This triple bill of black metal covered a wide spectrum within the genre that began with local act Mountains Crave who have made huge improvements musically since I last saw them converting their wealth of live experience into this accomplished show. The cramped stage at The Fenton meant their vocalist, Danny, did most of his singing on the floor in front though I am not sure venturing into the audience is the right thing to do within black metal, as it detracts from the band’s music which poured layers of atmospheric violence onto the crowd which were healthy in numbers. The blaring daylight from the back of the room cast elongated umbral shadows onto the stage which made for a creepy look as Danny unleashed a varied vocal performance utilising ghoulish banshee shrieks to whispered eeriness to great effect showcasing excellent confidence. His bandmates did look a little nervous initially but as the set continued that nervousness dissolved leaving the band to gain momentum with each song played as a myriad of nuances from sombre tunefulness to utter ferocity cascaded onto the audience setting very high standards for the other two bands to follow.

Retreating to the bar downstairs and indulging in a pint called Dr. Harris which made me ill rather than cure me the next day, I was promptly followed to my seat by a gorgeous black Labrador called Pickle who promptly sat next to me ready for an obligatory pampering before I headed back to catch Stahlsarg. I’ve seen this band before too and was looking forward to an outright blackened assault which to some extent we got, but the mix of their sound was a little lacklustre and lacked that punishing edge on the guitar as they opened with “Seelow Heights”.  Again the blazing daylight created that contrasting light almost monochromatic in effect with the stage being blanketed in virtual darkness except for two lights aimed vertically creating a ghoulish look on two of the band members when they caught their faces. The band slashed their way through a handful of tracks that were distinctly different to the openers as I noticed that the audience numbers had depleted for some reason. “Raise The Dead” which may be an upcoming new song was aired next and began with a great riff not too dissimilar to Carpathian Forest, being extremely catchy but vitriolic with it. Another new song titled “Blonde Poison” followed starting very serenely initially before unleashing a savage riff with blast beat insanity making note that the new album is due out in October. Whilst not as ravenously received as the openers Stahlsarg showed the crowd that they have some killer new material awaiting us in the Autumn and I will await it with a bated anticipation.

I have seen Old Corpse Road countless times, 12 including this one, and during that time I have seen the band evolve with each album into the colossal complex and epic black metal force they are today and it puzzles me why they have not become more popular. There are few bands like Old Corpse Road and even fewer that write songs where there are four vocalists involved doing different styles and managing to maintain a coherence during a live show as the band were decked out in matching shirts and waistcoats and a modicum of corpse paint without overdoing it. Their  complex songs hit the audience in waves of undulating scintillating majesty the moment they started which I didn’t realise they had if truth be told as I thought they were still sound checking. “Hob Headless Rises” followed the opener and now that dusk had arrived the room had darkened appropriately affording the band a shadowy aura as the bands multi vocal texturizing was done proficiently alongside the keyboard drenching. Announcing “ladies and gentlemen we present a tale from our home town of Darlington about witching hour” the band glided us into “Glassensikes At Witching Hour” as an intense scream emanated. The multifaceted song writing that Old Corpse Road delivered encapsulated a medieval ethos as the song channelled its energy through various phases of emotion.

Set favourite “The Old Corpse Road” was greeted with a cheer as it was noticeable that the older songs seemed to have a better balance between melody and intensity and lead to the crowd getting involved as they always do when this song is played. As a side note I do wish the band would put “The Witch Of Wookey Hole” back into their set list as it is greatly missed and iconic and I miss that whole Gregorian vocal chant aspect though one song in their set had some but I was remiss in noting the song title. As the set came to its close “The Oakmen Of Naddle Forest” was aired as my abdominal region was complaining rigorously at the Dr. Harris I had imbibed unfortunately during the evening and meant a quick getaway and thankfully this was a local gig for me and not the nightmare trek to Manchester I’ve usually had to face.

Reading through my review of this show it has tendrils of negativity which was not my aim as this was a fine evening of extremely diverse and adroit black metal and came on the back of the most fallow period of gigs I’ve had in well over a decade but it was good to catch up with friends, share some dodgy beers and chat about recent festival escapades and look forward to the next batch of festivals and gigs.