Thursday, February 9, 2012

Valtari - Fragments Of A Nightmare (2012)

The Australian continent has already proven to be a home for all forms of extreme metal, something we have witnessed time and again. Marty Warren, multi-instrumentalist and sole member of melodic death metal band Valtari, is prepared to show that not only can the Aussies do everything the Scandinavian bands can do, but they may even do it better. With his new album, "Fragments Of A Nightmare," he gives you all the grit and grime of Insomnium, with an added dose of black metal influences. Those cuddly commercials be damned, I hope this is the real Australia.

From the opening riff to the first crash of drums, "Sweet Tragedy" is the thrashing beginning you always wanted. The vocals enter, as abusive as anything Niilo Sevanen has ever put onto recorded media. Part scream, part unearthly growl, Warren gives you all you can handle. The guitars are the driving force, whether in the heavy riffs or the colossal chugging portions. But the melodic sensibility is where the track really shows it's mettle, incorporating some light piano tones. The first real showing of black metal comes, fittingly, on the track "Black Sun Rising," where the screeching verse sections come straight from hell. But, unlike his Scandinavian counterparts, Warren maintains a high production value, which allows you to enjoy each separate layer, rather than straining to discern one from another. Placing the earthquake of double kicks underneath a twirling guitar attack, there is a depth of field, giving you more to hear than just distortion and feedback.

Tracks like "Judas Lie" epitomize the melodic death style, with quick shifts from chugging to fretwork and back again, keeping the sound heavy, but evolving. The massive chords in the bridge and chorus sections are sure to induce a case of whiplash. But not to be lost in the shuffle is the rhythm section, packing a punch that the music demands, leaving the abrasive vocal lines to do their dirty work. For those looking for a heavier stomp to their music, look no further than "Mistress Of Madness," which gives you another wrinkle to appreciate. Some of the more intricate guitar work can be found here, almost taking on a folk style with the melodic passages. This is not to say that you'll be breaking out into a spontaneous dance, because the backbreaking drum rolls and fills may leave you unable to do so. But combined into the mix is an ability to be uptempo and dense at the same time. The shortest track on the album, "Always Remember," boasts the biggest drum sound, with a kick drum that may loosen the foundation on your home. With each pounding bass drum, you are pulled deeper into the song, surrounded by waves of guitars and coarse vocals. The deathly growls that follow are deafening, but rich with lyrical content.

The in-your-face "Traitor's Smile" may bring to mind work from Insomnium's latest opus, but this is far from a clone or rip-off. Warren manages to keep each passing song and note fresh with his own blackened twist. By incorporating some more detailed guitar work, he strays from the oft tread path of melodic death, and leans into the progressive realm. fear not, for he does not wander too far. "Inside My Darkness" contains all the evil of black metal in a tightly wound deathly package. The layered vocals, one growl, one screech, form a fractured distorted harmony, one that the music demands. The machine gun snares, straight from the catalog of Burzum and the like, cut through it all, enriching the wall of bass and guitar. The guitar melody that leads the outro is exactly what the metal doctor ordered. Even the surprising emergence of synth sounds in "The Awakening" is welcomed. With each layer played expertly by Warren, he is able to lay one atop another, building from the ground up. The light keys that inhabit the bridge are surprisingly effective, especially when followed by a thrashing of drums and screaming vocals.

It would be difficult to find a track on the album that manages to be heavier than "Dying Light," a song that is pulverizing drum fill after another. if you have managed to deny the black metal influence up until now, prepare to eat crow, as this becomes an all out metal clinic, minus the tin can recording. From the seemingly endless double kick assault to the snare/cymbal crashing, this has all the elements of the darkest art form. The sole chunk of melody comes from the guitar riffs, distorted yet flowing. And, unlike some of the more cliche artists, Warren manages to infuse a dose of reality into his lyrics. The album's closer, "The Final Call," is just that: one last opportunity to get your fist in the air. The haunting synths are the perfect foundation for the crushing chords to build from. The vocals, as forceful as ever, burst out, filled with every bit of emotion and strength. The instrumental work is spot on, from guitars to bass and drums. Each snare is in the right place, each note, every chord shift perfectly timed.  

For Marty Warren, this is a crowning achievement for his Valtari moniker. To put out an album of this quality, this intricate, is a task in and of itself. To do it as a one man band, with each individual piece coming down on you, and you alone, is extraordinary. This is an album ripe with diverse influences, but unique enough to separate it from them. The notion that geography plays a large part in developing your sound may have been debunked. From the land of those furry things that bounce around in herds, "Fragments Of A Nightmare" may be one the best Scandinavian metal albums in a very long time.


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1 comment:

  1. Great review, Great Band (man). Marty has surpassed the quality of big name bands that he is inspired by in many ways. A guy this talented deserves to be better rewarded.