Review: Valdrin – Two Carrion Talismans
High-speed storytelling, chapter two.
You may have seen the name Valdrin float around the Toilet recently, for example when lizards and bears alike expressed their fondness for the preview track from this, Valdrin’s sophomore, in the recent Appendix Podcast, or when Dubya rightfully fawned over the decidedly cool mythos of the band’s own making which fuels their lyrics. Perhaps you’ve also heard their hour-long behemoth of a debut, in which case I’m sure you’ll agree that things have only gotten better.
Over the course of listening to the promo several times, I’ve come to think of this album as divided into two parts. It’s not a sharp, definite divide, but it roughly corresponds to the first four and last four tracks, so that’s how I’ll tackle this.
The first half to me is characterized by very intense forward momentum. The speed here is higher on average; the guitars tend to dish out riffs that are sometimes dizzyingly fast, racing up and down the fretboard in a precise, well-choreographed ballet. And even in moments where they take it slower, a certain driving energy is kept up by the sheer fact that the drummer is an absolute god damn beast on the double bass, often underpinning whole sections of songs with insane footwork. Second song “Nex – The Barren Sculptor” illustrates both this and another characteristic of this first half, which is the more pronounced interplay of faster and slower parts.
This might be exaggerating a bit, but I frequently get the feeling of being pulled through parts of tumultuous chaos packed with complex instrumentation, in which bewildering mirages twist and contort, always skirting at the edge of my focus. This is broken up by slower, more easily discernible parts, where songs briefly plateau, usually to the accompaniment of the beautiful keyboard lines – more on those later – only to then plunge right back into the pandemonium. It’s an incredibly engaging experience, but I think if the whole album was like this, I’d quickly end up exhausted.
This brings us to the second part. Starting with “Tempest Torn Asunder” – a killer track, perhaps the killerest of them all – the compositions start to settle more and more from song to song. With increasing frequency, the songs dwell in areas that my feeble brain is better able to comprehend and follow along with. This is not to say that this section of the record is slow throughout or in any way boring. It’s more like structure and a certain order are gradually being imposed, a path revealing itself where before there was a thicket. “Vesper in the Animus Lair” is the first song to introduce clean vocals in one of its calmer parts, and “Crimson Blades…” has this middle bit with just drums and undistorted guitars. The drums eventually fade away as well and the longest section of clean vocals starts, supporting the impression that the album is indeed winding down.
Now, a note about that aforementioned keyboard. It’s fucking great. Two songs sport beautiful intros made of it, and every part that features it conjures wonderful atmosphere, be it majestic or foreboding, be it following along with what the guitars are doing or stepping into the foreground to do its own thing. It feels like a splendid recontextualization of the melodic bits from some 90s black metal albums (Emperor or Sacramentum, for example). Finally, the album’s brief outro fits in well with my recent appreciation of Old Sorcery, mixing dungeon synth and synthwave vibes, feeling like it would be equally at home at a D&D session as in an 80s flick. Once again: it’s beautiful.
I do have one little gripe with the album, relating mostly to the roaring first half. As opposed to the whopping 66 minutes of the debut, this album clocks in at roughly 45 minutes, and while I welcome this hugely, it does sometimes feel like Valdrin are almost overturning in their haste to move things along quicker, which leads to songs feeling a bit like a blur sometimes. It seems like they’ve excised overly lengthy bits without reducing the amount of content they want to cover, making especially those first four songs a little hard to keep up with.
Overall though, I think the album still benefits from said excisions, and proves that a concept album doesn’t need 10+ minute songs or lengthy atmospheric bits to convey its narrative. I’ve certainly come away very impressed and would say this absolutely deserves
4.5 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets
Two Carrion Talismans is available now via Blood Harvest. Find physical and digital versions here, and see what the band is up to here.