Review: Valdrin – Effigy of Nightmares
Melodic black metal from the literal underground.
Last time around, Valdrin bamboozled me with a sometimes challenging but overall pretty killer record. Upon revisiting it this week, the journey through the realm of Nex Animus, antagonist in the band’s own Ausadjur mythos, drew me right back in. For Effigy of Nightmares, we briefly return there as we follow “a nameless narrator through the halls of Hosptium Mortis, the nightmare hospital below the Orcus underworld itself, where Nex tortures and lobotomizes the dissident gods of his domain.”
Fittingly, then, the album starts out with an intro track in which whispered vocals set the stage, which is further fleshed out in the first proper track. Regrettably, neither do a lot to really hook me; the intro is… well, an intro, and “Exsanguination Tunnels” mostly feels like it plods along a bit listlessly. Only when the narrator sets eyes upon the first tortured god do things take a turn for the better.
This striding riff in the first part of the song had me perk up, and the swirling, effect-laden part after the first verse, appropriately feeling like it moves ever downwards, was much more effective at pulling me into the album’s world. I was taken right back out of that with the following interlude though, which brings back the whispering vocals from the intro accompanied by clean guitar. It’s subtitled “In the Respite of Nex,” but having only been here for ten minutes, I don’t feel like a respite is really needed, especially since the songs have so far been more straightforward than on the last album.
A sort of streamlining does indeed seem to be the name of the game. While the sophomore was better off for being shorter than the debut, Effigy of Nightmares takes that to the next level: barely exceeding thirty minutes, you end up with more of an EP’s worth of material if you subtract the intro and the interlude. This brevity allows the band to get away with a bit less variation in their sound and lean more heavily on pure black metal. Synths now rarely grab the attention directly, but are relegated more to the background, where they provide eerie colouring. Clean vocals are gone completely. This could become lamentable on a longer outing, but serves the atmosphere well here, and needn’t be a portent of the band’s future sound, given that they will return to the main story for their next effort.
The tapestry of black metal with subtle keyboard accompaniment is well exemplified by the absolutely raging “Basilisk of Light,” which later winds down to lead into the closer. While largely anchored in mid-tempo, “Down the Oubliette of Maelstrom” has plenty of quick tempo changes, making it feel like it’s convulsing in the throes of agony, much like the god it describes hanging from a noose, unable to die. It’s the longest but also the most consistently interesting track, making for a strong finish to balance out the mediocre opening.
While the album feels like more of a snack to hold you over until the next meal and is structured a bit oddly, there’s enough solid material here to earn it
3.5 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets
Effigy of Nightmares will be out this Friday and is available for pre-order over at Blood Harvest Records.