Valborg- Romantik

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, May 10, 2015

From 2009 to 2012, Valborg released an album every year. While the core of the German band’s sound had elements of doom, death metal, and traditional heavy metal mixed together each of their full lengths went in a slightly different direction and was able to offer up some experimental flourishes that made them stand out. There was often a noticeable emphasis on crushing intensity and bursts of experimentation, but for their fifth full length album Romantik the group has switched things up significantly. While the same plodding doom sound forms the core of the six songs on this release, Valborg has upped the melody significantly and created material that is able to balance somber beauty and harsher desolation into a truly enticing package.

Previously the instrumental work has merged crushing doom with bursts of experimentation, but this time around the band has broadened the sound and upped the amount of melody. That’s not to say that Romantik has entirely moved away from this style, as the lumbering heavy doom tonality still serves as the base for the majority of the material on the album. But Valborg has added a lot more around it, allowing somber guitar melodies and moody synthesizer work to create a thick atmosphere that’s dreary and desolate one moment and strangely inviting the next. At times the atmosphere is reminiscent of Celtic Frost and Triptykon, while other moments remind me of the type of gothic doom and gloom that one might associate with Type O Negative. That particular combination is one that was very enticing to me, but the group puts their own spin on things and the results are absolutely stunning. What drew me in the most was the way that Valborg was able to balance the two sides of the doom spectrum from one song to the next. “Comtesse” uses the synths as a way to create a somber yet warm atmosphere, while closing piece “The Haunted Womb” takes on a more sinister, funeral doom tinge. Whether diving into the ominous, unsettling side of the genre or creating a warmer, introspective atmosphere the synths and guitar melodies always serve as the primary element, and the songs have so much depth and subtle nuances to explore that this newest direction Valborg has explored feels fully realized.

The instrumentals aren’t the only element on Romantik that are able to seamlessly move between harsher and melancholic ideas. Valborg’s vocals follow this same back and forth, as when the synths ramp up towards a lighter atmosphere the band goes for a cleaner pitch but as the tonality begins to shift the vocals do as well. By the time listeners have reached “The Haunted Womb” the pitch has changed over to a cross between a snarl and a deranged yell, and it’s the type of vocal range that instantly sends shivers down your spine. There is a good deal of experimentation at work throughout the course of the album, and it feels like both of the members who contribute to the performance attempted to deliver completely different styles from one track to the next. What’s particularly interesting is that with the emphasis on melody, the singing has kept the same crushing intensity that Valborg’s instrumentation showcased before and the vocals seem like they stand out more than ever before.

This group has always been changing things around from one album to the next, but Romantik may just be their biggest stylistic shift yet. Many of the elements that have drawn listeners to their music in the past are still present, but the use of synthesizer and melodic guitar leads makes this a very different album from its predecessors. Valborg’s latest is able to capture both the desolation and hopelessness of funeral doom and the somber melancholy and introspective nature that some of the more gothic or melodically inclined doom has to offer, and it’s likely to appeal to listeners interested in any variant of the genre. If you have yet to experience what these guys have to offer yet this would be a great place to do so, as it’s one of the year’s best.

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