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Vahrzaw - In The Shallows Of A Starlit Lake Award winner

In The Shallows Of A Starlit Lake
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 26 February 2023, 9:28 AM

VAHRZAW is an Australian extreme metal band who formed in 1994 under the name Necromancy. They underwent several more name changes before landing on their current moniker. "In The Shallows of a Starlit Lake," is their fifth full length album. In addition, they have released two demos, two splits and three EPs. The only other album of theirs I have heard so far is their previous album, "The Trembling Voices of Conquered Men."That particular album was solid but a bit too short and the bookend tracks were just filler.  However, this new album feels like a much more complete package. Whereas they were doing a weighty combination of death and black metal, this album definitely leans towards black metal.

Honestly, I think it works much better for them. The production, which is both crusty and atmospheric, fits the blackened approach like a glove too. The keys are noteworthy. Sometimes they are subtle, other time they are not. But they are never overbearing but are always beautiful in their own way. The other instruments exist for their own purposes but still build for a greater whole. Each instrument can be singled out as its own journey but the songs are definitely a full beast with each musical limb doing its part to move the monster.

The opening track, "The Amber Glow of the Gaslight," is, at first experience, a go for the throat type of black metal. Fast riffs, hectic drums, screaming vocals…its all here. But dig a little deeper and the details reveal themselves. Like flesh slowly rotting, there is a system underneath that shows what it is made of as time passes. Unlike the flesh, the song only becomes stronger. The ambient/key movement at 2:29 to 3:34 is alien and a little upsetting to the mind. But it is also oddly warm and a beauty of a different sort. The buildup and flow back into heavier sounds is organic and impressive.

The title track rumbles along at a steady pace, the drums and all their little details mix well with the light keys for an atmosphere that paints a very full canvas. I love the guitars that move slow and methodical, warping the mood to their very desires. The bass ties it all together, a perfect partner to every element within the song. A little groove is injected around the halfway point, a chance for the guitars to cut loose and the black metal to flow with the crashing drums. Near the end, unique keys back up the guitar for another round of metal melding with moody soundscapes. The creepy beginning of "At The Mercy of the Shrike," gives little hint of the fury that falls behind it but that is okay because the foreboding mood remains the same. The song hurdles forward on a train of riffs until about the halfway mark. Now the song is back to an unnerving path before bursting into a galloping barrage of guitar/bass that sends out far reaching ripples of destruction.

The song ramps itself up again to an explosive ending that is dangerous and expensive things that are indicative of the album as a whole. The final track, "To Breathe In Leviathan," is absolutely massive in its scope. It is a mini epic that never does anything with less than a thousand percent confidence. A variety of musical passages await as the ambient ending or the unnerving melodic passages that lead up to it. VAHRZAW have majorly upped their game with this album while also throwing a bomb into the black metal genre because it has what it takes to fight its way to the top for the first quarter of the year .

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. The Amber Glow of the Gaslight
2. In the Shallows of a Starlit Lake
3. Phosphorescent Sunrise
4. Pale Lechery
5. At the Mercy of the Shrike
6. Six Verses
7. To Breathe in Leviathan
George van Doorn - Bass, Vocals, Lyrics
Scott Williams - Electric & acoustic guitars, Keyboard, Programming
Brandon Gawith - Drums
Record Label: Bitter Loss Records


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