Valdrin: Beyond the Forest

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Valdrin: Beyond the Forest
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Valdrin: Beyond the Forest
Melodic Black Metal
Self-release, Blast Head Records (2014)
February 17th, 2013 / June 30th, 2014
Release length: 1:09:05
Bandcamp
Facebook

When it comes to American Black Metal groups, it seems that you’ll have the best of luck finding entries in the oddest of places. You wouldn’t really consider Cincinnati, Ohio to be that frostbitten, but it’s home to a small number of bands in that field: Lilin, Succorbenoth, as well as the entity for review known known as Valdrin. It’s unclear when this three-piece initially formed (though they joined Facebook in early May of 2012 so we’ll go with that), but this didn’t stop them from putting together their debut full-length album Beyond the Forest in what one would assume an alarmingly fast rate. Released by the band themselves and available through their Bandcamp page, this full-length album consists of twelve songs that weigh in at a hefty near-seventy minute recording. But does this wind up a pretentious offering, or is this a truly grim and frozen chunk of Metal worth hearing?

It’s a question that is answered fairly early on with the composition “Beyond the Forest”. Once you get past the introductory audio chunk “A Drain in the River” that lures someone to jump in a body of water, followed by creepy notes later from a nightmarish church organs, you are greeted with the longest track this album has to offer. The band takes advantage of the somewhat raw audio quality with a mix of bulky riffs and clean leads, a deeper bass presence, and heavily echoed raspy vocals. The drums provide a pretty steady blast beat foundation most of the time, but the louder crashes really dominate the mix, leaving much of the keyboard presence dwarfed until you approach the three minute mark. What follows has a hint of Dissection to it, an influence that constantly runs wild throughout the ten songs that follow, but not long after the rain filled passage of acoustic notes and whispers, you are cast into a grander assault on par with the likes of modern Dimmu Borgir.

And then there are those that just scream hostility. “Serpent Willow” has some early Mayhem influence thrown around in its fast paced assault that mixes hostility and blistering drums with a good amount of melody in the guitars. Things do slow down a bit by the one minute mark, allowing the bass a chance to contribute a little more as things move into your traditional groove based mid-tempo Black Metal before ending with the same intensity it all began with. “Come Forth” is another faster offering with a decent amount of quick two-step action in the drum kicks and strong bass presence behind the blunt riffs. The song hammers away with a decent amount of tension until you reach the end, which sounds like a literal battle cry as you head into a war after yet another superb guitar solo.

But, for the most part, Beyond the Forest stands as your traditional splurge of contemporary second wave Black Metal and melodic influence. “Battles in the Medieval Sky” actually sounds like more of a natural follow-up to “Come Forth” given the epic themes and war undertones in the song’s chilled atmosphere, while “Through the Catacombs” has its share of faster material with some complex leads that are catchy as hell, eventually finding keyboards adding to that technicality with a colder touch that only grows more obvious when the pace finally slows down. “Impaled Visions Breed Within the Vines” has a haunting charm to it thanks to the colder keyboards and atmospheric hooks that appear from time to time. When the first of those two are greatly toned down, it has the same emotional impact, even sleeker quality to it akin to something Deceased would turn out.

While Beyond the Forest has its fair share of traditional Black Metal cuts with a decent cool chill, the album itself is a fine example of why the melodic aspect of the genre can be some of the most atmospherically charged music you can hope to come across. Taking clear inspiration from some of the style’s pioneers, and even a few that use less hooks, more aggression, even symphonic elements to get the point across, Valdrin show that some areas of North America may be hit hard when winter rolls around, but others can have a thick layer of permafrost. For their first outing, Beyond the Forest is an exceptional album that anyone into Black Metal will immediately embrace, but if you missed out before, you’ll have another shot to own this on CD format through Blast Head Records (which seems to be nothing different than the initial release).


01. A Drain in the River – 3:39
02. Beyond the Forest – 10:46
03. Rusalka Succubus – 5:27
04. Serpent Willow – 2:52
05. Impaled Visions Breed Within the Vines – 6:08
06. Calling to the Canidae Hordes – 5:15
07. Through the Catacombs – 7:30
08. Come Forth – 4:19
09. Darkness as Black as Evil – 7:03
10. Battles in the Medieval Sky – 4:35
11. In the Vortex of Time / Relinquish Flesh – 5:17
12. Forgotten Souls – 6:14
Initial Pressing Score: 9/10

Valdrin
Valdrin

Digital review copy of this release provided by Blast Head Records
via Dewar PR.