Lightning Swords of Death + Valdur Split Album Review
by Mark Hensch
The pairing of Lighting Swords of Death and Valdur reveals just how much energy remains in the United States Black Metal scene. In the same vein as such renowned USBM splits like Xasthur and Leviathan or Nachtmystium and Krieg, this record accomplishes two important goals.
The first achievement is paying respectful homage towards the rich history and tradition of black metal. The second, meanwhile, is presenting such reverence in a unique and compelling way. Rather than retread the paths of yore, these two bands offer their wares towards a callous public while striking with gritty heavy metal.
People are taking notice. As of press time, Metal Blade Records has swooped in and now aims at unleashing Lightning Swords of Death on a grander scale. Valdur, meanwhile, have become increasingly productive for Aural Offerings. In a nutshell, creative bands populate a creative scene, and the USBM world is a frenzy of activity. Given four songs apiece for their aural assaults, Lightning Swords and Valdur each approach the black metal canvas with different paints.
Lightning Swords, for example, plays ripping blackened thrash choked in hazy smog. Eerie yet manic, the whole mix has as much in common with Watain as it does High on Fire.
"Invoke the Desolate One," for starters, rends and tears with billowing, noxious melodies pouring out of speakers. The melodies are thick and sinister, feeling like an encroaching cloud of ash.
"Damnation Pentastrike," meanwhile, blends drunken swagger with muddy black metal, creating a sloppy slasher flick of sound. The chaos attains added depth with the song's earth-shaking riffs; low and tectonic, they produce massive tremors which are epic and frightening in scope.
Following this, the somber "Venter of the Black Beast" obscures listeners in a sea of blackness. Choppy and roiling, it submerges ears into an oily world of filthy melodies and slithering bass lines.
Finishing the Lightning portion of the split is the cerebral "Paths to Chaos," a vast song which meshes ponderous, blackened guitars with thunderous blastbeats. The song wanders away into a lonely hum of sound, before the band surprises yet again with a shocking attack comprised of gloomy notes and jarring rhythm section patterns. Fading into numbing ambiance, the split's first half is a tour-de-force of shock and awe.
Valdur, although different, offers an equally powerful portion. "Raven God Amongst Us" immediately ushers in a shimmering brand of black metal which pierces hearts rather than suffocates lungs. Droning and macabre, the song's chilly atmosphere sets the tone for the rest of the album.
"Chant of Battlelust" is fierce yet beautiful, a song truly glorifying in wild slaughter. Ringing harmonies clash like steel weapons in combat, resounding well after song's end. Like a warrior changing weapons, graceful tempo shifts add new violence into the mix, producing one wonderful slice of metal.
The frosty "Blodhevn/Vendetta," meanwhile, buzzes with murky malice before sparring with riffs so cold they bite and blister. In true black metal fashion, the song fashions a blizzard of fuzz so constricting it hums, resulting in a doomy and oppressive atmosphere.
Last but not least is "Spears Torrent," a quiet but grandiose finale. Racing clean guitars streak through a vortex of night, glittering ominously with menace. After a lengthy buildup, the tension explodes when the band unleashes one last burst of aggression. Glacial in speed yet vitriolic with hatred, it ends the album with intensity and power.
It is worth noting the level of synergy between Lightning Swords and Valdur throughout the aforementioned eight tracks. Though the two bands sport their own identities, they also play together with a comfort bordering on the supernatural. The end result is a cohesive collection of music, driving two very different bands in very different directions. Pick this up as at least one of the journeys will surely appeal.
Invoke the Desolate One (Lightning Swords of Death)
Damnation Pentastrike (Lightning Swords of Death)
Venter of the Black Beast (Lightning Swords of Death)
Paths to Chaos (Lightning Swords of Death)
Raven God Amongst Us (Valdur)
Chant of Battlelust (Valdur)
Spears Torrent (Valdur)
Lightning Swords of Death
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Lightning Swords of Death + Valdur Split Album
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