Dark Fortress - Camden Underworld, London

The ticket price seems a little exorbitant for the lovable dive that is The Underworld, and that perhaps accounts in part at least for the half empty room (being Monday also possibly playing its role) witnessing the frankly magnificent Secrets Of The Moon. Funereal and grandiose black metal, the hour long set has a ritualistic black mass feel to it - a religious rapture affair that is far more devastating than the angst-ridden, pseudo-bile that plagues the genre. There are no histrionics here, no makeup or ridiculous props; this is simply about exceptionally heavy, intelligent music. Every song is allowed to expand and evolve amongst the waves of feedback and chainsaw guitars, leaving an impression long after the band have exited stage right.

Headliners Dark Fortress do dabble with the ridiculous costumes and ghoulish corpse paint, but over the years have proven themselves to be one of the more progressive bands on the scene. That fact is not always evident tonight though as they scatter their set with a few tracks that lean a little too heavily on the old clichés, the weakness of which is only exacerbated by the more recent, inventive material. These songs show off a much broader palette: punishing, doom-laden monoliths that immediately sound richer, more satisfying than the more traditional numbers. On most other nights this discrepancy could probably be largely overlooked, but after the display Secrets Of The Moon treated us to earlier, Dark Fortress rather pale by comparison.

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