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Valgrind - Blackest Horizon Award winner

Valgrind
Blackest Horizon
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 07 May 2018, 7:15 AM

I don’t know what Italy is doing to be a source of such great musicians but VALGRIND is yet another bad ass Death Metal band.  These crazy Italians play Old School Death Metal and they do so with such dedication that if I didn’t know better, I would think this was a lost recording from the late 80’s/early 90’s “hey day” of Death Metal.  Their previous release, last year’s “Seal of Phobos,” was a great release but as an EP, it was, obviously, too short.  It definitely left me wanting more…and did I ever get it.  “Blackest Horizon,” is this band’s third full length and one of the best Death Metal albums of the year.

“What makes this band so special?” is something you might be wondering.  It’s a good question though.  If they play such a well-established sound then what really sets them apart?  Why not just stick with the old DM records of yesteryear?  Because you would be missing out on an album (and band) that respects what came before them but also throws enough of their own personality in the pot to not be copy cats of any one band.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that the members of this band are top notch musicians of their individual crafts.  Their talent is such they could easily veer off into a more technical play style.  Hell, I could see these guys playing some crazy fucking Prog.  But none of them show off or play outside the realm of their established sound in such a way that would complicate their pure intentions of playing blistering Death Metal.

They don’t so much as bludgeon your head to death with a mallet, leaving a messy gore across the room but rather they have honed their craft into the sharpest of razor’s edge that cuts so fast and deep, you’re dead three times before you hit the ground.  You have to understand that, although they have been only released a few full lengths, Eps, and demos, they have been around since the mid 90’s. If anything, they are coming out of the shadows to show us the missing gaps through the years that even the past legends let slip by.

Elia and Poncina are riff machines with dynamics that stretch all across the genre. It doesn’t matter if they want to move you with their old school groove, pummel you with brutality, or make you think with their keen sense of melody and insane guitar solos….these guys make everything they play sound modern yet futuristic and dangerous, using the past traditions of Death Metal to piece together their own tapestry of fury. Listen to the opening music to “Victorious,” and tell me you don’t feel like you just didn’t get hit by a bull dozer.  Those riffs are a rare combination of heavy, memorable, and searing.

The title track has some spacey synths that bring a bit of NOCTURNUS but they aren’t out of place. In fact, the rest of the song builds upon that sci fi atmosphere, especially the spacey guitars at 1:14  that sound so perfect coming out of that almost Doom like wall of sound that preceded them. The fury of “The Empire Burns,” is indeed scorching but so are the solos.  Not since Trey from MORBID ANGEL, have I heard such imaginative guitar solos that ride the line between “wow” and “what the fuck?”  The melodic part that comes out of these solos around the 3:33 mark is nothing short of mesmerizing, recalling memories of myself hearing ANATA’s “The Infernal Depths of Hatred,” for the first time.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the other two band members.  Vocalist/Bassist Lupidi gives me goosebumps because his vocals definitely have a mid-period Chuck Schuldiner style; very brutal but also (somewhat) easy to understand. His fret work on the bass is equally as impressive and often times I found myself ignoring the other instruments just to focus on him.  Bass should be the most important element to a band of this style but all too often it isnt so I’m glad he is fully utilized.  AGOSTI’s drums are surgical in their precision level but he puts a lot of thought and heart into his style.  He isn’t bashing the drums because the genre expects him to; he plays what he feels he needs to do while still incorporating that classic Death Metal drum sound.

This album just has an incredible sense of urgency and it is energized to the max.  The last three tracks, a trilogy called “Last Angel,” really bring the record to a wonderful close and exemplify this album’s feeling.  My favorite of the three has to be “Hades Horseman,” because of the machine gun riffs in the beginning, the mind bending guitar solos, and the wonderful keyboard outro that ends the track on a much smoother note than it began. I hear everything from PESTILENCE to MORBID ANGEL in this album but I come away with the knowledge that these Italians are their own band with their own sound and, most importantly, a strong will to keep Death Metal alive.  If VALGRIND keep making records like this, they will soon be the legends they so greatly honor and will have people worshiping at their own already considerable altar.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Victorious
2. Sunken Temple of Initiated
3. Third and Last
4. The Blackest Horizon
5. Sacrificial Journey
6. The Empire Burns
7. The Fist
8. Last Angel (Into the Unknown)
9. Last Angel (The Psychonaut)
10. Last Angel (Hades Horseman)
Lineup:
Daniele Lupidi – Vocals/Bass
Massimiliano Elia – Lead and Rhythm Guitars/Keyboards
Umberto Poncina – Rhythm and Lead Guitars/Keyboards
Gianmarco Agosti – Drums
Record Label: Everlasting Spew Records
     


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