203524_239722376161973_257930326_n@ Newcastle Trillians, May 7 2013

Newcastle may have been basking all day in some long-awaited spring sunshine but in one part of the city centre darkness was about to descend.

Headlined by Forgotten Tomb, whose ‘fan favourite’ album is entitled Springtime Depression, this show was certainly out of sync with the glorious weather. But that’s not to say the bands weren’t welcomed with cheers, smiles and raised bottles of beer. 

Underground extreme metal acts of this calibre rarely appear in a four-strong line-up on Tyneside. Yet the Italian ‘depressive’ black metallers, with Swedish epic doomsters Isole – and their Viking metal alter egos Ereb Altor – in tow, made Trillians their only UK date outside London. Stir in North Eastern black metal outfit Old Corpse Road, and you had a potent brew which needed tasting.

Swedish four-piece Isole initially opened to a sparse crowd, but a few more lost souls made their way to the basement bar to greet their superbly executed, ice-cold doom with open arms: The Lake, from 2011’s Born From Shadows, was crushing; oldie Moonstone, which closed their three song set (Isole don’t exactly write one-minute grindcore ditties), a piece of frost-bitten grandeur. Isole are proof that these days, doom metal still comes in many shapes and forms – not just carrying a bong and wearing a Sleep t-shirt.

Later, the quartet’s set as the Bathory-inspired Ereb Altor, was even more impressive, with guitarist Crister Olsson this time taking centre stage. A Viking metal band without the silly props, the quartet certainly put in a shift Thor himself would have been proud of, producing an arguably more emotional performance than their alternative incarnation. By Honour and The Mistress of Wisdom were two highlights, but in truth, it was a wholly triumphant set. And with a new album soon to drop, 2013 might be the year Ereb Altor move up a level.

While the Swedes’ music conjures images of vast mountain ranges and freezing fjords, Old Corpse Road take inspiration from the folklore and ghostly tales of Britain, as tracks such as The Witch of Wookey Hole, aired on Tuesday, attest to. OCR are fast becoming a major name in the British BM scene, and boast a dedicated following. Their screams and keyboards may be reminiscent of the often shunned Cradle of Filth, but there’s a hint of magic to the quintet’s music that is impossible to ignore – and this night showed they’ve been sharpening their skills as a live act to match the praise heaped on their albums.

Unlike Isole or Old Corpse Road, there was nothing bombastic or epic about Forgotten Tomb’s closing set. And although their logo is old school through and through, not even a smear of corpsepaint graced the Italians’ faces. Instead, the Piacenza metallers rely on a stripped down, mid-paced groove to do their dirty work, with a pitch black new wave influence occasionally bubbling to the surface. Culling many tracks from Springtime Depression, as well as last year’s …and Don’t Deliver Us From Evil, FT rocked in a way alien to most BM acts. A shame then, that the quartet cut their set a couple of songs short, especially as their audience showed no signs of flagging.

One small gripe, though, does not a bad night make: going underground might be an unusual choice when the barbeques are lighting up, but on this particular Tuesday, it made perfect sense.

Richard Holmes