Heralds of Strife

Listen, I’ll be quite upfront- Heralds of Strife is my most anticipated album of the year. Both the previous albums from this criminally underrated Indonesian black metal act, (2015s Homeward Path and 2018s Fortress of Primal Grace) were my top albums of the year respectively. So this review not going to be very objective, as I a huge fanboy.

Vallendusk play a form of uber melodic, soaring, uplifting black metal akin to many of their label mates like Saor, Woods of Desolation, and such as well as bands like earlier Vindland, Deafheaven and Ghost Bath, so those looking for grimmer, primal black metal should just move on. This is shimmery, triumphant, bright, airy, black metal, with lots of subtle, brilliant keyboards (though not as prevalent as the last album). And while the last album added a slight In Flames/melodic death metal undertone, it seems to have been lessened a bit here, with album number 4 being a little more like Homeward Path.

There are 7 songs, making for 65 minutes of, at times, utterly stunning music. Seriously, these guys pen some of the most gorgeous, majestic melodies going right now in the genre, and how they don’t garner more recognition is beyond me. I mean the first two tracks alone, the densely melodic “The Last Soar as the Feathers Fall” and the shrill, regal gallop of “Towards the Shimmering Dawn” are utterly gorgeous, both chock full of just captivating, 6/8 harmonies to die for. The third track (more on that later) is a bit of a misstep, but later in the album, you get  “Solivagant Heart”, one of the album’s standouts that just drips with captivating emotional crescendoes, and stunning 11-minute closer “The Sovereign”, that is up there with “Foghymn” from the self-titled debut EP, or”Among the Giants” from Black Clouds  Gathering as one of the best songs the band has written (which at times come across like a blistering, black metal version of “Canon in D”).

That all said, I think Heralds of Strife is just a very slight step back from the last 2 albums. While I’m smitten with the above songs, there’s a few I’m not completely enamoured with  (“Ethereal Echoes of Devotion”, “Marching Ballad of the Unsung One” and “Immemorials in Eternal Slumber”). Though I still enjoy them, I’m just not all warm on the inside and grinning from ear to ear when I hear them like I am with the rest of the album.

Maybe it’s the bar set incredibly high by the last two releases, maybe its other, thunder stealing releases by the likes of Paissieme, Christian Cosentino,  AARA or And Now the Owls Are Smiling. Maybe, it is the weird clean vocals (the only time used on this album) used on the third track, “Ethereal Echoes of Devotion” that kinda irked me a bit, (especially when they were done so well on tracks like “Coronation”, “Higher Ground” and “The Shield” from the last album) and the song’s main riff is something you’d hear on a Bad Religion album. I’m not sure, but either way Heralds of Strife isn’t quite the best album of the year shoo-in for me like the previous two, despite still having some truly magnificent moments.

Holy shit, I guess I was objective after all….

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
May 10th, 2021


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