Seething with raw, unadulterated power of early Black Metal, CHARNEL VALLEY’s first full length release is an apparent reach back to the older sounds of a more primitive BM sound. Consisting of two members, Worm and Czar, this American outfit seems content to eschew production values in favour of conveying their belief that Black Metal can be minimalist and still yet convey a sense of the emotional presence so many modern BM bands attempt to attain. In that aspect, the band reaches their goal somewhat but it doesn’t quite excite me enough to fully get on the CHARNEL VALLEY love train.
“The Igneous Race” contains a slow pushing, riff base that is somewhat accented with a touch of melody here and there. When interviewed, Worm claimed, “[We want] dissonant layering, forlorn harmonies, tempo shifts, tasteful melodies, memorable hooks…” While a noble aspiration certainly, I’m not sure the album quite reaches these lofty ideals. For sure, there are some moments of the dissonance CHARNEL VALLEY are trying for, I don’t think they achieve this as the album mixes some rather tepid Death Metal based riffing more often than shooting off the tracks to dig into some kind of twisted cacophony one would expect from such a description. Still, there are unquestionably some very pleasing songs for those who like that more stripped down, basement recording sound of BM. In the opener “Blackfist”, the band steam ahead with a crude guitar sound one might liken to early Burzum, Mayhem or such. I’m not a huge fan of that outwardly attempt at being raw for the sake of it. It works for me now and then, but unfortunately not on “The Igneous Race”.
One thing I get a sense of from the album is the sincerity of the band to attempt a visceral reaction to their sombre tome, even when reaching for melody like in the opening of “Gray Twilight: A Traitor’s Redemption”, with its catchy yet still bleak sound. One thing to touch on is that “The Igneous Race” is primarily a slow paced effort, which makes the riffing edge toward a more Death sound. Now, there certainly are plenty of BM bands who play in this style, but they still maintain a semblance of the faster note playing at least as a harmony to the heavier crunch. “The Igneous Race” misses that aspect of Black Metal that really appeals to me a lot. For those seeking a raw aesthetic with a call to the older generation of BM, this may just be an album you should check out.
(Online August 17, 2007)