Saturday, 7 June 2014

Valknacht - Le Sacrifice d'Ymir (2014) / 50%

Le sacrifice de l'originalité

The third album from these Quebecois explore a sort of highly melodic black metal and the quintet has all the right elements in place to tour all over America with Finntroll or Eluveitie but not much to distinguish themselves in the modern, saccharine extreme metal world.

The eight songs album is cluttered with overlong numbers like the title track or “Bataille de Maldon”, they're well written, very well produced but nonetheless they're pretty damn boring to me. Even if they're like ten minutes, it doesn't have this epic feel, it simply seems to be prolonged compositions that don't need to be that long unlike atmospheric masters like Moonsorrow. There's so many stuff in every songs that it feels bloated, they were trying to be so epic by incorporating so many riffs, leads and symphonic/folk/pagan elements that they just overcooked the meat and potatoes.

I simply can't stand that sort of overbearing keyboard presence in metal, it feels synthetic and often serves as a way to hide your bad songwriting skills, not that Valknacht are that bad, they're nowhere near the uber mediocrity of Fleshgod Apocalypse since they do have riffs, not very good one admittedly but they go somewhere. The band as its core is still pretty much a black metal one but for whatever reasons, they felt the need to include this symphonic shell around them and I think that's awful.

The folk elements like the flutes have this forced feeling, it's not natural and it made me aware of something I'll call cultural appropriation. The Quebec scene is known for its distinct identity, be it the traditional folk elements of Brume d'Automne or Forteresse or the snowy atmosphere of Neige et Noirceur. These bands have a clear originality maybe often due to their patriotic political agenda.

Being apolitical is no reason for not trying to find your path though. Valknacht is a poor man Nokturnal Mortum (The Voice of Steel era) or Equilibrium, they lack subtlety, cohesion and they just do... too much. They have neither the talent and intricate darkness of Csjethe or the honest folk melodic black of Hiverna who can totally compose interesting songs mixing folkloric violin and black metal. Le Sacrifice d'Ymir even if it's in French (a non issue here) is based entirely on European concepts, mainly Norse mythology of course and while these themes are usually interesting, it's clearly a choice I'm not that comfortable with. It's like putting a bunch of metal friendly lyrical themes in a hat and choosing one randomly, maybe the next album will be about Egypt or Chinese folklore! This sort of cultural appropriation can be done gracefully but it's always sort of icky for me, there's this fear of being labelled a nationalist if you write about your own heritage and that's kind of bullshit. Let the innumerable Norwegian and Swedish bands sing about their history, they do it well.

That's just me, maybe I'm simply bickering because I think their music simply blows and they should cut some unnecessary stuff from it. The black metal core is decent, albeit generic, it's just the chocolate surrounding that doesn't appeal to me. But if you like manure on your extreme metal like Wintersun's Time I, be sure to check this band. Even the Kris Verwimp cover art is uninspired! Most of the black metal bands from Québec are interesting, this one simply isn't.

No comments: