Released: 2010, Bloody Mountain Records
There is a bloody mountain of USBM out there! California’s Valdur have been making some minor headway with a decent debut and a split with Lightning Swords of Death. Essentially RAVEN GOD AMONGST US is a DIY project, self-produced, self-financed affair, so it is about as uncorrupted a musical vision as you could get.
Compact and to the point, RAVEN GOD AMONGST US starts with a nice ominous and atmospheric intro and then rips through eight songs in about half an hour. There are some milder, slower doom-ish or perhaps even ambient moments as found at the tail end of ‘Vicious Existence’. For the most part Valdur offer a proud representation of Black Metal, not too many frills, no big-budget production, just the classic sound. The guitars are pretty relentless, not really much soloing going on. The drums hammer away mercilessly as well. The vocals are mixed a little farther back giving a more open sound, although by no means is the production ‘bad on purpose’. The songs flow very well, quite melodic, maybe little hints of Bathory in the mix.
A little bit of a side-bar….I’m mildly skeptical when USBM bands adopt Scandinavian lyrics. Unless someone from the band is specifically from that region and writing the lyrics why bother? It’s akin to when Megadeth did the chorus of ‘A Toute Le Monde’. It didn’t make sense. I can understand when a band like Manowar does multiple language versions of a song, but that song was originally written in their native tongue. When Black Metal bands that aren’t from Norway (or Northern Europe in general) do alternate languages, it vaguely seems to me as an attempt to establish a connection to something that initially happened on the other side of the planet (from California in this case) over 20 years ago.
However, on the other hand, members of the Scorpions can barely speak English and Klaus has been singing in English for years, so It’s not that big a deal. Besides what else is a USBM band from California supposed to sing about? Disneyland? In any event vocalist Thor apparently is from Norway so it is kinda cool in that sense. Thor’s vocals have a fair range from gruff to a bit of a higher register and he flows between the two styles with ease. There are even some doom-laced chants here and there adding to the morbid feeling.
RAVEN GODS AMONGST US is a very strong entry into a small, crowded and very competitive field. I sincerely doubt the band thinks that way or even cares what others are doing, however from the perspective of the consumer, if you are like me with limited resources and dozens of bands to check out, Valdur should get put higher on your list.