Given the thematic crossover among metal bands, duplicates in the name game are inevitable. There’s nothing quite like the shock and terror of searching for your new favorite funeral doom album by Wytchmystium just to be handed some kind of Tommy Lee-looking monstrosity pouring forth questionable clean singing of Eurovision proportions. But every once in a blue moon, the surprise turns pleasant when you find yourself enjoying Detroit’s premiere grindcore act Blunt Force as much as their Alberta-based stoner counterpart. Such was the case just recently when I favorited Valefor in a DSBM deep-dive before entering a state of confusion the next day when I went to search the name on Bandcamp. While the imagery was obscured by the central use of black and white, it was clear I had crossed paths with two different animals. Valefor, the dark ambient unit, also caught my attention for performing the style I’ve affectionately compared to haunted house attraction track tapes.
Interestingly, according to demonology, the Valefar is a bit of a shapeshifter when it comes to its identity. Known as the duke of hell, Big Val acts like he’s your good judy while exploiting your trust for all it’s worth. The same could be said for the essence of both Valefors; while its Turkish depressive and Texan ambient manifestations may initially seem like they’ve been unearthed from the ubiquitous chamber of black metal, they truly suck you down the vortex in ways that other units have not achieved. Of course, being that they come from opposite arenas of the world, it is doubtful that either Valefor knows much of each other. Casting accusations of copying would be downright outrageous. Nevertheless, when good things emerge in twos, I’ll take both for what they’re worth. Otherwise it’s like griping over the presence of an auxiliary peanut butter cup.
To get a better taste of both Valefors, let’s take a look at what each does well.
Incorporating more DSBM into the repertoire of your average metal fan is not an easy task. Difficult subject matter aside, it’s not exactly musical composition that makes for an easy listen on a given day. Out of the thousands of depressive bands I’ve heard at this point, only a fraction has potential for greater accessibility. We can debate about whether or not appeal should be a goal of DSBM, but I don’t think disturbing music and music that people want to listen to are mutually exclusive categories. Valefor, for instance, manages to check both boxes.
While more mid-tempo DSBM tends to go over the heads of the death/doom bookends, “No Place for Hope” is a dirge with potential to appeal to the latter. Distanced vocals not only make them less derisive, but also more accurate when it comes to conveying the sounds of agony. When you hear someone crying in a far chamber, the wails are going to take on this muffled, indecipherable sound. The fact that there is what appears to be an official visual for the track is a welcomed anomaly that could potentially help translate depressive black metal into the live sphere. Maybe this visibility would violate the principles of misanthropy and isolation, but just selfishly speaking, I’m so bored of watching sanitized blackened death/“USBM” I could die (full essay on that another day). That being said, Valefor doesn’t make any sacrifices when it comes to what DSBM sets out to achieve. While this music video is open to a variety of interpretations that help the listener gain a better understanding of the music, watching a man being dragged into the woods by a noose is hardly a trip to Baskin Robbins.
An old head out of the 90’s symphonic scene, Valefor has kept it moving without losing sight of the foresight that put them on the map. Rather than reinvent the wheel of the happenings within black metal’s second wave, Valefor became a practitioner of dark atmosphere with Death Magick (1996). Between vibrating waves and clanging from the depths, the trap beat from the
Adidas commercial playing in the next tab melded fairly perfectly. But, I’m trying to be considerate and not shove any of my Cloud rap fetish down your throat after subjecting you to think pieces over the past couple of weeks, so I won’t explore that possibility (it would be rad, though). Instead, Valefor has brought bangability to ambient by slowly transiting ominous rumblings into the limits of black metal proper. Teaching a lesson in patience to traditional-style black metal consumers is one that will pay off as palates are expanded to include the abstract.
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