Valborg - _Barbarian_
(Zeitgeister Music, 2011)
by: Mark Dolson (9 out of 10)
It's cold, dank and dark down here. And, aside from the fact that I can't really see much (save for my own hand in front of my face) for the light smoke, I'm taking solace in the fact that there's such a distinctive atmosphere pervading these depths that I don't really want to leave -- even though the encroaching sense of discomfort is orienting me toward some sort of escape, as hopeless as it seems. I'm mired here in this, one of the most dolorous places to be held a passive victim; a desperate captive. To what, though? For what? No, this isn't a real place I'm describing -- in the sense of having some material, tangible existence. No, quite the contrary: these are the images and feelings I get when listening to the newest effort by Germany's mighty and unpredictable Valborg.

Picking up where they left off with 2010's _Glorification of Pain_, Valborg set out to haunt our minds with another epic journey through disharmonic and languid soundscapes -- disjointed and punctuated as they are by moments of clarity, and, maybe, freedom. However, these moments are short lived as the sea-swell of bleak emotion rises again and again with such power that the listener is invariably swept out somewhere as stark and dismal as the passage that came before. With _Barbarian_, Valborg present somewhat of a strange album. Where _Glorification_ was a shuffling, heaving, and roaring monster -- what with its heavy and plodding riffs, occasional thrash beats, and uncomfortably dissonant keyboard passages -- _Barbarian_ is a much calmer, more measured affair.

Gone are the thrash beats, and anything that resembles the contours of death metal in its genetic constitution, interpretation and delivery. _Barbarian_ is still dark and heaving in its 52 minute fortitude, but there is something really, really different about this album compared to its predecessor. To me, the spiritual essence of _Barbarian_ is still vaguely Celtic Frost in its orientation (as with _Glorification of Pain_); however, this time round things are much slower (almost trudging at points), dissonantly groovier, and dare I say -- simpler. There is something straightforward, stripped down, and almost monotonous about the riffs that cycle through the songs -- which, ultimately, constructs such fantastic atmosphere and imagery.

So, too, with _Barbarian_, it seems that we're also given much more in terms of cleaner passages -- cleaner I should say in two senses: more atmospheric clean guitar passages, and clean"er" vocals. With respect to the former, every so often we'll hear some dirge-like clean guitar passages which have an oddly spell-binding effect in their meanderingly and hypnotically plucked gait. With respect to the latter, we're given quite a bit of variety in terms of vocal range. Coupled with the fairly low-range and gruff vocals is a more Tom G. Warrior-style huff -- albeit a little lower in pitch. Occasionally, too, there are some really interesting and highly unique clean vocals that, for some bizarre reason, remind me of David Bowie -- don't ask why, this is just the first name that comes to mind.

Each and every track on this album is deserving of merit (all the way from the great song titles, to the lyrics, down to the actual songs themselves); however, there is one stand out track that I keep listening to over and over again. "Samantha Alive" is a bizarre yet addictive affair inasmuch as it is a mix of '70s space-rock, prog-rock (that borders Rush circa 1981), and heavy-metal -- all of which seethes pure rock, and an otherworldly atmosphere. Clocking in at almost ten minutes, if this track doesn't pull you into some strange and unpredictable orbit, then I don't know what will.

In recalling his account of witnessing Valborg live, the mighty Tom G. Warrior had this to say: "What I saw on stage was an absolute revelation. In my subjective perception it was a very peculiar mixture between Nirvana and Hellhammer. I stood next to the stage, was watching the band, thinking to myself: 'This is madness going on!'" (metal.de, 10.10.2010)

Contact: http://www.myspace.com/siebengebirge

(article published 5/15/2011)


ALBUMS
9/4/2010 M Dolson 9 Valborg - Crown of Sorrow
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