotive experience for me. My own background is predominantly Irish. I generally hate folk music, especially the sort I heard when dragged along to Irish pubs as a child; and I also hate metal bands that incorporate folk into their music. But something in the music here, especially at a live performance, resonates with my blood. It’s a strange thing and not something I can adequately describe.

The musical and lyrical themes are influenced by, and infused with, a profound and mature understanding of the pre-modern human history on these islands generally referred to as the British Isles. This can be a thorny subject particularly as there is something of a genre of shit ‘English Heritage’ black metal, which is generally purveyed by racist morons with an explicit or implicit right-wing agenda. But the understanding and sense of history which underlies the music here seems to me to annihilate those sorts of philistine and recidivist ideas.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to see much of Scythian’s set as the ol’ tinnitus was playing up by that point. Even when I get to a gig these days I only ever seem to manage one band. It sucks being in your thirties.