The titles of Valborg‘s albums throughout their career—even the ones in their native German—tell a pretty clear story. Glorification of Pain, Crown of Sorrow, Nekrodepression—these are the titles of a band whose chosen environment is eternal darkness, their influences a lexicon of all things gothic, from the apocalyptic post-punk of Killing Joke to the demonic doom and thrash of metal icons Celtic Frost. (And the latter certainly isn’t a passing resemblance; the band has won the admiration of that group’s frontman, Tom G. Warrior.) To hear Valborg is to take a step into the underworld and feel the lick of its rising flames. They revel in atmospheric horrors.
To Valborg’s credit, however, their brand of atmospheric horrors are the sort that are difficult not to revel in. Riding the line between post-punk and metal isn’t necessarily a new idea, nor one that hasn’t already been done quite well, but Valborg’s new album Endstrand is a particularly impressive permutation of this dark music hybrid. Their riffs are punchy and deep, chugging with the guttural depths of doom metal while their taut rhythms always maintain an immediacy and momentum that seems to defy any explicit slide into doom dirge-dom. At times, as on the mid-tempo ethereal strut of “Bunkerluft,” Valborg is more gothic rock than metal, and for that matter their take on it sounds both genuine and fresh, perhaps because drummer Patrick Schroeder and bassist Jan Buckard offer just the slightest hint of the beastly rhythmic low-end of which they’re capable. They don’t need to unleash their most awesome fury to suggest the depths of their heaviness; it’s palpable seemingly at all times.
The most awesome, and for that matter fearsome, moments throughout Endstrand are those in which Valborg’s thrash and doom influences collide headfirst with their affinity for goth and post-punk. They’re really good at both, but their balance of the two is ultimately what sets them apart from their contemporaries, save for perhaps a similarly death-rock-informed band such as Tombs. The chug of “Ave Maria” has a badass groove about it, one not too out of character for night creatures to let loose to within gothic dancefloor temples, but the eruption of its title during the chorus is on an entirely more explosive level. Similarly, there’s a pretty seamless fusion of Christian Death and Slayer on the immediate, evil-conjuring gallop of “Exodus.” There’s no track that’s as much instant fun-with-evil as “Beerdigungsmachine,” which is as close to a hit single as these occasionally hedonistic heathens come. But fun with evil is Valborg’s specialty, no matter how potent that malevolence is. Whatever depths of darkness that Valborg plunge into, it’s in the service of converting others to their way of life via catchy gothic metal rippers.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.