Again the occult black/death unorthodoxy of Valdur rises but this time roughly a month short of a year beyond their last release. On this sixth full-length the project retains its core philosophy so steadfastly that ‘Goat of Iniquity’ roars more earnestly-than-thou than ever with the horror of second wave black metal’s fury preserved within the cryptic atmosphere of ancient death metal’s chasmic presence. Valdur‘s latest exploit is a maddening, welcomed, and glorious byproduct of writhing seclusion and anxiety defined by blasphemic defiance. ‘Goat of Iniquity’ is less the chasm of fire-throated death metallic gusts that was ‘Divine Cessation’ (2017) and instead appears as a string of riveting modular black metal ideas that spiral downward unto noise and dissolution as they play out.
The conception of this latest record is no less intentioned than previous works; That is to say that Valdur continue to tap into a deeper primal vein of black/death metal as their approach to recording and performance remains realistic. The recording is perhaps more ‘live in studio’ than ‘Divine Cessation’ was yet the atmospherics are grand enough that it doesn’t feel like a cheap soundboard recording. The goal appears to be honesty of performance and they make it clear that they’re not using studio trickery or a salad of shortcuts that have become industry standard for today’s black metal. There was a sort of muffled nuclear event happening on these studio recordings that feels beautifully reminiscent of classic mid-90’s blackened death metal. Consider the sort of doomed and rotting death metal of a band like Vastum and then blend with the textural complexity of Averse Sefira‘s guitar work and the rawly slithering attack of Profanatica and you’ll have a general idea of how ‘Goat of Iniquity’ sorts itself out across its six deeply involved tracks.
Valdur operate with this integrity obsessed sound as a major point of interest and as such the responsibility of the record’s longevity is left to its obscure atmospherics as the guitar work is often directional but not entirely so; “Spiritual Exhaust (The Beyond)” is an aptly mind-clouding refrain in between two of the most demonstrative songs on the album. This clutters the message and the flow of the album but also puts a stamp of occult atmospheric intent upon the entire piece that ends up working ‘for effect’ rather than as a central piece for the full listen. The closer “(Iniquitous)” follows suit at double the length and ends up feeling like filler beyond the inspiring guitar work of “Inhale the Floodgate Open”. Though I question the flow of ‘Goat of Iniquity’ for the sake of my own tastes, the stymieing effect of these atmospheric pieces appears intentional and fittingly extreme for the record as a whole. This puts me in a position of liking parts of the record, liking the holistic musical statement, but avoiding those instrumental ‘refrains’ in favor of the greater points of interest offered.
To hear such respect for extreme metal traditions coupled with performances delivered with integrity feels like a clever induction into the moderately challenging blur of riff and growling echo that Valdur deliver within that ethos. It is a modern occult black/death metal album nonetheless and without any gimmick or trickery beyond the conceit of natural performance. Where they excel is in the build-and-collapse of tracks like “Goat of Iniquity / Devouring the Whore of Darkness”, a track as packed with grandeur as it is with grotesque blackened hammering; The two part “Divine Halls of Obscurity” surrounding that track recalls the moody clangor of Ashdautas and the streaming groove of either later Nagelfar release. These three tracks amount to the most interesting bulk of ‘Goat of Iniquity’ and this will be the point of entry and immersion for most. How you feel about the transitional and atmospheric tracks included otherwise will allow you to make your own judgement. My own personal take was middling but satisfied and I can generally recommend any Valdur release for their thoughtful conception and organically achieved darkness.
Ritualistic suffocation. 3.5/5.0
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