Charnel Valley - The Dark Archives
Paragon Records
Black Metal
5 songs (29'23")
Release year: 2005
Paragon Records
Reviewed by Alex

Judge not, if you don’t want to be judged. It goes something like this in the Bible, I am not that well versed in that book. Marty Rytkonen (Worm) of the famous webzine Worm Gear and S. Craig Zahler (Czar), both writers for Metal Maniacs, disregard the biblical advice and then put their musical talents where their scribbles are. First, they, opinionatedly, and sometimes mercilessly, critique albums on the pages of MM. Then, they throw caution to fire and put out a throwback black metal album as if saying “we like our black metal to sound this way”.

It is probably a good thing that booklet organization is the worst thing on The Dark Archives. The guys are obviously not doing this for the money, but it feels like that they have run out of those stinking dollars to finish the “decoration”. Lyrics are published only for one song (Catapult), and you would not know who plays what. From what I know I think it is Czar on drums and Worm on all other instruments, but I still do not know who ventured to do the vocals.

All that nonsense aside, The Dark Archives is five tracks of raw analog primal black metal. The way the forefathers thought it had to be played. The guys studied at the altar and processed all of their influences as a fine amalgam of epic and triumphant early Bathory, raw Darkthrone and Von (from what I heard of it), minimalistic Burzum and other Norse inspirations. Fast detuned tremolo pickings create the buzzsaw sound that is tried and true (or should I say trOO?). Bassless and steady monotonous rhythms put you in the state of trance, and, if you are willing, the ear picks out a whiff of undercurrent melodies (The Drowning Forest, They Sleep in Open Graves). These two cuts are my personal favorites and I would not mind those melodies to be punched up a little more, but who am I to argue with the masters here. It is just the Viking opening of They Sleep in Open Graves sounds overly cool and reminds me of the early Mithotyn.

Drumming is very minimalistic, recorded with analog microphones, so you can’t even hear the low end, but cymbals are ridden like a horse in a prairie. There is no “need for speed” with Charnel Valley, there is no blasting at all on the record. The guitar tremolo may appear to be fast, but the overall progression is not hurried, with some tracks turning into a droning dirge (Catapult, Demonic Science). Blackened thrash of Charnel Valley is almost a direct tribute to Bathory, and is quite engaging in tempo and motif, even if it is not the tightest ever played.

Whoever is doing the vocals must be into what Abbath of Immortal is doing voicewise. No vomitous shrieking, vocals of Charnel Valley are not too wild, do not distract and appear to be croaked out in intelligible fashion.

Charnel Valley appears to be a project where two guys with obvious skills appear to be paying the homage to the classics of the genre. Not inventing anything new, Worm and Czar parlayed all of their knowledge into a palatable piece, which can serve both ways – as a retrospect for the seasoned fans and an introduction for the newbies. Never to be confused with a classic, the record must have given the musicians a lot of satisfaction to make. Clearly a project, the second album appears to be on the way, however.

Killing Songs :
The Drowning Forest, They Sleep in Open Graves
Alex quoted 70 / 100
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