Album Review: VALDRIN Two Carrion Talismans
Cincinnati isn’t the first place one would, or should, be thinking of when the topic of black metal is tabled. Then again, technology is shrinking the world as quickly as it’s killing it and considering location as it applies to superior black metal, the elements of icy cold, bleakness, and oppression apply to life in rust belt Ohio similarly to and different than those Scandinavian/European locales that gave us the good shit.
Valdrin is a quartet who hail from the former home of the Stingers and the Nets (bonus points if you have any idea what I’m talking about). They were formerly known as Dawn of Wolves and showed much promise with their 2014 debut, Beyond the Forest. It managed to take synthetic symphonics and couple it with an aggressive, street-wise feel. According to their bio, the band, “formed in 2010 with the intent to play a unique form of black/death metal using a lyrical concept called the 'Ausadjur Mythos.' This story combines many aspects of various ancient mythologies and occult practices, all synthesized into one grandiose tale, told through the eyes of the protagonist Valdrin Ausadjur.”
It may be ignorance for not knowing what any of that means, but Beyond the Forest poked holes in most of the band's attempt at draping itself in a veil of grandiosity. Their gritty side emerged as they attempted to sound aristocratic and sophisticated. In actuality, it couldn’t be contained by their true roughshod nature. The band’s own unbridled authenticity thwarted the album, as it were. They attempted to suit up like the aristocracy. Instead, their true colours as shiner-eyed street fighters came through even if the keyboards had the tendency to both accentuate and clutter and often sounded chintzy when they should have been more space age. But with time comes experience and growth, and Valdrin has certainly taken advantage of time passed, lessons learned and exhibited growth on Two Carrion Talismans.
For one thing, album number two presents a much darker force than its predecessor. Whether it’s due to the murkier production quality or the noticeable references to thick ‘n’ brutal death metal, Two Carrion Talismans delivers a more sinister edge. “Nex – The Barren Sculptor” is the album’s first great moment. It merges the worlds of spire high black metal a la Emperor and death metal from the maw of Hate Eternal and Psycroptic with chunky riffing and jagged rhythmic sense. The song’s epic orchestral layers become even more epic through a realistic and spacious timbre that’s better nestled in the mix.
“Sinews of Blood and Vein” sweats and bleeds Immortal. So does the guitar intro and main riffing on “Crimson Blades in the Ausadjur Wake” before it gets swept up by the sails of an Amon Amarth powered longboat. There is a bit of confusion in how much territory the song covers from the mid-point onward though. “Funeral Tides of Orcus” spins guitar, bass, and drum patterns with dizzying quality, flashes of guitar heroism and melodic alacrity—especially during the songs’ outgoing 90 seconds. Encouragingly, most of the song burgeons into earworm territory which can only help the band’s stead in an oversaturated scene.
“Tempest Torn Asunder,” however, does a bit of the opposite. It tries to touch too many subgenres and show off the ability of diversity. They had more success with “Crimson Blades in the Ausadjur Wake,” where they leap from baroque and symphonic black metal to crooning clean sung passages and gothic sequences. There are also brief guitar shredding exercises in this track. However, it is a more jumbled mess than a cohesive song.
There lies this record’s biggest issue. The band is obviously skilled enough to tackle various genres with authenticity and dynamism. The weakness comes in the inconsistency of putting the puzzle pieces together into a holistic work. The straggling and outlying bits need to be synthesized and cleaned up with better care. There’s been a definite improvement, but Valdrin is still climbing a hump in trying to carve out its own identity.