The world’s foundations
Alight in hellish flame
Red eyes behold the heart of ruin
Embracing the glory of blasphemy
Rejoice in the beauty of pure destruction
I love watching a project develop. Back in Bandcamp Misanthropy: Volume 17 we took a brief look at devastating Scottish dyad Valaraukar and their debut demo EP Harnessing of Hostile Forces, which I was extremely amped about and looking forward to their upcoming full-length debut that was in the works at the time. Well, that same full-length is finally being unleashed upon us via the considerable might of Iron Bonehead Productions – and we are honoured to be streaming it in full for you here today.
Delivering on the promises made by the demo with ease, Demonian Abyssal Visions takes all the aggression and songwriting nous displayed there and rips it wide open to flow untempered and screaming into our realm. Their knack for writing a commanding tune is propelled to even greater heights by three driving forces: the immense riffage, a deliciously antagonistic guitar tone and the punishing percussive assault. Taking ancient Scandinavian blueprints and infusing them with both scathing modern ire and a disregard for genre norms, Vagath (guitars, vox) is channelling power beyond belief and creates riffs all through this thing that will make you want to destroy everything in close range, while skinsman Sovereign is utterly omnipotent on the drums and always does precisely what the song needs, as if propelled by mystic intuition.
Weaving a web of visceral sonic impact is all well and good, certainly, but it’s also perilously clear that Vagath brings the pain both thematically and in vocal delivery too – his compelling, archetypal bark seems drawn from other worlds as he roars profound doctrines and metaphysic convictions. I’ll let him explain this in greater detail however, as today we also have both Vagath and Sovereign here to tell us all about it and lift the veil ever so slightly on the creation of these visions made form. So read on below, listen deeply and bear witness as Valaraukar become absolute world eaters… for, considering the arcane sigils and violent esotericism present in this remarkable debut incantation, the void that they summon between them shall undoubtedly devour us all.
Hails Valaraukar! Great to speak with you. I’ve been awaiting your debut album since your demo last year, and now it has finally arrived – the intensely diabolical Demonian Abyssal Visions, which we are streaming in full here today. So first up, how do you both feel about the album? What was your goal, did you achieved what you wanted to with it?
Vagath: Each time I listen back to the album I’m consistently satisfied with the sound, it has everything I would have hoped to capture with our live sound and playing style in mind. The goal was to keep it raw, energised, tight and aggressive and it ticks all the boxes for me. The guitar sound is suitably full and yet has that defined raw edge on it.
Sovereign: It’s difficult to look at an album you created yourself in a way comparable to other music – the process of recording and writing absorbs you – puts you through the wringer, even. When it’s done, it’s hard to know what to think – the relationship to one’s own material is unique. To listen to the finished product, to know that you brought it into existence – there’s pride in that, especially knowing I gave my all.
The two tracks from the demo both reappear here, ‘Harnessing of Hostile Forces’ renamed from ‘Hostile Forces’ to match the actual title of the demo. Did you change anything else about those two tracks for the album versions?
V: Ah, so using the shortened name on the demo then extending it for the album, that was a conscious decision taken back in early 2018 when working on the demo. The album version is a bit faster, it felt like it had more attack when we sped it up. Some drum parts were slightly different on the album version as well.
It’s a high energy yet pulverizing, heavily riff-driven piece of work. I particularly enjoy the moments when it breaks out in more d-beat, rocking or even almost thrashy parts – I daresay you had more than simply blasting, traditional black metal in mind during the compositional process. What were some of the influences or personal musical touchpoints you drew from whilst creating the album?
V: There’s not a style in mind as we’re writing, and the range of influences is pretty vast. The out and out blasting style is a factor of course, but so are others like dissonant, cavernous, styles or slow parts with picking riffs in there. The material is constantly evolving. It’s never going to lose the edge because that edge is utterly vital.
S: Rhythmically, black metal has a lot of options on the table; often more than it ultimately decides to exploit. I actually have a real love for some of that quintessential blastbeat-centric black metal… but there can be so much bombast and manic-energy in something like a d-beat that I’d have been remiss not to find a place for some in the material.
The press release states that Vagath is driven by “inner demons and primal aspects of the subconscious” to create his art, which sounds fascinating. Could you tell us a little about that, and the creative process involved in these songs? Are those aforementioned themes also touched upon lyrically throughout the record?
V: The creative process is almost entirely introspective, it’s coming from within me rather than from anything external. To write anything truly evocative it’s necessary to look pretty deep and to get in touch with something, then give form to these abstract visions by weaving in some poetry and translating into vivid scenarios.
Whatever inner power I’m connecting with is not clearly defined, “primal” is probably a fair description. I could expand more on this but for now I’ll just say this: it’s unquestionably an empowering process, and that empowerment is a strong theme in itself. I think this is evident in the music.
It is most definitely present in the lyrics, that’s what ‘Harnessing of Hostile Forces’ is referring to. It is a factor lyrically in other songs but that one refers to it directly.
Valaraukar was born from the ashes of your previous band NNGNN (or Nolti Nan Gana Nan Nolta). Why did you decide to end that project and begin afresh with Valaraukar, as opposed to simply continuing under the same name?
V: It was time to take a more uncompromising and honed approach. In a sense it was a new direction, but it was also a natural evolution from where we were with that previous entity. To me it’s now all about Valaraukar, not particularly keen to look back at what came before.
Speaking of names – the name Valaraukar is another word for Balrogs in Tolkien’s work. At a cursory glance I couldn’t spot anything, but does the Tolkien theme flow through into any other aspect of the project? What drew you towards selecting this moniker to represent your sound?
V: I do have a connection with Tolkien’s Legendarium, I actually wanted to use this name back in 2008 or so with another project but never got the opportunity. The lyrics for ‘Servants of the Nameless’ refer to the Valaraukar, apart from that there is no other direct use of Tolkien themes. Several themes appear on the album.
The cover art is quite striking, showing what appears to be a void opening up between two stone columns. Who is the artist, and what does the cover signify in relation to the album?
V: The cover art (and our logo) were done by the formidable View From the Coffin. The pillars represent myself and Sovereign, the void in the centre is the screaming abyss that these raw visions are drawn from. Demonian, or demonic, because the whole process is dark and driven by inner demons. Abyssal, because there is an indefinable depth and majestic power at work alongside the direct aggression, this more prominent at some times than others.
In great news, Demonian Abyssal Visions has been picked up for release on LP and CD by the mighty Iron Bonehead Productions. You must be pleased with that, how did this partnership come to pass?
V: I contacted IBP linking them to our demo and expressing our desire to work with them, they are formidable and we have a lot of respect for them. They must have heard something in the demo they liked. IBP are always one to watch, they release a lot of good material, I’m sitting digesting some as I write this.
In my opinion, the music of Valaraukar is a strong exponent of one key ingredient that I believe should be present in the best of black metal – power. You can feel it seething like electricity in your compositions, empowering and charging you with dark vitality. Do you feel this is an important part of what black metal is to you?
V: Absolutely. Feeling empowered by the music is essential, without that it’s nothing. I think it starts the other way round, pouring that power into the material with vision, inspiration, emotion or whatever else makes it what it is. For someone who is not empowered by playing black metal, the end result is not going to be powerful in itself.
For me Demonian Abyssal Visions has captured that power you refer to, more so than anything I’ve been a part of in the past.
And finally – What’s next for the two of you? Are you working on any new material, or perhaps considering taking Valaraukar to the live setting and playing some shows?
V: Live shows are on the horizon, when the right opportunities come up. So far we have one appearance booked, playing with Desaster / Root / Archgoat / Mork in London, on the 1st of December. A monstrous lineup!
There is new material in the works but we haven’t written much at this stage. The next album will be quite different, that much is clear.
Sincerest thanks for your time, Valaraukar. Any parting words for us all?
V: Mastery Of Diabolical Strength!
Demonian Abyssal Visions unleashes June 21st under the banner of Iron Bonehead Productions.
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