America is an evil country. Foreign policies abroad result in the deaths of thousands of civilian lives. Internally, the country accepts more gun violence and mass murder than any other fully developed nation on the planet. It is amid that darkness and decay that California based crusty black metallers Valdur arise to release their fourth full-length, Pathetic Scum—a very appropriately titled album as the band is angrier than ever. Pathetic Scum is an exercise in black metal—touching on the roots while combining influences from all eras of black metal with the crusty, almost punkish sound of California.
Valdur is an interesting case. They are both violently anti-system and Satanic at times, but not usually simultaneously. Songs like “Tank Torture” are aggressive, fast-paced assaults reminiscent of Bathory and other throwbacks, while “Blessings of the Goat” is clearly a more historically black metal, less crusty, Satanic based track—think early Autopsy or Marduk. The title track even includes samples and rote guitar work accompanied by what has, by this point on the album, we can consider their calling card: horrendously recorded drums. All classic black metal adjectives apply: raw, bestial, blasphemic, etc.
As the album marches on, it becomes clear that Valdur are still finding their sound. They’ve yet to determine the direction in which they’re going to push their genre. Rather, they recycle old ideas and haphazardly use a handful of very traceable techniques. For fans of Marduk, Gorgoroth, Mayhem and Bathory looking for more of the same this may be a welcome treat; for those looking music that makes a statement and creates interesting listening, Pathetic Scum may not be a great listen.
“Incantre Pt. 2” acts as the always-necessary interlude on a black metal album, but its three minutes of thundering double bass, overly tinny cymbals and metal scraping are not only out of place but also downright tiresome. There’s no link or cohesiveness to the rest of the album. Worse, the track sounds as if it was recorded in a shed midway through an unstoppable blizzard.
There’s a lot missing from Pathetic Scum, but it’s the lack of cohesion—of any message or direction that flows throughout the album—that really kills it. What’s resulted from Valdur’s fourth effort is a collection of haphazardly put together and poorly recorded tracks that have little to nothing to do with each other. They’re seem adrift in a sea, almost as if Valdur was so anxious to simply release something that they rushed through the recording process to slam down five tracks and an interlude.