Mammoth Lakes' Valdur have experienced some change of late with the addition of vocalist/ guitarist Samuel, taking the place of the recently departed Thor. A new album is in the works as well as extensive touring, but the new version of Valdur have decided to get their feet wet, so to speak, by headlining a mini-festival in the sleepy L.A. suburb of Baldwin Park.
Promoted by upstart Absolute Void Productions, the festival took place on Friday, April 13th at a VFW hall, of all places, just as a late winter storm blew through California. Dumping rain, hail, and snow at the higher elevations throughout the state, the storm proved to be a tribulation for all those involved. Valdur were nearly snowed, only barely making it to the venue in the early evening. Members of a few of the bands from the Sacramento area were involved in a car accident, and only their valiant effort of tying the hood back on to their car allowed them pass over the Grapevine to arrive in time. Given the trials and tribulations that these dedicated band members had to endure, my own trek across the rain soaked city paled in comparison.
About a dozen or so bands appeared on two small stages on the opposite sides of a large room, and greatly varied in quality, as you might imagine. Here's a brief look at those that garnered my interest. The band that first caught my ear was Insentient, a guitar duo with a drum machine playing blackened death metal. The guitarist, a young girl, was noticeably very good with excellent riffs and a deep roar that belied her waif-like appearance. Put this girl in the right band, and she has a great future as a musician.
Rotten Funeral, a straightforward, corpsepaint-adorned black metal act descended from Darkthrone and/ or Burzum with a pleasing blend of droning riffs, a steady cadence, and harsh rasps were the best of the early bands. Although sort of typical, Rotten Funeral were easily at their best when rolling along with a simple pacing. Surprisingly, Rotten Funeral were also able to provide a sense of atmosphere in a very sterile environment with an attempt at stage dressing.
Everyone’s favorite Satanic grindcore act Killgasm were next and, although I’d never really listen to recordings from the band, their delivery is infectious with all out blasts, screeches, and more than a hint of tongue in cheek humor. The drummer has his shtick down pat, as I’ve witnessed his brand of humor before when Killgasm appeared on a bill with Dodsferd last year.
One of the “big” acts of the evening is the long running Vesterian, a black metal act that consists of a wall of swirling, chaotic sound and horrific, electronically enhanced screeches. Adding further atmospheric touches to the chaos was smoke that filled the room and absolutely blinding, flickering strobe lights pointed straight at the audience (see clip below). Although an interesting effect, the blinding glare proved to be a bit much after 20 minutes or so.
Rather typical corpsepainted warriors Holocaust were next, but I found myself tuning in with greater interest deeper into their set as a great deal of catchiness came through. The vocalist’s raspy “waaahhhhh” delivery also won me over.
Harassor flat out stole the show. The most mature act on the bill thus far, Harassor have a clicking cadence with screeched vocals that accompany the drums, and big, fat riffs. A trio, Harassor have quite a powerful sound, a certain uniqueness to them that’s hard to pin down, and vaguely disquieting atmosphere and outlook.
Valdur were the main headliner, and were finally able to take the stage at about 1am. Most of the crowd, which ebbed and flowed in attendance throughout the evening, was still present, anxious to hear the new version of Valdur. Unfortunately, the sound mixing was rather poor with the drumming overwhelming the bass and, in particular, the guitars of Samuel. However, of note are the following new aspects to Valdur’s sound. First, Samuel’s vocals are more guttural, different from those of Thor’s deeper delivery. The band’s musical approach is now more akin to blackened death metal rather than a mix of Viking and black metal, and, unfortunately, the hint of the majestic in the band’s sound wasn’t able to come out, more than likely due to the poor mix. However, what was audible in the guitar was good, and new material from the band will be awaited with much anticipation.
Special thanks to Matt, Billy, and Sammy.