05 Aug 2021 - Knut
Atmospheric Black Metal | Northern Silence | Release date: 14 May 2021
From the first self-titled EP released in 2012 and up to this release, Indonesian Vallendusk has earned a reputation for epic, long and melodic tracks inspired by traditional folk music. Throughout their albums they have developed a warm soundscape in the subgenre of Atmospheric Black Metal and their latest release shows a band at the height of their passionate creativity. There might not be many metal bands per capita in Indonesia, but bands like Vallendusk make us look closer at that scene.
Not only is Vallendusk´s heavy music passionate and imaginative, the titles of the tracks also make your thoughts flow with the music. While many bands chose to fade out at the end of the album, Vallendusk fades in on this album with the distorted guitars playing tremolo and arpeggios riffs, creating acrescendo at the start. When the melody is established, the guitars are joined by screaming and snarling vocals, blastbeats and bass. The first song, ”The Last Soar As The Feathers Fall”, has all the trademarks of Vallendusk´s wall of heavy soundscape, with the music ebbing and flowing. Throughout the album the heavy riffs of the guitars and bass amalgamate so tight it sounds like there is a chorus in the background holding the melody.
This is certainly true for the next song ”Towards The Shimmering Dawn” where the tremolo riffing guitars makes an almost constant upwards surge behind the snarling vocals until the music quiets down for some acoustic guitar until it surges back into similar form. This song is, as the others, around ten minutes long and that allows the band to develop their music and assimilate influences from other metal sub genres, sometimes with solo guitars swirling over the heavy riffs. In this second song, you really sense the warmth their soundscape is shrouded in. Towards the end there is once again a visit paid by acoustic guitar until the heavy melodic distorted riffs lift the soundscape until a grand piano takes over, picks up the melodic theme and leads the track to its end.
On the third track, ”Ethereal Echoes Of Devotion”, it really hits you; how immersed in traditional folk this heavy music is. After a Death Metal-like intro, the song shifts into a dance song. If you replace the riffing guitars with violin and accordion you might imagine a traditional dance in a town square in the middle ages, or today for that matter. The song is fast and it makes you wriggle some dance step. It reminds us of how Black Metal music from its inception has gathered influence from traditional folk music, whichever country the band is from. That shows how international and borderless the music is. Vallendusk is in good company here, with bands like Drudkh, Mistur and Negura Bunget, to mention a few.
The fourth and fifth tracks “Solivagant Heart” and ”Marching Ballad Of The Unsung Ones” might be songs describing the cover of the album. It is a wood cutting by the German painter Theodor Alexander Weber, who lived in the 19th century and was famous for paintings of ships in storms, grounded, or in battle. In his early years he carved the cover picture, which depicts a man high in the Alps reaching for an Edelweiss flower. It is like these two songs with their heavy tremolo riffing are stretching towards the flower in the high mountains with the deep river and valleys below. In both songs there are pauses with acoustic guitar and piano as the man pauses in his struggle to reach the white wooly Himalayan flower. Traditionally this flower has been a symbol of rugged individualism out there exploring wilderness as it grows in the heights of the Alps.
”Immemorials In Eternal Slumber” starts slowly, with prominent acoustic guitar, before the heavy riffs and snarling vocals take over and the song is bordering on Death Metal. The song evolves into a mix of Death Metal and ebbing and flowing Atmospheric Metal music lead by the snarling vocals. The album closes with the monumental ”The Sovereign”. Just as the first song on the album, this also fades in, but with a mellow acoustic guitar accompanied by synth before the guitars take over with a swirling solo that leads into a tempo shift to almost Death Metal and then slows down to Doom Metal. The tempo shifts in this song might leave the listener breathless. It can be confusing at first, but a couple of listens in you catch the yearning melodies and flow with the music that sometimes interludes with acoustic parts.
The album clocks in just over 60 minutes, and listening to Heralds of Strife is like being immersed in a long warm crescendo of melodic riffs driven fast forward by the blasting bass drums. Blast drums might suck the air out of music, but not here where it helps in giving the music dynamics. The soaring guitars and the memorable melodies of each song will resonate in your eardrums long after the last listen. You might catch yourself humming one of the melodies while out walking or while showering. And that is what good music should do.