VALHALLA "Winterbastard" - 2000 - promo

Nightsinger zine

This is debut album of forementioned Ural combo... "Winterbastard" recorded better than previous demo-tape (it seems natural), but the highest and lowest frequencies are sounding a bit weakly (probably, this is such tape). Melodies are more accurate and smooth and, it seems to me, more standard now - closer to Melodic Black Metal. Here's less acoustic guitar parts than in "The Wolfish Nocturne" and the melodism is keyboard-based. I dislike the fact that rhythm-section (especially drums) sounds much louder than keys with their interesting enough (though sometimes expectable and secondary, a little "pop" even), but not too complex parts. The last ones performed by strings and piano sounds (the last one sounds very great sometimes - in "Requiem To The Welkin" for example), but sometimes here and there appear quite strange sounds (trumpet in the last piece "Starflaming Heart Of Ural").
The basic "shortcoming" again is discrepancy between lyrics and ideas of musicians with their music. "Winterbastard"'s poetry more "soft", fury and hate are expressed more calmly, but melodies are "joyful" again (if it could to call Black Metal-like music "joyful") - probably keyboards are "guilty" here. Vocals are immemorable again and they're like standing aside - there are both semi-choral clean voice and rasping Black Metal-like one (this singer was fired off the band not so long).
In its whole one this work is ultimately interesting and variative creation consisting both touches of Melodic Black Metal and something else not of this music-style (and it's named Forest Metal). It couldn't not to mention of relatively "joy" and "buoyancy" of music: if I wouldn't read their poetry and wouldn't know the musicians' views, I should (by their music, song-titles and band's name) relate this work to pagan-like theme without any doubts. In "Winterbastard" (comparing it with "The Wolfish Nocturne") there are more integrity of work - compositions are like flowing one to another, keeping the sema mood (the third piece "Ins Nama'v Great Fyr" is the logical continuation of the second one). And, by the way, the length of an album (~25 mins.) doesn't let to "relax"; when the last composition is finished I was bewildered: "What? Is this all?.."
Soon this album will be published with few additional tracks. One of them, instrumetal, called "Eve Of Winterdawn" I've heard already... Impressions of this ultimately athmospheric composition are totally related to its title. I was simply astounded with it and "impressions" from this single track are close to impressions from the rest of album.



Ledo Takas zine

One more time? Gee, I start to get lost. It is pointless to repeat that choosing so archetypical like this, you must be either an idiot, or an idealist. Or to be sure to offer top-notch music with scoring a definite contract with fair label for a mutialbum deal. Russian VALHALLA seem to me like idealists, but anyway - their band name is just another mistake young bands are at fault. So, who still cares which VALHALLA that is - Finnish, Ukrainian, Swedish or Russian? I personally would not care that much, if were unacquainted.
...I am surprised to hear almost gothic metal-like intro, which turns later (track number two) into blastbeat and that should mean - Black Metal? Well, patience my friends. I am sure guys do not want to be named like this (especially that they have such monicker), but neither they prove to have blackmetal standpoints. Vocalist screams (anonymous effort anyway), and that is all about it. But who does not scream these days? So to say, VALHALLA are not anyhow predictable, but more or less they play extreme melodic metal. At times it turns pretty heroic and even epic, yet these cheesy melodies totally destroy that proud feel about the whole recording. Surprise was to hear one identical ti POCCOLUS riff on the same track number two.c Their lyrics seem to be sung in mother tongue, which might prove my hypothesis about the heroism fragmented on tape. Though tape is titled in a not so patriotic way. So, VALHALLA pleased me with sending just a tape with no cover or additional info (tape is put out as just promo offer for the time being). Anthony though assured that they are not interested in money making, but rather aim for purity and honesty of their creations. Well, these into melodic modern metal should write him... Latest news: Northern Sound Records just signed them for a full-length to be out this spring... I would not risk that much, hugh.



Demonion Productions

VALHALLA - "Winterbastard" (cd format / NORTHERN SOUND Rec.) Another VALHALLA this time not the crazy Finnsters, neither the BATHORY-influenced Ukrainian ones as these ones in fact come from Russia. The word VALHALLA brings in mind battles, vikings, snow and epic atmospheres but it is at once covered by the title "Winterbastard" which reminds more of a thrash blast from the past than anything else. Not all the former are included in this release but some of them will be found! Epic and pompous bombastic mid-tempo melodies with haunting synths reminding of the early DIMMU BORGIR eras will make your bones chill. I didn`t expect such good a music from these Russians. Their scene is still underdeveloped with only bands like THRON`, DRAUGWATH and SATARIAL to stand-out. Now its time for VALHALLA to show that this country has still a lot to offer!!! I am sure that all of you out there will appreciate this release. A release that could have been more professional if the sound production would be trimmed in such a way that the few mistakes here and there would dissappear.

8,5 / 10

c/o NORTHERN SOUND REC., P. O. BOX 60, 37601 VALKEAKOSKI, FINLAND



http://www.chedsey.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?topic=2060&forum=4&0

VALHALLA
Winterbastard
Northern Sound Records, 2000
Running Time: 42.05

Due to historical reasons, rock music in USSR/Russia walked a different path than its counterpart outside of the country. By the time perestroika broke out and "unofficial" culture was no longer banned, rock music was mainly represented by the bands formed around dissident singing poets, largely influenced by classic rock. And, don't forget that perestroika happened in 80s, so the appearance of the 80s hard/power bands was inevitable. Of that ilk, most of you perhaps remember Gorky Park, one of the most horrible musical products from the country I had a misfortune to hear. The other hard/hair rockers were a bit better, but still not worth any attention. The extreme metal scene, even if it existed, was either deep in the underground or in premature state, and extreme music was mostly represented by punk rock. Besides, the ideas that propelled black metal in Western countries were not popular at all. First, orthodox christianity has been in the underground quite a while, too, and therefore, following standard logic, was among friendly phenomena. Second, because of strongly atheistic course of the state, any religious-based collisions of ideas were nowhere in sight, and, again, dissidents and underground warriors would rather take side of a friend in misfortune, that is, the orthodox church. Third, the institute of church was completely separated from the state, and religion hasn't been pushed down people's throat to induce a counter-reaction. Fourth, orthodox church in russia molded with some ancient traditions of the pre-christian era (even some slavic pagan gods were canonized). That may partually explain the fact that among the newly born black metal underground the vast majority of bands are of pagan orientation, rather than overtly Satanic. On this historical background, the band Valhalla from Ekaterinburg looks like a black sheep, professing Satanic ideology, and ridiculing on their website those who play pagan or ns black metal, as well as near everybody from Moscow and St-Petersburg. The band was formed in 1996 and to date have released a demo and the present album. This album was initially conceived as a 5-song a demo featuring a 6 piece lineup. Somewhere along the way the lead singer was kicked out of the band for a sloppy attitude, and the vocal duties were taken by a keyboard player. In this reduced lineup the band recorded three more songs and an instrumental piece, added them to the demo, and released the resulting piece of work through a small Finnish label. Unlike most of their contemporaries in the two capitals, Valhalla doen't play Dimmu Borgir type of keyboard-propelled metal, their music can be generally described as mid-paced old school atmospheric black metal, recalling early Satyricon and Enslaved, with a touch of Darkthrone. The band itself calls their music "forest metal", and I see their point. There attitude and the atmosphere are intended to recreate a feel of the Ural forest at frosty winter night. No crushing assaults or other mardukness can be heard. Instead, blast beats merge into the musical canvass, adding to the atmosphere. There are several quiet intros, played in acoustic guitar, as well as quiet passages, during which I can make out words without looking into lyrics sheet. The sound is durty, and at times almost grating, but it is clearly done with purpose, rather than out of lack of good equipment. It becomes obvious when acoustic guitar or ambient passage step in. Still, all instruments are clearly heard, including bass and drums, with a possible exception of a guitar which is degraded into a buzz mixed with static. Keyboards are also present, and at times their part is a bit too high for my taste, but overall they keep to the duty of underscoring the music and working in the background rather taking leading part. The song range from blast-beat-o-rama ("Dreams Of Apocalypse") to long structured epics ("Fireshine Of Lightnings") to almost ballad type ("Wintry Dreams"). Ther are two instrumentals at the and of the album. One of them is a 9 minute long epic not far removed from what nokturnal mortum was doing in their early days. Despite of its necessary repetitiviness, this track weers a bit from BM kliches by having a visible dynamics, and inclusion of a trumpet solo towards its end. The last track, "Eve of a Winterdawn" is an ambient track opening with a wolf's howl and dogs barking somewhere afar, and music reminiscent of the melodic intros of Limbonic Art. The band wisely inserted songs with keyboard player's (Satt) singing in the middle so it gives you certain diversity. While their expelled vocalist sounds like a run off the mill black metal screecher, Satt's vocal delivery is lower and closer to death metal growl, although executed in a black metal manner. The newly recorded tracks stand out as winners compared to those recorded with former singer, especially "Fireshine Of Lightings". The lyrics are all in Russian, but I had no chance to pick the words without lyrics sheet most of the time, since vocals are mostly low in the mix. Overall, it was a really nice surprise to find this record with old school stuff at the turn of a century. This album is released in 666 copies on Finnish Northern Sound Records and is sold out by the label, but some mailorders may still have it.



Metal Steev

VALHALLA - WINTERBASTARD

Holy shit. I have never heard of these guys and decided to give them a try. Well they are pretty damn good. Lots of synths and acoustic guitars mixed in with the typical black metal sounds you have come to know. A very different twist on the black metal sound without sounding too gothic or crossing ridiculous musical lines. Hell, a trumpet makes an appearance on one song! It really sounds great. Worth checking out if you have a few extra bucks. Enjoy!

Rating: 8 pt



LARM

Great, another Valhalla, from Russia this time. But you know, they are not as bad as you might think. For one, they don't try to pose as Vikings, although they play Northern sounding black metal, which, if you take the name of their record label for granted, should not be surprising. These guys come from the same place as Thy Repentance, and although the two bands differ musically, conceptually and spiritually they have a lot in common. Similarly to Thy Repentance, Valhalla's lyrics serve as a reflection of their perceived surroundings and celebrate the darkness of the Ural nature, but then the band could have picked a better and more original name for themselves. Fine, forget the name as long as the music is good. The music, I must say, is in fact quite good: appropriately cold and raw sound, clear production, fast to mid-paced songs with grim vocals, frequent melodic excursions, wintry keyboards and occasional, and not at all unpleasant, acoustic guitars. Valhalla did not aim so much at creating something very technical or brutal, but rather, much like Thy Repentance, they chose to focus specifically on the atmospherics of their natural surroundings. And while "Winterbastard" does not match the epic feel of such classic work of this ilk as Enslaved's "Vikingligr Veldi's," it does succeed on its own level because the band managed to create compelling enough songs while maintaining evocative feeling all throughout the album. It may not be a spectacular work, but it is also not some cheap imitation full of plastic emotions. No, this is a respectable outing, and it definitely wouldn't hurt fans of Nordic, Viking-flavored bands like Thyrfing, Mithotyn, and of course older Enslaved to check out this band.