Boot stomping, gusto filled metal sounds better when it is bellowed in German, right? The newest record from Bonn’s Valborg, Endstrand (or End Times) evokes viscerally frightening images of burned out military bunkers, wind swept beaches barren of revelers and an array of devastated landscapes, stretching from horizon to horizon.
There is nothing particularly inviting in the canvas displayed on this record, unless that’s the weltanshauung that you are looking for. Even if you don’t speak a word of German, you speak Valborg’s language. Tracks like “Stossfront” and “Blut Am Eisen” don’t cast any airs. It’s barbaric. It’s savage. The band never loses their way in any quest for artifice or pretension. Their songs are technically sound, romping stomping metal that after decades sounds and feels timeless. What really slams a fist into your guts on Endstrand is the sheer density of recording, tracks like “Orbitalwaffe” are a assault of instrumentation that demand maximum volume. Even on what passes as mid-tempo for Valborg, a song like “Bunkerluft” there is a blizzard of sound, hardly a tease. Modern metal, what gets lumped as stoner or post threatens menace; this band delivers.
My issues with Endstrand are not in the music, per se. The three lads in Valborg artfully weave their signature aggressive guitars, thunderous percussion and an almost militaristic vocal drive. They’ve been at this a while too; this thirteen song album is the sixth in their catalog over the last nine years, so if anything, the concept is proven.
Where I run astray on Endstrand is the lack of experimentation displayed in the song writing. Older records in their catalog at least toyed with song length and construction and there is very little of that going on here. These are meat and potato heavy metal tracks, fiercely produced, delivered one after another but they never seem to diversify.
On such a high concept record (albeit a concept that has been well trodden) I feel that there needs to be some “it factor”, an aspect that distinguishes these apocalyptic images, aside from the singer/songwriter’s conviction that our precarious hold on the illusion of peace are rapidly fading away. And that is where we are on Valborg, living inside of that singular worldview and however vivid, there is a necessary leap of faith at play here that you’re well advised to make it.