Admittedly, Valborg’s fifth full-length Romantik was selected for review by yours truly based solely on one thing: Valborg apparently sounds like Triptykon. I know; that’s not exactly the best approach when selecting a promo. However, being the fan I am of Tom G. Warrior Inc. (look no farther than my pick for 2014’s Album of the Year), how could I go wrong? As many times before, I decided to take the plunge and dive head-first into the sounds and discography of a band I’d never heard before and what are the results of this risky endeavor? Well, I didn’t drown, but the doggy paddling wasn’t pretty. What appears to be the evil step-sister of Monotheist-era Celtic Frost-meets-Triptykon-meets-Type O Negative on the surface turns out to be some random person that looks sorta similar. Oy vey.
Does this mean I wanted Valborg to be a Triptykon clone? Absolutely not. But the passion and atmosphere of the Eparistera Daimones – Part II character of debut Glorification of Pain is nearly as convincing as anything Warrior and co. have released post Celtic Frost. From here the band evolved and expanded their sound to indeed make it their sound. Caked in doom and waking through a gothic murk, songs like Barbarian’s “Towering Clouds” display some sick riffage and moments of vicious death, and Crown of Sorrow’s “I Am Space” is single-handedly the coolest song the band has ever recorded. But in 2012, something went awry with Nekrodepression. While it continued to build off of Barbarian, it lacked the Valborgness of earlier releases and, sadly, some of that has bled into Romantik.
The biggest problem with Romantik is that it feels much slower than previous releases and took me nearly a half-dozen listens before it finally sunk in. Six tracks in forty minutes obviously results in longer track lengths that feel even longer with the overall lack of variety from song-to-song. The pace throughout the album is borderline glacial and the band is never tempted to press the accelerator. Though this isn’t surprising for a doom band, Romantik’s pace causes it to feel one-dimensional. A perfect example is “Blitz aus Sodom.” It’s five minutes of the same doom drudge, with alternating barks of “blitz aus Sodom!” and soft spoken-word passages. It’s not a particularly bad song but there really isn’t anything unique here.
For those able to overcome the pacing issues, there’s much to love from tracks like “Sulphur Vitriol Angel” and “Comtesse.” The former is perhaps the best track on the album and employs a powerful drum-driven beat and some catchy clean vox (which are a perfect contrast to the blackish rasps and venomous death barks). Halfway into the song, the keys blossom into a beautiful melody that the guitar eventually piggy-backs on, effectively capturing the emotion Valborg struggled to obtain in opener “Vampyr” and the aforementioned “Blitz aus Sodom.” Additional melodic stylings can be found toward the end of closer “The Haunted Womb;” which conveys an almost uplifting set of emotions that perfectly conclude Romantik. They really nail it here. “Comtesse,” on the other hand, can simply be described as a Melana Chasmata B-side. The Triptykon worship is heavy, and while it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, Valborg does a decent job with the song.
Perhaps the single best thing Romantik has going for it is its production. Crisp, clean, and with all players accounted for, this DR9 beauty is a real pleasure to listen to. The drums do what drums do, the guitars are sharp, the bass is ever-present throughout, and the synths are so ominous that even the local weather man couldn’t fuck it up (that ominousness could very well be the soundtrack to Blade Runner if John Carpenter directed it). Seriously, this sounds great, even if the music lacks some substance.
All-in-all, this is nothing special. It has some good moments and it has some bad, but it’s a step above Nekrodepression. Unfortunately, it lacks depth and its shortage in variety makes me long for Valborg curveballs like “I Am Space” and “Samantha Alive.” For all those people that consider themselves romantics, you’d be better off giving Barbarianism a try.