Rules, physics, science, biology. These are truths that most of us take for granted. For example, we know that there are only two sides to a coin. Heads and tails. We use that rule to decide who gets the ball at some sporting events and also games of chance (or life and death). The vast majority of us therefore fail at art by allowing ourselves to be limited and confined within the rubric set forth by those who came before us (and even sometimes by what we ourselves have done before). Valborg is not the vast majority of us. Hell, they might not even be of the same race as most of us miscreants. They have proven that their coin has many, many sides. Like many coins fused together to form a multi-dimensional hexagonal interplanetary piece of currency. They will simply not be confined by one dimension, or one line/method, of thinking.
Their 2015 release Romantik seemed to be their “other side of the coin.” Valborg had spent years mixing influences only to drop Nekrodepression in 2012, a relatively straight forward release (for them). But two years later, with Endstrand, Valborg have added yet another side to their multi-dimensional coin. Leaping from the comfortable penthouse of their atmospheric, soul-crushing doom and dark-rock of Romantik the wily Germans boldly leapt into the more characteristically German sounds of industrial influence, avant harshness and machine-like Prussian-precision.
Endstrand brims with Ministry-like influences, punk-laced ferocity and Ved Buens Ende noisy weirdness. Yet, it somehow feels like another attempt at a “straight-forward” release. It’s in that way, with its many faces and personalities, that Endstrand defies all logic, all prediction and all previous predilection for Valborg. But, it’s also a triumph of composition revealing a Valborg that shows restraint in experimentation, extreme focus and an ability to absolutely crush this previously unexplored (for them) sound.
The choice to open the album with “Jagen” speaks volumes. Iron-like drums slam away with assembly-line efficiency as Valborg announces that this album will be distinctly German. In fact, there is not any English to be found on Endstrand (somewhat uncommon for this crew). The follow up track, “Blut am Eisen” is powered by near perfect groove and vocal interplay. It’s a subtle build on “Jagen” like adding bricks to a complete building. The album crescendos slowly, stacking piece by piece until the whole of their compound is completed.
Tracks like “Beerdigungsmaschine” not only serve to get the listener fired the eff up but they have super rad titles (see also “Orbitalwaffe”) that are fun to try and say. It’s also those two tracks in particular that exemplify the more melodic takes on industrial metal. The riffs are wide open, menacing, cutting and yet somehow pleasantly melodic. They represent the serene lower floors of the industrial complex built by Valborg. Expansive views of lakes, black forests and misty fog that give way to the harsher, more experimental floors above when “Stossfront” fizzles forth from the bleached stainless steel of their laboratory bringing the stench of formaldehyde and the sizzling crackle of bunson burners.
And the lyrics are not far off from the imagery. When translated, the lyrics for “Bunkerluft” are: “Brains of crystal are waiting for a thousand years. Radiation impact. Neutrinoarg. Crust shield. The whole world.” The title, “Bunker Air” is unsettling, the stench of mold and claustraphobia that likely occurs while living in a windowless, airless bunker are reflected in the music as eerie guitar lines hover over chanted vocals while a metallic bass cuts the bottom end off like a guillotine. Essentially, even without knowing the lyrics, the message is translated making Valborg once again shine as a band that can deliver the package completely.
With no tracks exceeding five minutes, this is Valborg’s most efficient album, and as I might have mentioned, quite a “post-urban” experience. Images burst across your brainstem as the tracks blink by like a train thundering through the countryside. Most tracks are roughly three-minute affairs that get the job done with surgical precision, nary a gram of fat and just enough bounce to keep the brisk pace on path. The slowest of the more paced tracks is found on “Ave Maria” which makes up for pacing by providing absolutely ripping vocals also employed on the alarm-inducing “Strahlung.” And they both hit like a stack of hardcover books. Even the tank-like chugger of a closer, “Exodus” simply can’t be held back as it powers forward refusing all orders for stoppage or rest.
Endstrand is either a turning point in their career or it’s yet another installment of “Valborg Show’s You All How it’s Done.” Their compositional abilities are not to be denied this far into their musical career. Now six LP’s deep, Valborg has eschewed conventionality, consistency or any other redundant take on their sound. They have shown that they are masterful at weaving compositions across different emotions, musical styles and atmospheres. Whether it be bleak, industrial, apocalyptic or a velvet draped room containing a sarcophagus Valborg has a pill for that. People talk about the EGOT or having the “it” factor. Well, as of right now, Valborg is the “it” band.