Crom Dubh - Heimweh (Van Records)

Stirring, evocative black metal from London...
Release Date: 
23 Apr 2015 - 11:30pm

London based black metalllers Crom Dubh (say it out loud as Crom Doo), named as they are for an obscure Celtic idol, look unsurprisingly very much to times immemorial for the inspiration for their by turns inspiring take on the BM genre.

Intensely lyrical – both musically and in the words (sung, of course, in a mixture of old English, ancient Norse and mediaeval Latin), Heimweh is an investigation into the homing instincts and mechanisms inherent in us all, a look at both our primal need to explore that is tempered, once we are out in the great blue yonder, to get back to what is familiar at hearthside, wherever that might be.

Of course you’d struggle to get that feeling merely from the music, universally strong though every track on Heimweh (which translates as ‘homesick’) actually is, although at times an achingly familiar refrain makes itself known, as it does on the superb centrepiece of the album, Sedition where, amidst the windswept sturm und drang, appears a gorgeous, just-out-of-recognition melody line that tugs at the heart and the memory, all the while calling the listener back to the first time they heard that folkesome air. I still haven’t worked out when or where that was, but the device surely works as an exhibition of the greater themes examined by Heimweih

This refrain returns again, stronger, as the song nears conclusion, swelling almost symphonically, growing in simple, noble power echoing down the years with its symbolic redolence of a past age – bolstered by shamanistic percussion work and finally decaying quietly to give way to the album’s title track. Stirring, evocative stuff indeed.

It’s not all bucolic remembrance and sprite-worshipping whimsy, of course, and that title track is a case in point, being more of the breakneck, clattering mayhem you’d expect from a band happy to label itself as a black metal act. However, just when you’re setting yourself up for some death grunting half way through they do it to you again, introducing another naggingly familiar refrain into proceedings, inducing the hairs on the back of the neck to stand to attention involuntarily. The double time snare gives way to a majestic, slowed-down mid section that repeats this coda over and over again, with the inevitable consequence that you’ll find yourself humming it days after your last exposure to this most strangely affecting of albums.

Not your run of the mill black metal, then, but I cannot recommend strongly enough that you give this a listen – it’s a stunning record.