Endstrand by ValborgRelease date: April 7, 2017
Label: Lupus Lounge / Prophecy Productions
We start with a pumping smashing beat and driving metallic guitar and extremely agitated distorted voice, in a sort of synthetic raging industrial metal. Short sharp songs with a pounding drum beat and barked German vocals, we’re definitely tending towards the PVC realm more than denim or even leather. Well OK, many of the tracks sneak over the 4 minute line, but the simplicity makes them seem quick and snappy: the riffs are short snippets repeated and the singing is more about rhythm than tune, keeping a relentless bashing continuum going.
‘Beerdigungsmaschine’ involves a distorted voice yelling “Beerdigungsmaschine” over a relentlessly bludgeoning one-note-chug. ‘Stossfront’ involves a distorted voice yelling “Stossfront” over a relentlessly bludgeoning one-note-chug. ‘Ave Maria’ involves a distorted voice yelling “Ave Maria” over a relentlessly bludgeoning one-note-chug. OK, this is unfair, as once you listen a few times there’s differences across, say, the riff under the chorus in ‘Stossfront’ and ‘Ave Maria’ is a bit slower and more atmospheric. Elsewhere ‘Bunkerluft’ has got a good sort of slightly proggy Knightrider drive, briefly away from the hammer smashing riffs, the opening jangle of ‘Orbitalwaffe’ settles for nothing now and settles for nothing later, and ‘Blut am Eisen’ is a powerful Rob Zombie-ish neon tank at full speed.
So there is variety across the album’s 45 minutes, when listened to closely. Nevertheless, on first couple of listens the impression is of an overbearing wall of consistency in the sounds and style employed… JUGGA-JUGGA-JUJUJUJU-JUGGA, the same guitar sound and the same effect on the vocals. Sometimes this sort of thing can work to dizzying and overwhelming effect, such as when the insane band Legion of Andromeda follow a similar pattern to uncompromisingly fearsome, exhilaratingly ludicrous extent. With Valborg’s album, I can see occasions where it might approach something similar, but I’ve found myself experiencing it as a bit overstretched at thirteen tracks.
The press release promises ‘apparitions of empty beaches, bunkers in the dunes, novel biological phenomenon, washed up artifacts, noise distorted signals and omnipresent whirring’, which isn’t really what I get at all, to me it’s more evocative of an underground industrial fetish club scene in a 90s movie, or a soundtrack to a Steve Jackson role-playing book game thing set in the future (2020!). It does pose a question about how to read it… something about the machinic excess, the clipped factory timings, vocal effects and the German language are reminiscent of Rammstein or Laibach’s aesthetic that extends beyond sound. With those two bands, there’s a more overt sense of a weird queering of totalitarianism in different ways: controversy has surrounded both still, as they’ve each attracted vastly contrasting and contradictory interpretations, many of which assume they’re up to something behind just making music. The scarlet helmet skull thing on the cover here prompts further speculation, but to be honest not for too long, since any intense consideration of the symbolism of sound and image would have to be backed up by a fascination with the music, which here just hasn’t held my attention.