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Vallendusk - Homeward Path

Homeward Path
by Danny Sanderson at 09 August 2015, 2:07 AM

 Indonesia is home to some of the best and most original Extreme Metal bands coming out at the moment. However, when you think of the Indonesian scene, you're more likely to think of the visceral Grindcore of acts such as WORMROT as opposed to, for example, Epic Black Metal. The thriving Grindcore/Death Metal scene in this nation often overshadows it's Black Metal, which is a shame, because the Black Metal that does materialise here is excellent. Perhaps the most well known Indonesian Black Metal act is Jakarta based VALLENDUSK, a four piece Atmospheric Black Metal outfit that, in the four years since their formation, have already released an excellent EP and debut album that has cemented their reputation on the international scene. Their sophomore record, "Homeward Path", builds on the strengths of their debut, and proves to everyone, including the contemporaries of their home scene, that sometimes you don't have to be overtly loud and aggressive in your approach in order to gain a following and notable kudos worldwide.

The album begins on a high note, with the atmospheric and powerful "Windswept Plains". The music on offer here definitely sounds quite fierce, and unlike many Epic/Atmospheric/Ambient Black Metal acts, many of the hooks are derived from the guitars, drums and vocals, as opposed to the atmospheric qualities. Rather than relying on it, it merely cloaks the music in it. This is an unexpected but nice change that definitely makes this album stand out from the herd right off the bat. By utilising harsher and cleaner tones, the music is able to ebb and flow effectively, and helps break up the track, throwing in new elements to maintain the listeners interest. All the things you'd expect from Black Metal are here; from the acidic rasp of the vocals through to the tight tremolo picked guitar lines and punishing drums, this is a solid, interesting piece of Black Metal with a few Folky flourishes peppering the unrelenting assault of the music. "Earth Serpent" follows in much the same vein, with atmospherics used sparingly, yet effectively, allowing the music to draw the listener in. We get some chanted vocal sections, a small but useful tool that can turn any song by any given Black Metal band from a decent track to a potential future classic. In terms of instrumentation, this particular song is filled with literally dozens of different riffs that all make the overall song sound epic, full, and above all, amazing. This is the sort of song that was designed for live shows, and I can really see this being a fan favourite in a live setting, maybe even the cornerstone of their live set-list. "The Anchors", this album third offering, practically charges out of the speakers with razor sharp, speed driven riffs, juggernaut drum lines and some impressive vocals. This is a much more reserved, and dare I say it, straight forward Black Metal song when compared with the first two. This doesn't mean this is by any means generic; there are plenty of cleaner, almost acoustic, guitar pieces in this song that help to beef out the sound and really give this song an epic quality.

"The Wayfarers", a much more short and concise offering as far as this record goes, is an epic, charging piece of music with a lot of melodic tinges that really help bring this track to life. It doesn't stick around and dwell on a theme or idea for too long, which I think is one of its key strengths. This kind of Black Metal, although great, has a tendency to be vast and sprawling, repeating and returning to a lyrical or musical idea until it becomes stagnant. This is a band that do very well at avoiding this and keeping their music interesting from the first note to the last. Track number five, the aggressive and grim sounding "Ring of Fire", is a much longer affair than the preceding track, but it stands as one of the most memorable tracks on here. The music takes a palpable and clearly darker turn at this point, with robust, brooding riffs and sharp, acidic vocals that go hand and hand with the music perfectly. The more epic aspects of the song gradually get more noticeable, until it's quite clear to hear. The thing that makes this such a great track is something that makes all the best Epic and Atmospheric Black Metal releases as brilliant as they are; it elicits an emotional response from you. "Eyes of the Watcher", a very Folk-laden track that borders on a Black Metal jig, sounds absolutely monolithic throughout, with all the various components blending to create a vast, bombastic wall of noise. This is one of those songs that can only be a penultimate track; the rest of the album has been a taster for this particular song, and it is designed to act as one of this records highest points. The records final track, "Grains of Horizon", brings all the bands various aspects of the bands sound together, from the melodic and the atmospheric through to the fierce and aggressive. In particular, the use of different vocal styles, from Black Metal snarls to chanting, really makes this song an impressive closing gambit. It's definitely a great note on which to end this excellent record.

If you are looking for something in the vein of CALADAN BROOD or SUMMONING here, you might be in for a surprise. The emphasis is certainly on the Black Metal rather than the epic and atmospheric elements, but this is what makes this album unique. There are definitely grand and awe inspiring sound-scapes on here, but these elements often take a back seat in order to let the guitars, drums and vocals do the talking. It's well worth checking out, and I'd definitely recommend giving this a listen at least once.

4 Star Rating

1. Windswept Plains
2. Earth Serpent
3. The Anchors
4. The Wayfarers
5. Ring of Fire
6. Eyes of the Watcher
7. Grains of Horizon
Derick Prawira- Drums
Danang Sugianto- Guitars
Valendino Mithos- Guitars
Rizky- Vocals
Record Label: Northern Silence Productions


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Edited 03 December 2022

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