Reviewed [April 2021]
Released [2021 Soulseller Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Norway’s Valdaudr pick up the reins from the long-running black metal project Cobolt 60 that issued albums in 2002 and 2012, but couldn’t quite make it to its third decade. Guitarist Daniel “Død” Olaisen from Blood Red Throne (BRT)/Zerozonic and Cobolt 60 partner and one-time BRT frontman Flemming Gluch, aka “Mr. Hustler,” apparently parted ways around 2018, leading Død to team with yet another former BRT frontman, Osvald “Vald” Egeland, change the project’s name and keep moving things forward.
There’s not really much in the way of “forward” in Valdaudr’s sound, which for the most part is straight-up, vintage black metal at its most primal. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On Drapsdalen, it is authentic, purposeful and quite entertaining, a la Darkthrone only with a greater sense of adventure.
It most definitely is raw – though certainly not low-fi, like so many militantly “necro” nostalgia projects that equate “true” with sounding like shit. Here, the unpolished, natural production sounds like the band was recorded live in a jam room, especially the drums – courtesy of Rune Nesse from Taake – which clatter and clang like you’re sitting right next to them. And it provides the perfect ambiance for the roughshod tunes that make up Drapsdalen.
“Liket Skulle Vaert Brent” gets things started with a chug-and-blast delivery that is both abrasive and irresistibly catchy, with Vald’s croaking rasp and Nesse’s drum rattle offset by a clutch of bruising, buoyant hooks – a nod to Død’s work with the Pantera-like Zerozonic. “Trass og Vrede” follows by offering up some slashing, early-Emperor like licks and trems, again punctuated by Død’s headbang-able grooves, and the rest of the album pretty falls into place from there, with varying degrees of the same theme.
Valdaudr’s relative simple approach is its strong point, allowing the band to focus on execution, a lesson once again learned from Darkthrone. “Evig Langt Inn I Tiden” is effectively eerie with its modestly slower tempo and sparser instrumentation allowing Vald’s phlegmy voice to set the mood. By the same token, his Gregorian chant-like cleans on “Den Evige Ild” provide a dramatic contrast the song’s almost Judas Priest-like traditional metal construction and sporadic black metal sprints, a pretty fucked up combination that works surprisingly well.
The epic closing track “Kom, Bestig Vaare Fjell” represents the one departure of sorts here, stretching out the arrangement, interspersing acoustic guitar and featuring more prominent and opulent chanted cleans amid its jack-hammering black metal. It smacks more of Mayhem than Darkthrone, but adds a fiendish twist at the end that serves the album well.