Charnel Valley
The Dark Archives

The measuring stick for mediocrity has just gotten a little shorter. Charnel Valley has released their opening salvo in what promises to be a short career. Once you get past the lame amateurish cover art you get to hear “epic, raw and imaginative black metal.” I kid you not. Five days from conception to completion and done with a cassette eight track to uphold the true spirit of analog. That makes me think two thoughts, the spirit of analog is offended, and shouldn’t it be the true spirit of black metal we are trying to uphold? Is this an homage or are they making fun of the movement? This is not the worst necro sound I’ve heard from sound bad on purpose bands, it sounds good, actually. Check out Orcustus and Incriminated to hear two different takes on badly done on purpose done right. They say they don’t think primitive music necessitates polished production. Bad sound covers up poor musicianship but the sound quality here is good enough to show off the poor musicianship nicely. I do not mind the let’s sound bad as a tribute to the old days but that was a sound quality issue not a musicianship one, they didn’t try to play badly.

Lyrics are printed for one song so I’ll quote ”bodies fly through the air, their screams make me laugh.” It makes me wonder why they chose not to print the lyrics to the rest. Vocals are growled in a monotone with pretty good enunciation. The growl is serviceable. The pace is slowish, the guitars have a decent reverb but the riffs are generic. The drumming is very sloppy and simplistic. The first song “Catapult” drags on for far too long with endless repetition of guitars and drums after the vocalist ran out of words before the final few seconds give us a true wrap up. “The Drowning Forest” gives us a brief drum solo and the drumming is a bit better stylistically, there seems to be a pattern. There are even blastbeats and a guitar solo. “They Sleep in Open Graves” offers no real energy and no aggression. “The Beast of Six Thousand Bones”, now here is some energy, even a brief scream. This must be the song recorded last. It is the tightest and structurally the best, though the slight speed boost helps. The music sustains itself better without vocals and the shorter length helps as well.

Americans take the SAT exams to get into college and if you successfully write your name at the top they give you something like 100 points just for accomplishing that. I’d say Charnel Valley has those points at least, but considering that beautiful logo, maybe not even those. In the liner notes it is dedicated to Quorthon’s memory. “The Beast of Six Thousand Bones” is the best track but it would not even make the cut for a Jubileum volume 4. I know I have heard worse but they were so forgettable that I’ve forgotten them. File this one away next to Vorak.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
February 10th, 2005

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