Raven God Amongst Us
posted on 10/2010 By:
With all the scenester bullshit dominating black metal in the United States, it’s really refreshing to hear a band and album from my home country playing something a bit more geographically ambiguous. California’s Valdur is said band, and sophomore full-length Raven God Amongst Us is the album. Despite making a modest first impression, it only takes a couple more listens for the album to reveal itself as a real grower and the band as a potential force.
A well-seasoned ear might make an educated guess that Valdur is located between the Atlantic and Pacific, but in truth, they lack many of the overtly “USBM” traits. There are no post elements, nothing “suicidal,” zero faux psychedelia, and they don’t attempt to label their drum technique as something it’s not. The riffs, be they torrential tremolo harmonies or lumbering exercises in disharmony, sound like a global black metal amalgamation, and the vocals have the deeper, fiercely vitriolic approach most commonly heard with Deathspell Omega. The production rides that fine line between rawness and clarity, giving each instrument its fair space but also letting that nasty guitar tone do as it pleases. Really the busy and ever-so-slightly jazzy drumming (the lightly-touched blast beat) is the only thing here that comes across as remotely “American” in nature, but even that is a stretch.
As for the songs themselves, several reveal Valdur to possess a very advanced sense of dynamics. Mid-album tracks “Gravlagt I Morkets Natt!” and “Med Fjell I Horisonten” are the best examples, with both following dramatic crescendos that swell to grandiose peaks, but through very different means. The former begins mired in sickly dissonance, slowly gaining speed before a climax of intertwining tremolo harmonies and bass guitar alternates around itself. The latter, which follows an epic approach akin to Primordial’s more blackened moments, features some ominous chanting as well as a spectacular dancing bass line towards the end. This song in particular exemplifies the band members’ ability to slightly alter their playing approach in order to stretch the bounds of the album’s style just far enough.
The downside is that not every track has this level of compositional spit-shine, and the sub-35-minute runtime may actually hinder a few pieces. For example, “Wound Fires In The Afterlife” feels underdeveloped at under four minutes, ending right when some especially huge riffs really begin to make things interesting. “Great Abyss Unfold,” while sporting some engaging ascensions about halfway through, begins and ends using the fade technique—a strange decision that somewhat throws off an otherwise enjoyable track.
Still, these faults are minor and do little to harm what is otherwise a fantastically malignant slab of black metal. All it requires is setting the nit-pick switch to the off position to enjoy the hell out of this regardless of your nationality of origin or of that which you would normally dip into musically. Valdur have all the tools to someday release something truly excellent, and although they haven’t quite reached that level here, they also have a lot to be proud of with Raven God Amongst Us.
People who have convinced themselves that they actually enjoy Liturgy should buy this instead. It does not suck.
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