Throne Of The Lunar Soul
Review by Vladimir on November 22, 2023.
Back when I heard Moonlight Sorcery’s debut full-length album "Horned Lord Of The Thorned Castle", I thought to myself that it would be practically impossible to find an album of this caliber. Apparently, not only was I dead wrong, but I was just shocked to have actually stumbled upon something that is on the same level of musical greatness. This work of art is coming from the US melodic black metal band Valdrin, and the work I am referring to is their fourth full-length album Throne Of The Lunar Soul, due to be released on November 24th via the label Blood Harvest. If you wish to gaze into the world painted in gold, and follow the epic journey of the Paladins of Ausadjur, then you might want to buckle up for this one.
Valdrin’s music transcends a predominantly epic and melodic black metal with tremolo picking riffs, brilliant and at times neoclassical guitar solos, fast and heavy double-bass drumming, keyboards and harsh vocals. The general song structure that they apply here is quite complex and the arrangements are very progressive, with a couple of riffs that feel technical at times and a bit thrash metal as well. The progressive songwriting does prove to be quite effective, with moments that can surely surprise you once you let your mind go and feel the music, especially when you hear part of the song where acoustic guitars, keyboards or guitar solos get their moments to shine and dominate. Where the album certainly succeeds at both surprising and pleasing me is with the epic clean singing vocals on the fourth track 'Paladins Of Ausadjur', which adds a more grandiose and powerful energy to the majesty of the melodies. The great thing about this album and the songwriting in general is the stylistic consistency and the sense of build up that goes from one song to another, where you truly believe that you are experiencing some epic tale. The songs certainly convey a lot of emotions through the riffs, solos and keyboards, but I think that the strongest point about the songs is the fact that they definitely possess a soul of their own, while also managing to create some powerful storytelling through the music. You can definitely hear that the music was heavily rooted into Swedish melodic black metal, influenced by the likes of Dissection, Dawn, Unanimated, Vinterland and Sacramentum, but with more musical progression and technicality, and perhaps a stronger emphasis on the dynamics of the songs. The album is very long with a total of 11 tracks that brings the entire runtime to 1 hour and 13 minutes. The great thing about it is that it does not feel as if it is dragging along from one song to another to the point where you just want it to be over, but rather it feels like it is naturally progressing step by step where it does not stop being good even on the other half. Bands that create lengthy albums barely or never manage to pull this off, but apparently Valdrin successfully figured out how to do it properly and effectively. The album also manages to end on a very high note with the instrumental piano track 'Hymn To The Convergence', feeling like you just got to the credits of a cinematic masterpiece that gives the whole story an epic conclusion with a sense of tragedy and solace. Where the majesty of this album also shines is the cover art with a feeling of an epic and fantastic Victorian dystopia covered in gold, showcasing a dark paladin figure observing from a balcony of a tall building. Throughout so many years of listening to black metal, I have never actually stumbled upon an album with a cover art such as this, but it truly is beautiful and unique at the same time, and it even reminds me of the video game Heroes of Might and Magic, while some people said that it looks like it was inspired by Elder Scrolls because it resembles The Shivering Isles from the expansion for Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and even Vivec City from Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. If this wasn’t taken from any of those classic RPG games or perhaps inspired by them, I would be all in for an epic fantasy video game that has this art style and perhaps this same protagonist, but under the condition that the game is actually called Throne of the Lunar Soul and that the soundtrack contains Valdrin’s songs in form of orchestral music to suit the atmosphere. The sound production is fantastic and very top notch with a well-balanced sound from both the instruments and the vocals, providing a very grandiose feeling that still feels quite organic.
Holy hell, was this an amazing listening experience that left me quite speechless from the moment I pressed “play”. I would have to say that this album is on par with Moonlight Sorcery’s "Horned Lord Of The Thorned Castle" in terms of its epic musicality and majestic storytelling through music. The excellence of this album is just impossible to describe, especially if you just gaze into the cover art and imagine the story happening in your head. So many great albums have been released this year and it is so hard to follow up on every one of them, but I am very glad to have come across this album out of pure curiosity.
Rating: 9.2 out of 10264