Review by Fernando on July 28, 2023.
When it comes to metal, Finland has it down to a science at this point, anything and everything that qualifies as metal, they got it covered. The same applies to black metal, and they have a ridiculously prolific scene. Which brings me to Valravn, and their sophomore record, The Awakening, to be released by Primitive Reaction on September 8th, 2023.
Valravn is of course a Finnish black metal band, and fairly young at that, but despite that they managed to catch my ear with their debut Prey which was a fierce and melodious slab of wicked black metal. The key element that made Valravn stand out is how they successfully mix melody and aggression with a modern shin. The album has that classic Finn dark melody which is in turn inspired by Finnish rock music, but the band make it work within the framework of black metal, and more interestingly, the music stays within the realms of black metal. If you want pure black metal without bells and whistles this will most definitely do the trick. But it doesn’t end there. The band also display some excellent musical chops, and their choice of a clean production actually lets them flex to great effect, since no instrument is wasted, and the band are also really good arrangers as none of the seven tracks overstay their welcome and they aren’t skeletal half songs with repetitive riffs or hooks.
Following from that, the music on The Awakening is also very dynamic and engaging, where the band seamlessly and effortlessly switch back and forth between brutality and melancholy. For example, a song like ‘Kehän Murtama’ opens with speedy riffs and double bass drum, but those same riffs are very melodic and catchy (as catchy as black metal can be), and the rest of the song follows that dynamic balance of the aggression and melody. The same applies for tracks like ‘Sisyphean Torment’ and ‘Charge Of The Last Cavalry’, though my personal favorite track is the monumental and despondent ‘The Insolent’ where the band really let their atmospheric side, and more technical leanings take center stage, with a song that has under 3 solid minutes of morose build-up before thrusting forth with fury by the mid point after the vocals kick in.
All in all Valravn are really very proficient and skilled songwriters but also arrangers, as they are able to deliver some truly exquisite music that’s compact, not to mention that they honed into every strength of their debut and still managed to sound fresh. My only real critique is the uniformity of the music, as the album has a very singular sound and overall execution but it doesn’t detract anything from the music. As a whole, Valravn are definitely a band worth keeping up with, as they’re now 2 for 2 with quality black metal that actually sounds like a progression and not just shallow replication or overindulgent revivalism.
Best tracks: 'Kehän Murtama’, ‘The Insolent’, 'Sisyphean Torment’, 'Charge Of The Last Cavalry’
Rating: 8.5 out of 10596