Slechtvalk have returned with their fifth album, Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide and bring a collection of thundering, dark, and powerful blackened death metal that lives up to the anticipation for this album.
When one thinks of black metal or death metal with heavy black metal influences, bands like Antestor, Crimson Moonlight, and Slechtvalk are some names that should come to mind. Interestingly, all three have had their share of long breaks and then releasing an album that instantly reminds everyone of how good they really are. Antestor took a break from 2005 to 2012 and then released Omen, Crimson Moonlight took their break from 2011 to 2016 and released Divine Darkness, and now we have Slechtvalk on break from 2010 and releasing Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide now at the end of 2016. Slechtvalk (Dutch for peregrine falcon) was formed from a solo project of singer/guitarist Shamgar around 1999, with a debut album, Falconry being released in 2000. Following positive reception of Falconry, Shamgar was able to assemble a band and in 2002, released The War that Plagues the Lands. At the Dawn of War followed in 2005 and saw the band add some symphonic and folk elements to their sound and HM Magazine proclaimed it as one of the Top 100 Best Christian Metal Albums of All Time. A Forlorn Throne with a few new band members followed in 2010 and then there was silence until 2014 when pre-orders started for the new album and the band used an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the new album, exceeding their target and ending up on HM Magazine’s list of the 25 Most Anticipated Albums of 2016. Original plans had the album being recorded, mixed, and mastered with Lasse Lammert of LSD-Studio with an anticipated release in November 2015 and in January 2015 the band released a demo version of “We Are”, the first song on the new album, but the final version in lyric video form didn’t appear until November 2016.
By now, I would guess anyone interested in Slechtvalk will have checked out the lyric video for “We Are” and that song does serve as a great introduction for the album. I had the honor to review Antestor’s Omen and Crimson Moonlight’s Divine Darkness and both of those albums immediately established the bands as being back from hiatus with a sense of power and purpose and “We Are” hits all of those same marks. Thundering bass and drums carrying the song with a great shout and respond vocal treatment alternating gang vocals with the blackened vocals and lyrics about how the powerful who have taken advantage of others or ignored suffering around them will face judgement in the end and even a short guitar solo to keep things interesting before the song shifts into a section of more black metal elements and ends back with a more melodic death metal feel. Though only 3:40 long, the song rages and roars for the entire time, showing the band can still keep up with the best of them.
Moving on to “Asternas” Slechtvalk show more of the symphonic black metal influence in the song that is over six and half minutes long, slower in tempo overall, and features a quieter section along with some backing vocals that are reminiscent of those often heard on folk metal albums. Following “Asternas”, the band again picks up the speed for “Betrayed” which features some intricate guitar riffs as well as some folk metal chorus vocals. By now you are getting the idea that the band is not resting on their laurels in terms of the songcrafting as there are a lot of different elements incorporated into the songs. The performances are incredibly strong and the underlying rhythm section throughout the album is literally like rolling thunder. This, though is my one minor issue with the album – the production/mixing is such that while the vocals and music are in good balance, the instruments almost become a wall of sound where the individual contributions are not as distinct as I would like. In the quieter sections though like in “March to Ruin” everything becomes clearer and the power with the bass line and the drum lines in that section are a joy to behold.
“Nemesis” opens with a mournful piano intro before erupting into a song very much reminiscent of Antestor-like black metal from the blast beats, drum transitions to the guitar tone throughout much of the song, although, true to form, Slechtvalk succeed in bringing in their own style to make this song their own toward the end with a heavy, darker riff that has a near groove. In contrast, “Rise or Fall” begins much closer to a melodic death metal track and keeps that through much of the song. This particular track is one of those where the complex rhythms and patterns in the drums along with the blast beats simply were amazing.
Clocking in near nine minutes long, “Wandering Shadows” is a bit of departure from the previous songs and yet still fits within the album. Some atmospheric sounds of a wind-swept landscape open up the song before a lone guitar chimes out amid screams in the background. The slow intro builds, leading one to first expect a fury to be unleashed, but instead, there is the deep, folk metal clean chorus that begins the song and a groove erupts with deep growled vocals replacing the more shriek-like blackened vocals. Add in an extended quite section with mostly the bass and drums carrying things and some more folk metal vocals and you have a great song that fits its title as it wanders around musically.
The album closes with “Homebound”, a track with a driving rhythm, multiple vocal styles, some great guitar work, and the ever present thundering rhythm section that pummels the listener. A fitting end to a great album.
Slechtvalk have managed to produce an album that grabs you on first listen of the first track and keeps you coming back, finding more to like on not only each successive track but also on each successive listen. Hearing a band deliver complex songs with such raw power, instantly reminds me of why I like metal.
Written by John Jackson
01. We Are (3:38)
02. Asternas (6:31)
03. Betrayed (4:10)
04. March to Ruin (6:19)
05. Nemesis (4:04)
06. Rise or Fall (4:36)
07. The Shrouded Grief (5:12)
08. Malagh Defiled (5:06)
09. Wandering Shadows (8:47)
10. Homebound (4:55)
Total Running time: 0:53:45
Shamgar – Vocals/guitars
Dagor – bass
Seraph – guitars
Premnath – Keys
Grimbold – Drums
“Falconry Full-length (2000)
“The War That Plagues the Lands” (2002)
“Chaos & Warfare” [Split w/ Kekal] (2002)
“Upon the Fields of Battle” [CD/DVD] (2005)
“At the Dawn of War” (2005)
‘Thunder of War’ [Single] (2005)
“An Era of Bloodshed” [Compilation] (2009)
“A Forlorn Throne” (2010) Review
“Where Wandering Shadows and Mists Collide” (2016)
Record Label: Independent, Dec. 2016
Lyric video for ‘We Are’
Video below: “Where Wandering Shadows And Mists Collide” (Album Teaser)