AlbumsNovember 22, 20234,634 views

Valdrin Throne of the Lunar Soul


Throne of the Lunar Soul
1. Neverafter 2. Golden Walls of Ausadjur 3. Seven Swords (In the Arsenal of Steel) 4. Paladins of Ausadjur 5. Sojourner Wolf 6. The Hierophant 7. Vagrant in the Chamber of Night 8. Holy Matricide 9. Throne of the Lunar Soul 10. Two Carrion Talismans 11. Hymn to the Convergence
2023 Blood Harvest Records
Our score 7

11/22/2023

One of the first extreme metal bands I took a liking to was Dimmu Borgir. I appreciated their reverence of - and reveling in - the fantastic while using melody and symphonics to get that mood across. It was like the soundtrack for a journey to a dark, decrepit castle that requires traversal through a haunted forest, every form you meet a potential foe, every deity in the sky a harsh overseer. 

Nowadays, I like bands that take a more pronounced ambient, melodic approach to that sort of black metal, like Worm do. This is exactly the kind of vibe Valdrin give off, which makes sense when it sounds like your name is a Lord of the Rings fanfic character and your cover art looks like Elden Ring DLC.

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This Cincinnati, OH foursome have had a blast (beat) dealing in this specific black metal since 2014, always iterating and treating their art like a fixer-upper house by making expansions and upgrades each time. With Throne of the Lunar Soul, the property value for the band is set to go up as it’s one of their best yet, but some overextending may screw them over more than help.

Things start out extravagantly though - “Neverafter” is an intro track built on a foundation of fables and helps suspend whatever disbelief necessary to go along for Valdrin’s ride. Regal synths, symphonic elements, and melodic guitars are your primary stage setters, and together with very present drums that know exactly when to power forward and scale back, they all make for a lovely debut for Throne of the Lunar Soul’s story.

That track also dares to set a spectacular standard for the album that is, luckily, mostly realized through its 73-minute run time: variance. Songs rarely stagnate, and Valdrin seem very intent on packing a lot into a little by playing with pacing and mood in fun, if usually expected ways. Still, there’s a lot to love here. 

The intro to “Seven Swords (In the Arsenal of Steel)” sounds like a dungeon synth MIDI track from an old DOOM wad which is a wonderful thing. I love its industrial affectations with anvil-like strikes bolstering the synths and pianos and playing to the theme of an armory where a blacksmith toils away bending steel for war. It’s easy to see why this was a single, and good call on the band’s part. “Vagrant in the Chamber of Night” is also great for this.

I love the instrumental differences with “Paladins of Ausadjur”. You can hear some cool accordion in the last moments of the song that ride the same melodies established by the guitars, and it gives the track a folky, shanty feel to it. The title track - the longest on the album - really sits with itself and provides a stylistic apex for the album to inhabit. The build-up is intense, flanking more somber sections of piano-laden bridges between verses with sturdy vocals and blasting drums that summon foot-tapping like a wizard summons a wisp. The solo in the middle of the track is one of the album’s only of its kind and it’s such a nice change of pace that still adds to the eccentrism that Valdrin worked so hard to achieve.

If you crave a heavier, more chaotic sound, “Two Carrion Talismans” must be mentioned. It’s one of the most traditionally second-wave black metal songs on here and its sizable runtime should quell the demons in us who seek unabated weight and to leave behind much of the whimsy that’s present elsewhere. See also “Sojourner Wolf” which is a certified banger among bangers.

It seems the only known enemy to Valdrin is one that plagues a lot of black metal: overindulgence. Though they can assuage this admittedly personal gripe by sitting under the banner of epic - and therefore assumedly long-form - music, they’ve proven to be more concise in the past. This is the band’s longest album by a fair margin, and their last two albums were well under an hour. It’s very hard to justify something that’s longer than those last two albums combined, even if the parts themselves are anywhere from solid to great which makes this not a matter of eliminating weak link songs, just exhibiting some restraint and packing light for the trip.

Bottom line: Valdrin are awesome and adventurous, and what they lack in wholesale originality, they more than make up for with raw execution and dedication to robust mood. It’s a story that’s been told many times before, now with better writing, characters, and setpieces to get you invested. It’s just a shame Throne of the Lunar Soul stabs itself in the foot with some bloating and excess, and while it’s far from fatal to the experience, it mars it enough to give some brief pause.


11 comments

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anonymous 96 days ago

Shut the f*ck up Douche Rod

anonymous 96 days ago

Wow. The incoherence of just the first paragraph. Can't even bring myself to read the rest.

anonymous 96 days ago

Zulu received a 9 and has yet to be dethroned. Album of the Year? You bet your ass.

anonymous 95 days ago

Valdrin(which is a cool name by the way) This review was written by an edgy 13 year old

anonymous 94 days ago

Hardcore, amiright?

anonymous 94 days ago

What it must take to be a talentless critic. You just have to suck at everything to the point where you think a review of an album or music in general is poignant.

anonymous 87 days ago

All those swords just to get slayed by Zulu once again hang it up

anonymous 86 days ago

"Wow. The incoherence of just the first paragraph. Can't even bring myself to read the rest." ^ ...and the first paragraph was not even about this band.

anonymous 81 days ago

It's really hard to take a band seriously when their cover art looks like it was drawn by a high school art class student, earning a solid 'B'.

anonymous 68 days ago

anonymous 13 days ago It's really hard to take a band seriously when their cover art looks like it was drawn by a high school art class student, earning a solid 'B'. Only thing you have every drawn is shitty conclusions you POS.

anonymous 68 days ago

Do y'all even hire people with active ears?