Dark things are going on in the pleasant Dutch city of Utrecht. In the last couple of years I have discovered and been inspired by the atmospheric music of Laster and Vuur & Zijde. So when I saw a connection between Verval and Laster, and numerous other bands, my interest was aroused. The EP “Beeldenstorm” is a follow up to the band’s first album “Wederkeer”, released in 2018. It is hailed “atmospheric black metal with a fair share of neo-classical influences”.

For Vuur & Zijde it was Noordzee. Verval’s opener is “Vlammenzee” (Sea of Flames). Howling winds and the dirtiest black metal greet us. From the outset we are blown over by the overwhelming force. But in spite of the sheer weight, melancholic and expressive guitar passages appear through the gloom. A strange haunting horn-like sound adds a further dimension as the carnage continues. It’s like riding on the crest of a dirty black wave. Having washed us away with this sea of flames, the period of mourning begins. All has been devastated. The minimalist tones reflect the barren wasteland. The wind whistles and we hear the sound of objects flapping. This may not depict the happiest day of our lives, but it this reality is vivid. The melancholic reflection neatly leads into the title track. The devastation occurred in “Vlammenzee” while now the imperious forces of nature impose themselves at the start of “Beeldenstorm” (Iconoclasm). From this epic scene where the nature stands powerfully still, the storm breaks loose once more, and a turbulent wall of sound erupts and envelops us. It dies down, and as the rain and wind exert their sway, Verval introduce rich colours of sadness. Seamlessly the intensity level increases again and we’re back into the chaos and the irresistible forces. “Een leven tussen één en nul” (A life between one and zero) has that crushing atmosphere that one associates with black metal. Leaden-heavy of course, at first it is like being weighed down by a stone. As we fight back, it explodes into fiery melody before playing with us and fleetingly depicting a sombre scene. “Een leven tussen één en nul” swings between fire and moodiness, between life and death even. There’s not much life though as each powerful passage takes us through ominous stages of decay, which conveniently is what Verval means in English.

If ever I get back to visit Utrecht, I shall be looking round every corner for its dark forces. Verval have made their contribution to this alternative tourist trail with this raw, fiery, moody, impressive and atmospherically black metal work.

(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)