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Valdur - "Raven God Amongst Us" (CD)

Valdur - "Raven God Amongst Us" CD cover image

"Raven God Amongst Us" track listing:

1. Intro (:29)
2. Wound Fires In The Afterlife (3:37)
3. Great Abyss Unfold (4:35)
4. Gravlagt I Morkets Natt! (4:36)
5. Med Fjell I Horisonten (3:20)
6. Berserrker (4:52)
7. Past Of Wolves (5:13)
8. Vicious Existence (4:28)
9. Creation (3:17)

Reviewed by on September 11, 2010

"An album that avoids the one-dimensional mindset of most traditional black metal, a strong sense of atmosphere and tempered aggression help Valdur’s second album to be worth a glance in an over-saturated market."

Over the last few years, USBM has come into its own to stand alongside the best from the Norwegian and Swedish sides. The ambient glory of Wolves in the Throne Room and the one-man brilliance of Woe are just a small example of the growing presence United States has made in black metal. California’s Valdur is a band that has been relatively ignored since they formed a few years back, but their sophomore album “Raven God Amongst Us” may change that. An album that avoids the one-dimensional mindset of most traditional black metal, a strong sense of atmosphere and tempered aggression help Valdur’s second album to be worth a glance in an over-saturated market.

A black metal band having variety in their sound may raise a few eyebrows, but Valdur does an admirable job of keeping “Raven God Amongst Us” off the predictable path of endless tremolo riffs and mechanical drumming. The production retains low-fi grittiness, while making each instrument audible in the mix. Even the bass guitar is clearly heard, an anomaly in black metal. The vocals are deep grunts and rasps that have a hollow sheen plastered over them, sounding like it was recorded somewhere along a trek up mountainous terrain.

There’s nothing worse in black metal than bands trying to enhance a desolate mood or feel to the music by plodding sections of lonely guitar notes and overused keys/synth. Valdur avoids these two negative connotations by slowing the pace down, but keeping the intensity at a breaking point. The second half of the album leans heavily in this direction, as “Past of Wolves” and “Vicious Existence” keep the wall of noise to a minimum. The latter song has a bleak spoken word passage and a strong lead break that fades into an outro of various samples that imposes an uneasy feeling to the end.

“Wound Fires In The Afterlife” and “Berserrker” represent the no-frills aggression of mid-90’s black metal, and Valdur plays this with diligence and valor. The band goes all out without blurring into a supersonic mess and makes the songs as distinguishable as the mid-paced tracks. The only blemish on the album is the three instrumentals: a pointless intro, a decent acoustic-driven nod to Viking metal in “Med Fjell I Horisonten,” and a bland closer in “Creation” that ends with the start of the intro to wrap the album together. “Med Fjell I Horisonten” is the only one that seems relevant to the album; it would have been nice to replace one of the instrumental tracks with a complete number.

With an abundance of black metal out there these days, it’s understandable that Valdur’s “Raven God Amongst Us” may have gone unnoticed in the same vein as their self-titled debut. This is not an album to pass up though; it’s short enough that it has no chance of getting stale and the avoidance to having track after track of monotony is a welcomed approach. Valdur is one of the better up-and-coming USBM bands out there today and time will only tell if they can reach the same plateau as other noteworthy USBM acts.

Highs: Avoids being one-dimensional, audible bass, atmospheric without indulging in extended sections or cheesy keys.

Lows: Too many instrumentals, a little bit on the short side.

Bottom line: A strong sophomore album that should give the black metal band some much-deserved publicity.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)