Review | VALAC Prolongs the Plague on Howls of Infinite Horror

            The next breed of sickness has emerged, and no this isn’t about the recent monkeypox outbreaks, but instead refers to the latest affliction from VALAC, a one-man black metal project lurking in the shadowy USA. This mysterious entity was featured in THE MISANTHREPORT’s very first collection of short reviews with Burning Dawn of Vengeance, which then reappeared later on the year-end list for 2021, and no time has been wasted between curses as Howls of Infinite Horror wreaks a third full scourge on the present. Full attention is now devoted to this continuation of grim vitality, and the malevolent contagion from previous works expands notably through these new orchestrated torments. VALAC directs hostile energies from the genre’s blackest recesses into his craft, and Howls of Infinite Horror forwards its influence with ruthless and deathly variants of those forces.

            An atmospheric opening follows the approach of past efforts, with various astral influences conjuring a void on “Act I,” and dread is conveyed by the spoken recording before “Shadow of the Blood Moon” emerges. Its initial solo and heavy striding pace creates a distinguished presence, and the production bares a raw crunch without burying the instrumental elements. Melodic currents are raised over the riffing once blast beats advance, and layers of ambient grandeur surface amid these passages while alternating with grooves. This rhythmic variety is harnessed effectively throughout, and it highlights striking riff developments as the track evolves, along with numerous arpeggiations and other noted shapes in the lo-fi fog of “Levitating on the Plane of Existence.” Slower transitions magnify the sinister eminence of those formations, which is paralleled by the imposition of blasts with a menacing riff mass, and this morphs to a rapid thrashing pulse when the solo arises. These brooding energies are echoed by vocals from a malignant disembodied spirit, and occasional cavernous outbursts extend its monstrous essence. Some haunting clean tones also manifest in the depths of “Gaze at Namtar,” and they signal a culmination of chilling arpeggiated structures and oppression that casts a lasting enchantment.

             A heavy storm rages on “In the Name of Sickness,” with its razor-like tremolos and vibratos traversing the rhythmic turmoil, and other progressions fluctuate with accented fury before reaching the gloomy overtones of “Dead Savior Complex.” Its atmospheric interludes are matched by a depressive tone in the riffing, which evokes the aura most familiar from past VALAC projections, and a malevolence takes hold as icy notes glare in time with a swinging groove. Arpeggiated forms extend this raw malice, and its intensity further evolves through heavier riffs until executing the definitive assault on “Confined to the Chains of Trauma.” A fierce combination of tremolo melodies with riffing and blasts prevails here, and dejected influences from the preceding track are also reconjured at dissonant points. The attack sharpens with a thrashy riff that rushes into tremolo depths alongside a solo, and these drive the momentum toward a dreary and entrancing melodic passage. A layer of ambience compounds its effect, along with spectral reverberations to seal the work in wretchedness, and “Act II” contemplates on the impact of these torments with an otherworldly atmosphere and final narrated revelation.

            No lyrics have been revealed at this time, but VALAC is known for embodying themes of misery, illness, and death, which are still pronounced here based on certain song titles. Others, like “Gaze at Namtar” and “Dead Savior Complex,” suggest a broadening of these topics to include Sumerian Mythology and anti-religious views. While the deeper contents of this work remain a mystery, the aural hellishness satisfies and speaks clearly enough despite its concealed incantations.

            The recent outputs from VALAC are supplemented by this swift return, and Howls of Infinite Horror advances fierce varieties of grimness that command acclaim. Its predecessors seemed more focused on anguish and despair while a vicious quality lurked beneath, and here the balance shifts in favor of heightened malice, along with depressive traces that still arise throughout. Blast-beaten passages with speed riffing drive an unrepentant attack, but a notable strength lies in the rocking swagger of other rhythms which augment its sinister details. The production continues to satisfy, with ghastly tones amplified through its raw and dismal medium, and the compositional intricacies are effectively captured within its savagery. The shorter run-time of around thirty minutes could be an area of complaint for some, and though a longer duration might be desirable at some future time, this length makes for a concise and easily repeatable venture. Howls of Infinite Horror is a worthwhile offering that should elevate VALAC’s renown, and like his previous works, it demonstrates the perpetual appeal of raw black metal.

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