Charnel Valley
The Igneous Race

So here is the second (not including their 3 way split) release from metal and magazine entrepreneur Marty Rytkonen (Wormgear) and fellow Metal Maniacs scribe S Craig Zahler, and I’ll admit their first EP The Dark Archives, from the cover art to the music was pretty awful.

However, with the creepy artwork gracing The Igneous Race, (instead of the childish scrawling of the debut EP), I felt their might be some promise here, and I was right. The Igneous Race is a vast improvement of the EP, and seems to show Charnel Valley as a viable US black metal act, rather than the hobby of two respected metal experts.

Though still heavily rooted in primal early Scandinavian black metal (Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum, Bathory etc), The Igneous Race has some interesting developments that seem to inject more atmosphere and even a early 90’s death metal tone-notably during the slower, more creepy tracks like “Grey Twighlight: A Traitor’s Redemption”, that were it not for the high pitched vocals could be construed as some form of early Finnish or Swedish death metal due to the mid range buzz. Unfortunately, a lot of that buzz is lost in the faster more traditional blackened moods of a majority of some of the material. The dirtier, grittier production certainly makes the material far for listenable than the tinny, treble filled EP, and as a result the songs seem able to breath more, albeit shallow, asthmatic, hacking, gurgling breaths and death rattles.

On the whole the material is stern, marching, foreboding and eerie form of black metal-not the droning rasps of Burzum or even the despairing black metal of the other one and two man USBM. Tracks like “Endless War on the Bridge Between Worlds” and “The Wretched Ones” are infinitely more listenable than anything on The Dark Archives, and I imagine, at least to these ears, due to the death metal lean the band has taken. I’d actually compare this to fellow two piece Cobalt as far as melding classic black metal, some ambience and a hint of down and dirty death metal.

Still, though, the material as a complete album isn’t quite ‘there’ yet as far as really blowing me away (unlike Cobalt), but the improvement is promising and I look forward to hearing the next step this duo takes.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
September 13th, 2007

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