Valborg, which may or may not be a type of bonfire to ward off witches, give us their seventh album, 'Zentrum', which means 'Centre' in German. Such an ambiguous title is revealed to be the band wishing to find their centre again, following the death of one of their friends. The Metal Archives describe their music as Progressive Doom/Death Metal, which is reliably off the mark. There's nothing remotely progressive, nor death metal, about this - indeed, the press release rather proudly states "Valborg are undisputed masters of sophisticated primitivism". And it's true, the band really have made simplicity their friend here. There are echoes of Apollyon Sun (albeit less squelchy electronics), Meathook Seed, and Misery Loves Co. All bands that had built careers, no matter how short, on simple writing; where groove is king. You can hear the influence of Tom Warrior all over this, whether it be the aforementioned Apollyon Sun, or his later work with Triptykon. This may seem like Valborg are dwelling in the past, but the sound is certainly very forward thinking (at least in terms of underground music).
Opener 'Rote Augen' kicks off with mechanised drum sounds (although I believe this is a human drummer) and a wall of sound marching riff. Rammstein stripped of commercialism and humour, if you will. It's pretty relentless and, along with second track 'Alphakomet', may put you off with its apparent lack of dynamic. Bear with it, though, because that first chorus in 'Alphakomet' holds the first clue to where this album is going. It finally gives the listener a chance to breathe; albeit briefly. There is, however, a strange instrument buried in the mix somewhat. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was a bass guitar VST; it sounds very mechanical in that respect; almost like a slap bass robbed of feel. It rears its head here and there throughout (maybe it was a midi track placed for guidance but got left in, or maybe it's deliberate).Anyway, 'Anomalie' finally brings us a change of pace, which is most welcome, and is certainly one of the stand-out songs. The song reduces from a sprint to a stomp and is all the more powerful for it. This sedate pace sees us through until track 7, 'Kreuzer', which has more of that Triptykon flavour; evil down-tuned guitars and foreboding vocals. Final track 'Vakuum' mixes it all together and delivers a driving finale before the end punches its way to a barrage of military drumming, samples(?), and staccato riffing, before collapsing into a fever dream of what sound like synths and feedback.
It can be quite an exhausting experience listening to 'Zentrum', but it's never a dull experience. Valborg have created an album of surprising depth – in spite of its simplicity - for such mechanised music. I only wish I had a lyric sheet (and a translator) to see how the concept marries with the music. As it is though, I heartily recommend this.
Review by Steve Cowan
17th May 2019
1) Rote Augen
8) Schwerter Der Zeit
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"It can be quite an exhausting experience listening to 'Zentrum', but it's never a dull experience. Valborg have created an album of surprising depth – in spite of its simplicity - for such mechanised music."