Valgrind – Condemnation Review

Most of us know someone who doesn’t speak often, but when they do, we listen. Case in point: Not long ago, I received a cryptic message from Ferrous Beuller that simply said, “You should pick up the new Valgrind for review.” And that’s all it took. I was unfamiliar with the band, so I was surprised to learn about their rather rich history. In fact, current guitarist and former vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Massimiliano Elia can trace his steps back to the beginning when Valgrind‘s predecessor Necrospell was formed 1994. When Necrospell closed up shop in ’96, several members went on to create Valgrind that same year, releasing some demos every couple of years and an EP in 2002. But it wouldn’t be until 2012 that a full-length would see the light of day in the form of Morning Will Come. Ferrous said he “was into their last record,” Blackest Horizon, but let’s see what happens when the review for followup Condemnation is entrusted into my highly incapable hands.

Valgrind plays a pretty varied style of guitar-driven death metal, mixing the crushing riffage of Immolation, the thrash-influenced chaos of Morbid Angel, and a theatrical lead style reminiscent of countrymates Fleshgod Apocalypse. While researching the band, I learned about a programming tool of the same name, and that the name Valgrind originates in Norse mythology, representing the entrance to Valhalla. It should come as no surprise then that the lyrics on Condemnation deal with mythological concepts and that the music occasionally strays close to the epically brutal territory of Nile. Single “Entangled in a World Below”1 demonstrates Valgrind‘s mixture of the aforementioned influences with a track that blasts, grooves, and neoclassically noodles through about a million transitions in less than four minutes.

There’s a good amount of diversity among the tracks, making the album’s 39-minute length fly by. “Divination – Marked by the Unknown” begins dramatically with a full minute of restrained keys before launching into a groove-filled riff auger that churns the soil beneath your feet, while “Furies” blasts out of the gate with a thrash assault and takes a mid-song break for some caveman chugs. The latter is absolutely riddled with solos, most of which issue forth from tortured wah pedals, making me think that this is where Kirk Hammett buried all those stock solos Lars wouldn’t let him use on St. Anger. “The Curse of the Pegasus Spawn” throws a little nod at Dismember with an intro that would sound at home on Like an Everflowing Stream before moving into Valgrind‘s signature sound, a veritable fondu pot of classic influences.

Valgrind has built a killer aesthetic. Immense guitars supported by resounding bass and dynamic drumming imbue even the more run-of-the-mill tracks with life and power. The production is extremely well done, sounding simultaneously gargantuan and spacious. Vocalist Daniele Lupidi gives a passionately hateful performance that suits the music perfectly. As far as nitpicks go, I’ve already mentioned the wah pedal on “Divination,” and that theme can be expanded through the whole album. It seems that for every awesome and epic technical solo, there’s a Hammett solo that feels a bit out of place, somewhat lowering my ability to stay immersed on repeat listens — see the otherwise stellar “Eater of Hearts” for an example. There are certainly some standout tracks here, like “The Curse of the Pegasus Spawn,” “Entangled in a World Below,” “Furies,” “Eater of Hearts,” and “Divination – Marked by the Unknown,” but the rest, while solid, had a tendency to escape my memory after each spin.

Well-produced and well-executed death metal will never go out of style, so as long as people have ears to hear, Valgrind should have an audience. A few titanic tracks and a few goods ones make Condemnation an easy platter to recommend to death metal fans. Now grab a mug, Valgrind some beans, and add some hot water, because this is like a no-nonsense, no-frills cup o’ Joe that’s sure to get your blood pumping.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Memento Mori
Websites: valgrindband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/valgrindband
Releases Worldwide: July 27th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Did someone venture a little too Close to a World Below?
« »