VARIOUS ARTISTS  Gathering Of Shadows  2 x DVD   (Pagan Flames Productions)   14.98

A two-disc set collecting footage from three ambitious underground black metal events spanning several years, Gathering Of Shadows is a raw but ferocious document that features live performances from some of the US black metal underground's elite forces.

The picture quality for the Night Of The Black Pentecost show from June 2004 is pretty dark and murky, and almost feels like you are watching the bands in a dimly lit basement; the sound quality is fucking loud, though, and the single-camera angle is right on top of the stage, at least. The bands all kill, too. Black Twilight Circle members Ashdautas open the show cloaked in almost total blackness as they tear through some killer messy black metal, and are followed by the vicious blackened death of the mighty Ibex Throne. Salt Lake City black metallers blast through a murky, brutal set of second wave influenced black metal with some ferocious punky mid-tempo parts, and then we get a big chunk of Nightbringer's set, the Colorado band delivering their ornate, orthodox black metal with relentless precision and their trademark spacey, eldritch atmosphere.

The Cults Of The Black Flame concert footage is visually clearer, with a single camera shot from the side of the stage and the bands bathed in green light; however, the sound quality here is a bit murkier and more blown out. Definitely enjoyable though, with Krieg up first with an energetic set despite the cramped conditions on the stage, ripping through their killer post-punk tinged black metal. Nibiru is next, and is one of the sets on this Dvd that I had been really looking forward to checking out, being a big fan of their atmospheric, spacey, synth-heavy black metal. These guys have this heavy Tangerine Dream vibe to their keys that I really dig, and luckily those keys are way up in the mix for their performance. In fact, theirs is by far the best sounding set from this particular show. In contrast, the Nachtmystium recording is so blown out that it's just a massive wall of noise. When their set starts, it's so distorted that if I close my eyes, I'd think that someone was spinning a Cd from The Rita. Their sound does get a little clearer as it goes on and the guy behind the camera shifts position, but it's still pretty gnarly sounding. Of course, this may be just what you want to hear...

The second disc features the Rise Of The Full Moon Temple event from June 2006, which included more than seven death and black metal bands on the bill. The disc opens with warped, unsettling ambient darkness and footage of driving through the Rocky Mountains where the event took place, and includes several title cards that describe the nature of the event - an outdoor performance lit only by torches in the middle of the forest, and only open via initiation. The footage of the bands playing in the woods on a makeshift stage with full sound system and adorned in corpse paint and metal gear is pretty interesting, and the sound quality is remarkably good considering where this was filmed. You get segments of the sets from Legions Of Astaroth, Dagon, Demoncy (their set is fucking vicious, with multiple camera angles, smoke, and an overall ferocious performance), Tenebrous, the folk-flecked black blast of Abyssmal Nocturne, and finishing with the trance inducing power of Crimson Moon.