Vallendusk
Fortress of Primal Grace

Back in 2015 I discovered this Indonesian atmospheric black metal act and their second album, Homeward Path was my favorite album of that year….by a long shot. So I’ve been eagerly awaiting the follow up since they announced it last year, and like Homeward Path, the sound has developed just a tad since the Black Clouds Gathering debut, but it still remains an absolutely breathtaking album.

The sound is still the sweeping jangly, airy melodic/atmospheric,  3/4 or  6/8 based black metal that has loose ties to the likes of Ghost Bath, Woods of Desolation, (earlier) Deafheaven , Alcest and such, but there appears to be an added Gothenburg, melodic death metal element in some of the dancing solos and leads that recalls early In Flames and Dark Tranquillity (listen to 2:20 and 3:29 of “At the Heart of the Storm”).  But these guys literally have the best grasp of these kinds of melodies of any of those acts, and frankly virtually any band Iv’e ever heard. When these guys lock into a riff or chord progression, it’s truly amazing. It often makes me feel like Christian Bale’s character in the movie Equilibrium, when he hears music for the first time.

Case and point, glorious opener “The Presences”, at about 5:40, 6:30 and 10:08 they deliver a riff so goddamn fucking breathtaking I find myself yelling out loud, “These guys are soooo fucking good!” – which was very awkward for the other passengers on the plane by the way. And there are soooo many of these utterly awe inspiring moments, it’s ridiculous. The four 4:05 mark of “In Reverie”, the opening  and 6;55 point of perfectly rendered and paced album closer “The Shield” (a track which again really shows the In Flames influence), shimmering, uplifting  march that starts “Eons” or its 4:15 moment  and absolutely stunning 6:39 transitional riff. And it’s not just all happy, jangly melodies, check out the 3:30  and 7:07 marks of “Higher Ground” where they flat out fucking rip.

As with Homeward Path, a very subtle Hammond organ makes an appearance here and there (“At the Heart of the Storm”, “Eons”) as well as some clean vocals (“Coronation”, “Higher Ground”, “The Shield”), but they are superbly implemented, adding to an already masterful sound. And even with 7 songs and an hour’s run time, there isn’t a single moment on this album where I’m not mesmerized.

If you can’t tell, I really like these guys, and Fortress of Primal Grace is somehow slightly  better than Homeward Path, so in the immortal words of Dennis Green,  “Crown their ass !” even though its only March.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
March 19th, 2018

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