Primordial - Camden Underworld, London
Black metal and modern folk have a lot of shared background, and it is largely in part to Primordial that the two have become so closely intertwined over the last two decades. The bleak histories and menacing stories of the latter leave a rich harvest for the former, one that has been plundered aplenty since the early Nineties. The savagery of the black metal paired with the melodious folk sensibilities is still oft copied, but yet to be surpassed; these Irish troubadours have built a glorious legacy, and it remains a treat to catch them weaving their tales.
We start however, in England's dark past tonight as Crom Dubh take to the small stage at the infamous Camden Underworld. On reflection though, it may have been better if they had remained buried in the sands of time; we are subjected to thirty minutes of dreary, timid buzzing that is nothing the genre can be at its best. The influence of tonight's headliners is poorly woven through everything (name included), without bringing a thread of originality or energy to the final tapestry. It is painfully dull, and a cessation of the woeful wailing cannot come soon enough.
The flat wetlands of East Anglia provide the inspiration for the epic, haunting soundscapes of Fen. Coming immediately after the release of their superlative fifth album Winter, they put on a ferocious display. Alas it is tarnished by a truly abysmal sound engineer who seems incapable of turning the sole guitar up above a murmur; the result is that when they hit full throttle it is completely drowned out. Still, the mellower moments are pregnant with creeping dread, a mesmerising display of atmospherics and spine-tingling tension.
There is always an intensity to Primordial live shows, focused around the maniacal stare of Nemtheanga as he conjures up the ghosts of generations forgotten. But even by their standards, tonight is something special; from the opening strains of 'Where Greater Men Have Fallen' they have the packed crowd completely enraptured, baying at every sweep of the arm or upping of tempo. The feeling is electric, a swirling ether that band and audience feed off alike, working the dingy basement room into an immense frenzy of flying hair and pumping fists.
Far enough removed from the last album to have freedom with the setlist, the selection is faultless; a few returning oldies like 'The Soul Must Sleep' and 'The Golden Spiral' sit perfectly alongside perennial favourites 'As Rome Burns' and 'The Coffin Ships'. The one hour fifty minute extravaganza finishes in a thunderous 'Empire Falls', the last reserves spent in one final blast of thrashing guitars and spectacular riffs, infused with that Irish folk magic none bar Primordial can capture. The troubled beginnings to the evening are faded memories as we file out, exhausted and elated, into the carnage that is Camden on a Friday night – this one will live on for a long while.