Monday, June 4, 2012

Vallendusk - Vallendusk (EP) (2012)

Like it or not, black metal is a genre that will never fade away. It will grow, it will change, but it will always be a large, proportionate chunk of metal as a whole. Whether or not you enjoy it is key to your discovery of new bands, with thousands of raw black metal projects cropping up every day. In the case of Vallendusk, a four piece band from Indonesia, their love of all things blackened isn't a passing fancy. They are crafting their own version of the classic sound, with little bits and pieces borrowed from folk and post styles. But on their self titled debut EP, the boys from Jakarta can't seem to make all the moving pieces work together.

Sweet, almost sullen clean guitars are the first thing to cross the sound threshold on "Antimatter," a soothing opening that is pleasant, albeit short. Even when the true assault begins, there is still a hint of melody to the guitars. Vocally, you aren't going to get anything overly surprising, with the standard black metal screams and screeches covering everything. The true dynamic pairing here is in the rhythm section and guitar work. Drumming is key, with high speed kick/snare/cymbal combinations running throughout. But somewhere out of left field comes an interlude that would be a suitable lullaby, light and airy in nature. It puts you in this uneasy state of rest, before a thunderous return to distortion snaps you back to a waking state. The problem that comes into play is that it becomes all too easy to separate the blackened eruptions from the delicate interludes, making them almost feel tacked on, despite the beautiful touches.

If you find yourself looking for the more melodic side of the black metal genre, then songs like "Foghymn" have a lot to offer you, though sifting through a nearly seven minute run time can be a daunting task. Hidden within each changing guitar pattern is a distinct flow, one that is barely audible when paired with the coarse vocal style that black metal tends to demand. But in the instrumental passages, be they few and far between, you can find that extra bit of musicianship. Yes, you may hear faint folk tones, or even elements of the ever popular shoegaze genre that Alcest has become known for. In these stretches, Vallendusk is at their very best, giving something that most traditional outfits wouldn't dare touch. They seamlessly combine the rolling double kicks with a haze of guitar distortion and atmospheric riffs.

As with the others, "The Wooden Sphere" begins softly, but does carry the proverbial big stick. This track represents a welcomed shift in style, with the song playing out in a more folk inspired way. What you are greeted with is blackened folk, instead of straightforward grind of the former. The percussion might not have much lateral movement, something it could definitely use going forward, but the guitars carry the weight of the song atop wave after wave of melodic, yet heavily distorted, riffs. Hell, bits and pieces of this finale descend into pure post rock, with a bass groove that may get your head swaying from side to side. Wild, jazz style drums cut in, and take you into a new realm. The instrumental lifts the track to new heights, enough to elevate the one dimensional vocal line. isolate the final four minutes of this track, and you have a cross section of what the band is capable of.

Fans of black metal will always say that its raw nature is what makes the music endearing, a style that will go on forever. Those on the outside looking in will never totally see the merit. And, for a new band like Vallendusk, falling squarely into that arena may be a disservice to the band's sound. There are flashes of brilliance in this release, little touches here and there that make this a much deeper album than it may initially appear to be. But, does five minutes of a twenty five minute album equate to a purchase, or merely a passing listen? With some fine tuning, and a little polish, Vallendusk may be able to shine through the tar that is the black metal scene.


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