This week’s blog features an interview with Lord Sxuperion (drummer) and Thor (vocals, guitar) of Northern California’s Valdur, who released their second full-length album, Raven God Amongst Us, this week. The new album is eight tracks of tumultuous black metal, or, as Sxuperion sees the band, extreme metal—he doesn’t want to be lumped into the corpse-painted, spike-clad black metal scene. Raven God is a vicious new offering completely worth exploring, released fresh on the heels of an excellent split EP with Killgasm and Shitestorm. Also included are a handful of blog exclusive black metal CD reviews as well as some interview relevant re-posted CD reviews.
Also, check out the write up on Salt Lake’s Yaotl Mictlan in the new issue of SLUG and go check out their album release party this Saturday Sept. 4 at Bar Deluxe (666 S. State Street) which will feature the band playing a set as well as traditional Aztec dancers and the artistic works of Chicano artist Veronica Perez. And while you’re there ,it wouldn’t hurt to buy the band’s new record Dentro del Manto Gris de Chaac.
Now, onto the Valdur interview.
SLUG: Valdur is from Northern California, which people know is vastly different from So Cal unless they failed geography. How much do the mountain and forest surroundings influence Valdur’s music?
Lord Sxuperion: It is a major influence. It is just about personal space and freedom. We all have a laugh when people try to associate Valdur with beaches or cities. California harbors the highest peak in the lower 48 states at over 14,000 ft (as a part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range) and that peak is basically right in our backyard. Mammoth Lakes has snow on the ground for 8 months of the year and for most of the winter, it is 20 ft. deep and buries our homes. There are snowstorms here that last for many weeks without end. Although we have much respect for many people we know who live in cities and urban areas, this lifestyle is how it has always been for us and it provides us with all that we need. We live a very lawless lifestyle, but we are not out to prove anything to anyone else.
SLUG: The title of the new album, Raven God Amongst Us, is also the name of a track you did on the awesome split with Lightning Swords of Death. Is there a general theme behind the album or different lyrical concepts spread throughout the record?
L.S.: We felt it befitting to use that song title from the split as the title for the full length, as it has a lot of meaning to us personally. There is no certain theme to this new album—Valdur follows no set rules or ideas on how to do things so we just do what feels right for us.
SLUG: The new album has a couple tracks that don’t have English titles, and I’m fairly certain they are not sung in English either. What language is it, and why the change up from English?
Thor: From the beginning, many of Valdur’s lyrics have been written and sung in Norwegian due to the fact that Norwegian is my mother tongue and it is easier for me write in Norwegian than English. I guess we could keep it simple and stick to one language, but the lyrics have more meaning to me when I don’t have to translate them to English first. It’s obvious that it would be unwise to write a whole album in Norwegian, but a few songs in a different language adds to any album, in this case Raven God Amongst Us.
SLUG: As far as being a band, you’ve been around for a bit, but you’re first album was only released in 2007. What has the road leading up to the new record been like? Any advice for US black metal bands in particular onn how to get their music heard?
L.S.: Valdur is not really a black metal band, as in my eyes, to be a “black metal” band you must conform to the rules of that genre. Valdur is just extreme metal. We started this band around 2003, although I was really working towards this as far back as the mid to late 90s. Everything for this new record has been self-funded and self realized by the band as a whole, so we basically have no one helping us or handing us money. Of course it would be great for someone to assist us in the funding of such ventures. As far as advice goes, I guess if you want to be a USBM band, then you should wear a bunch of face paint and spikes that you just purchased, and then go ahead and copy everyone else's music. Or, you can follow your own heart and see where it leads you. I do very much support different modern “black metal” bands from all over the earth, it still provides me with great satisfaction, just like all metal in general, but as a musician that plays in Valdur as well as a few other metal bands it is important for me to not play by the rules.
SLUG: I don’t want to necessarily want to say that the new record is better produced than previous efforts, but it’s a more concise, clearer album, and in my general opinion the best material you’ve yet to release. What currently drives and influences the band musically? Raven God seems to have bits of everything (raw black metal, melodies, definite European influence), but all coming off with it’s own style.
L.S.: My first influence is how bands that start out very strong can then get musically and spiritually weaker as they progress. I could name off so many bands that do this, and 95% of the time it is a major disappointment. This disappointment is something that drives us all in Valdur as musicians and as individuals working harder on our music and our spirit. As far as our European influence, this mostly comes from Thor (his given name), as he is from Norway and he cannot help but naturally bring these feelings to the songwriting. As opposed to having just a few musical influences in this band, we have many different types of metal influences that we find very important to the end results.
SLUG: What would you say makes Valdur stand out amongst not only US black metal, but black metal in general?
L.S.: We build our own foundations. I enjoy many different things in life, so opening as many doors as possible allows one to transcend. This is how to enable oneself to move forward and feel complete.
SLUG: What’s the first album you ever purchased? Do you still listen to it and does it still influence you today?
L.S.: The first one for me was Mercyful Fate’s Melissa, right around when it came out. Mercyful Fate will always be a huge influence for me.
Thor: Besides the rather obvious Slayer, Metallica and so forth, the first album that really influenced me was Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk by Emperor. It’s still a killer album, and although I do not think it influences Valdur’s music much, it made me realize what style of metal I would be playing long before I picked up a guitar.
SLUG: Is there anything you’ve been listening too lately that derives some sort of excitement or enjoyment?
L.S.: Azarath, Blut Aus Nord, Brian Eno, Inquisition, Archgoat, Dead Congregation, Lull, etc.
Thor: L.S. gives me a lot of music to listen to. Drudkh is good in the mountains, and Azarath is just amazing. And of course Lightning Swords of Deaths new album is so fuckin’ good. On the road I heard a lot of killer stuff, not only in the tour bus, but also live. Mutilation Rites and Funeral Pyre being a few bands (but far from all) I really enjoyed.
Napalm Flesh exclusive Black Metal CD reviews:
A Forest of Stars
Opportunistic Thieves of Spring
A Forest of Stars = Drudkh + My Dying Bride + Forest Stream
Ah, the dreaded metal sub-genre tag. Metal fans have some OCD issues because everything has to be labeled—and correctly labeled. The UK’s A Forest of Stars, from what I’ve seen, are labeled as psychedelic black metal. After giving their second full-length offer extensive listening treatments, it doesn’t much feel psychedelic at all. It’s rather doom-oriented and atmospheric—it’s association with black metal is a loose one. Genre aside the album is an eclectic, avant and broodingly humbling mixture of beautiful flute and violin work with harsher guitars and vocals. There is very much a feeling of exorcising demons here—it has that sense of purge and cleanse and it all plays out extremely well. The record is over an hour in length, but doesn’t feel too time consuming. It contains six tracks, the shortest at roughly 8 minutes and the longest, the downright disturbingly creepy and epic “Delay’s Progression,” is 16 and half minutes. For fans of dark music which uses a variety of instruments and guitar structuring this album is not to miss. Listened to as a whole it leaves you with a rather bleak feeling – individual songs each have their own emotional stirring powers and uniqueness to them. The band’s title fits them, as I could fully envision myself listening to this and sitting in a forest peering through the treetops to see the stars and well feeling rather insignificant.
Maniac Butcher = Immortal (old) + Mayhem + Bathory + Darkthrone
It’s been ten years since arguably the best black metal band from the Czech Republic, Maniac Butcher, released Epitaph, their supposed swansong. Thank Satan they decided to regroup and show all the black metal kiddies out there what straightforward, true black metal is. It’s almost as if the band got swallowed up in a wormhole for ten years, because don’t really sound like they’ve skipped a beat. Well, maybe they amped up the production value a bit, but it’s friggin’ pristine, yet still visceral and raw as black metal is meant to be. Barbarud Hrom’s vocals are a welcome, venom-spewing atrocity that propels the maddening mid-to-fast tempo, lower-tuned, churning, tremolo-rolling mayhem that is Masakr’s guitars. There is serious warrior-worthy black metal shred going on too, giving the record a battle, banner-carrying feeling, and almost instantaneously inducing fist pumping. A good hunk of the forebears of black metal have gone soft or far from the realm of what they were, so it’s a good thing that lying in the underground there are still some forefathers that are purveying the utmost unholy black metal anthems. There are some moments when the drum sounds a bit too produced, but the songwriting in the six tracks and 30 minutes of sheer mayhem of Masakr is worth a little bit of digital mix boarding error. Thank you for returning, Maniac Butcher, and making me forget some of the major black metal atrocities of the last ten years.
Satanic Warmaster = Mayhem (old) + Burzum (old) + Immortal (old)
It is purely by chance that this latest album from the highly notorious and controversial black metal artist Satanic Warmaster fell into my lap. I knew of the artist’s notoriety and existence and the fact that the man behind the band is an outspoken unafraid to speak his opinion no matter the consequence. However, I had never heard a single piece of music from Satanic Warmaster. I could have gone and listened to some previous material, but I wanted this new album to be the first impression, so this review could be a judgment from a newcomer’s mind. The production is lo-fi on purpose, and I understand that, but unfortunately it sacrifices portions of the music that could really stand out—the bulk of the guitar work, which sounds starkly mesmerizing, gets fuzzed out by the album’s production. Even with that fact it doesn’t fully detract. What I thought would be hatred-infused black metal is more of a menacing monster—not brashly upfront and brazen, but cold, lurking and even somber. “Warmaster Returns” is the album’s best and most frightening track. I was surprised to find this record as cold and less hateful than I expected. Peel back the layers of black metal elitist attitude and controversy and you have an artist that stands strong behind his music, and it’s music worth listening to.
Interview related re-posted reviews:
Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult
Inquisition = Immortal + Bestial Mockery + Burzum
Get it while it’s hot, folks: Colombian-born Inquisition’s debut full-length, Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult, which has undergone multiple represses from the label that originally released it Sylphorium Records, has been given a more-than-worthy reissue and re-master treatment by Hells Headbangers. The album is now scarier than ever the mid-tempo, raw, black-metal sound tinged with thrash elements comes in a bit clearer, bass tones are more audible and guitar sounds are sharper. All of it increased in volume and still is as amazing and relevant as it was when it was first released in 1998. Most importantly, the raw elements of the record remain intact. While the playing and song structures are an excellent and unique excursion into darkened black- and thrash-metal realms, it’s the vocals that make this album stand out, with their monotone, eerie screeching, as well as some nice atmospheric audio samples, all giving you that feeling of witnessing some bizarre occult or satanic ritual.
The Light-Devouring Darkness
Archgoat = Revenge + Blasphemy + Beherit
“I want to kill everyone, Satan is good, Satan is our pal” is quite possibly the best part/line from the almost-cult Tom Hanks comedy flick, The Burbs. Well, listen to Archgoat enough and let its grime, grit and occult, Satanic-filled darkness fill your heart you’re going to feel the literal sense of that quote. Archgoat’s death/black metal, ravishingly heavy tunes purveyed on The Light-Devouring Darkness are perfectly paced for the album: they’re not hyper-speed or dirge-slow, just menacingly mean and raw tinges of doom pour out of some of the cuts. With this sardonic work, influences are bared with distinction; there is no possible way to listen to this record and not be reminded of the glorious Canadian act Blasphemy, though each song on this beast is its own branding of devious content. All of it contains a darkness that you’ll welcome into your mind, body and soul over and over again.