I don’t think I could have picked a better album to mark my return to Nine Circles than Valborg‘s new fifth album, Romantik. Hailing from the North-Rhine Wesphalia region, Valborg marked yet another new discovery out of Germany in 2015 for me. Naturally, I was more than willing to give it a chance…and when all was said and done, I regretted nothing. Captivating yet deliberate with a dark, somber mood throughout, Romantik is an album worth getting lost in.
Despite my unfamiliarity with any of their previous work, Valborg’s sonic aspirations became immediately clear to me. This is a form of doom metal that would make the likes of Morne and Evoken proud, and it shines through immediately on opener, “Vampyr.” Their sound is immediately grim and serious, yet layered within all this, you get an endlessly apparent sense of industrialism that would impress even the most dedicated of Rammstein fans. (Take the early stages and refrains of highlight track, “Blitz aus Sodom,” for example.) Made complete with wondrously melodic leads, Valborg succeeds in turning a sound that is relatively recognizable into one they can call their own.
Romantik ends up covering 40 minutes through only six songs, all between five and eight minutes. Yet, because of the slow and steady nature of their sound, there are moments (the instrumental interludes on “Comtesse,” for example) that feel a bit drawn out, making the overall listen seem a little longer than its actual run time. (But then, it’s not like this is a situation doom metal bands are unfamiliar with.) And while “Comtesse” may wear a bit, we slide brilliantly into “Sulphur Vitriol Angel” which shows off a faster pace and a newly discovered symphonic undertone. Add in the clean, borderline choir-like vocals, and the album takes a hauntingly beautiful turn, lending far more significance to its title. It’s “romantic” in its own solemnity; it’s beautiful, yet depressing. I tend to take to albums that hit on a more emotional level, and few sounds can do that for me like this particular track.
This same theme continues through the closing two tracks, “Kryptische Arroganz,” and “The Haunted Womb,” both of which carry the kind of crippling emotional form that can bring listeners to their knees. The exiting stages of the closer drags on, but you almost start to appreciate the way it allows you to recover from the collective burden the preceding songs become over time. But believe me, we never lose the aggressive darkness of this album. There are moments on “Kryptische Arroganz” that are pure evil…impressively manipulating the sound through so many layers of emotion.
If this isn’t an album you listen to in isolation, it will certainly force you to seek it. Despite being primarily in German, the vocal influences of Jan Buckard and Chistian Kolf are enough to make Valborg’s intentions clear. The melodicism and symphonic nature of the music, layered behind the industrial deliberation of the song structure, combine to create an absolutely intoxicating sound. While some stretches may present a challenge to a listener’s patience, the patience always pays off. This form of doom metal is one I’ve always been a fan of, and this is one of the better takes on it I’ve heard in quite some time.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”
Romantik is available now Temple of Torturous. For more information on Valborg, visit the band’s official website.