(Bloody Mountain Records, 2013)
#FOR FANS OF: Blackened Death Metal, new Behemoth, Acheron, Kult ov Azazel
Initially starting off along a similar route but diverting slightly for a few albums, California Blackened Death Metal act Valdur return for a crushing third opus that actually pulls off their original style fairly competently if not exactly bristling with originality. Weaving a path that recalls modern Behemoth to a tee, from the rapid-fire drumming overloaded with blastbeats and clashing cymbals to an alternating series of charging high-speed riffing with the intent of utter devastation regardless of casualties or injuries along the way or a more melodic style incorporating tremolo-picked variations in a less-chaotic-but-still frantic tempo, deep slaughtering vocals and a darkened, sinister vibe, this all feels like the most infamous plays in the Poles playbook and doesn’t really offer up much deviation in the attack. The few cases of deviation occur due to their more traditional Black Metal leanings which cause a surprisingly coherent mesh with the more modern influences and results in a heavy atmosphere to surround the material when it’s not in full-on blasting mode, the lengthy mid-tempo dirges and elongated rhythms seemingly borrowed from Acheron to allow for a more straightforward assault than expected. While this does in fact produce a good sense of intensity and ferocity throughout the album, borrowing liberally from those two does tend to leave this one feeling a little like a rehashing of Behemoth leftovers covered by Acheron and Kult ov Azazel and really knocks some points off for the unmistakable feeling of familiarity present in the band. That still doesn’t take away from the songs themselves, which are quite enjoyable at times. After a brief intro to get things started on the right path, proper first track "Conjuring the Fire Plagues" is pretty indicative of what to expect with its bombastic drumming, scorching riff-work and rapid-fire tempos careening throughout the piece, while still delving into cacophonous-sounding patterns reminiscent of the retro Death Metal revival scene and throwing some thrash in a few places, all the while maintaining a dark, ominous vibe with the riffs and drum-work. A slightly-slower but still similar march is employed in "Death Winds Will Cleanse" while "The Calm Before War" and "Hammer Pit" offer up more rousing, up-tempo stylings. The sprawling, multi-sectioned epic "At War with the Old World" is a highlight as well, maneuvering through a blinding series of tempo changes, mood variations and a dynamic set of riffs to keep the track from becoming a lumbering chore to get through. The album’s weak-link is the back-to-back brief tracks "Incantre" and "Vast," as the former merely come off like leftover riffs that were stuck on to make this a proper length release with their one-note blasting and minute, barely-noticeable pattern changes that don’t do much of anything dynamic and the latter being a worthless mid-section interlude. Even still, the band is at the most extraordinarily competent at this style so it does regain a little favor with its precision attacks and engaging skill-set, and that does make for a better-than-expected if slightly familiar effort.