Indonesian black metal maulers Vallendusk spill melody, chaos with ‘Fortress of Primal Grace’

We cover and drown ourselves in a lot of dark, foreboding stuff, which is only natural since that’s most of what’s out there now, and the world has turned to shit. But it’s nice to get a reminder every now and again that metal can be strong and glorious. If done right, it can still set our hearts sailing toward the skies for an adventure out of body.

Indonesian atmospheric black metal band Vallendusk do all that and more on their stunning third record “Fortress of Primal Grace,” a seven-track, hourlong sojourn into a goddamn rich stew of riffs that could make you want to get up and battle any force of oppression with a golden sword. This isn’t fantasy stuff, just so that there’s no misunderstanding, but holy shit if this thing doesn’t swoop in on eagle’s wings and make you feel all the feelings. While we’re talking black metal and even a few touches of early death metal, I can’t help but feel a Helloween presence in the guitar work, which is a major plus. The way the band—vocalist Rizky, guitarists Danang Sugianto and Valendino Mithos, and drummer Derick Pawira—builds and expresses their music makes it easy for them to get into your bloodstream for full infection, and from the start of this thing right up to its end, Vallendusk do an ideal job adding excitement, humanity, and adventure into their assault.

The record opens with the longest track of the group, 10:38 “The Presences.” Organs emerge as the guitars liquify, and then the leads start blazing. The first tastes of power metal are present, as melodies soar and a prog-infused storm lands. Shimmering playing, scraping growls, and another organ swell bring the track to its end. “In Reverie” follows in a rush of melody, with a great riff knocking down walls, and awesome growls from Rizky leading the way. The leads go off, as the band exhibits their strong playing again, with an absolute storm hanging overhead, the music spitting fire, and the emotion blazing out. “Coronation” storms the land, with the melodies pushing hard into power metal fire, and then, out of nowhere, organs start pumping. It’s a cool about face, and then we’re back to glorious guitar work, some clean singing, and then a section that feels like a combo of old-school punk and, in the best way possible, pirate metal before a rousing end. “Heart of the Storm” has riffs rolling out on a conveyor belt, as the power aura returns, and the leads cut through before a chugging breakdown. The song is exciting and melodic, as a rush of energy charges the speedy finish.

“Eons” opens in an acoustic flush before the song blasts open, and the riffs spill buckets of wild colors. The track is wildly infectious, with the vocals sprawling and hammering, and then the pace pulls back to acoustics. From out of that, the bass throbs, the pace shifts, and we’re off to a blistering end. “Higher Ground” is not a Stevie Wonder cover. Instead, it starts with a folk vibe before it gets chunky and heavy. The ferocity paves the way for gnarly growls, and wordless calls get into your heart and make you want to fight back. The pace remains savage until folk stylings return and help the song fade away. Closer “The Shield” is fast and sprawling, with a power metal underbelly and huge melodies combining with gigantic riffs. The song shows a darker side at times, with the menace thickening and keys emerging to bring on a frost. Finally, the band sets out on a gallop, bringing the track to a fiery, thunderous end.

Vallendusk really find their mark on “Fortress of Primal Grace,” a record that could find allegiances among fans of plenty of different metallic sub-genres. The riffs are plentiful and inspired, while the total package hits on all cylinders, making for an album that zooms by in an hour, leaving you wondering where the time went. It’s heavy and punishing, but also something that, when it’s all over, won’t do any further damage to your already rotting core.

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