Dark, decedent and delicious are all words that come to me when listening to German band Valborg’s fifth album. Although they have been around for a while and released quite a bit this is my first encounter with them and it’s not by choice as with a title like Nekrodepression I would certainly have been inspired to check out their last album before this in 2012 if it had come my way. Members of this trio also serve time in the likes of Owl, Klabautamann, Woburn House and Gruenewald who I also have never encountered so as far as dipping into these six tracks of self-described “sombre avant blackened beauty” I really was going in completely blind. Luckily after a couple of listens things really did start sinking in and I found myself getting more than a little Romantik.
I am first struck by very film sounding keyboards brooding away over a sinister whispering and rasped vocal part on opener ‘Vampyr.’ One gets the feeling of John Carpenter updating Dreyer’s classic film and cloaking it in shrouds and shadows of fog. Slow booming drums and glistening keys and guitars open into a chant fuelled ritualistic dark sermon with a real gothic feel at its bleeding heart. It’s dreamy and full of sturm und drang as it atmospherically flows out the speakers sinuously uncoiling and it has to be said feeling very Germanic in essence as well. It takes them 6 and a half minutes before the title of track is richly chanted with a lush harmonic melody behind it reminding of a band like Bethlehem as much as Moonspell who it’s impossible not to think of in remembrance of their classic similarly entitled song. Vangelis is mentioned in the PR and the retro keyboard sound that crops up on songs like Blitz aus Sodom is certainly reminiscent here and again there is a very filmic sense. With the vocals and the song title again austerely chanted out there is a bit of Rammstein amidst this tone wise but the melody cites earlier Krautrock and certainly the instrumental reach of Tangerine Dream ensnared in a mesh of gothic doom. By ‘Contesse’ it’s hard not to close your eyes and imagine the stark black and white visions of German expressionist films. The drama and sinister intentions increase and tension fills the air, something is lurking cadaverously and it certainly rises up out the tomb and sinks teeth in as the vocals rise and become ever more Teutonically strident. As for the cold and icy synth-lines enforcing the sombre melody they really send a shiver down the spine and the horror behind this all is incredibly vampiric, and utterly supreme in its majesty.
Vocals again change hitting rafter reaching croons on the dark worshipful reverence of ‘Sulphur Vitriol Angel’ and it takes a second but then clicks how much they remind of SepticFlesh at this juncture. Musically we are at a much more pumped up segment of things amidst the full coven that have now come out of the shadows to swoop down in all their ghastly glory. With choral parts adding a neo-classical touch the rich dark symphonic flow here is both horrifying and beautiful and would no doubt enrapture anyone unwittingly into its arms and undead embrace. ‘Kryptische Arroganz’ has a huge sense of drama and flair with the vocals really singing and crooning at their utmost here with underlying keyboard work spellbinding beneath the ever present hugs bass sound which beats like a heart over the top of everything. Some completely necrotic vocal parts come in totally in command, barking away before clean devotional parts sing in praise to what I can only surmise is the dark count who is head of this aged nest. ‘The Haunted Womb’ perhaps sees everything gradually fade back into the darkness it came from with dawn approaching but with horrendous and indignant croaks, gasps and shrieks it certainly is not going quietly.
‘Romantik’ is horror personified in musical form, grim and equally gorgeous. Once it has you in its grasp it totally entrances and mesmerises making it impossible to escape. Consider me part of the Valborg coven.
(8/10 Pete Woods)