Kval – Kval (Review)

KvalKval is a one-man black metal band from Finland and this is his debut album.

Apparently starting out life under the name Khaossos and released in 2015 with the title Kuolonkuu, this new version is a re-recorded beast that’s now been updated and unleashed under the moniker of Kval.

Abandon all hope, for Kval’s music is here to drain you of all joy and warmth.

This is atmospheric black metal, interspersed with moments of barren ambient despair. The ambient tracks act as opener, middle-interlude, and closer of the release; they effectively build mood and feeling either before or after the main events of the four longer black metal songs themselves. These main songs are dark and atmospheric, working with the cover artwork to foster feelings of being stranded in a cold, dangerous environment, far from solace or safety.

The guitars are fully imbued with the essence of a frosted, frigid night. The riffs they form are fragile like ice, but no less dangerous due to their coldness and sharpened edges. This kind of black metal deserves, nay, requires, this kind of icy sound, and the entire album gives the impression that it has been soaked in freezing water in the middle of a deserted forest.

The music rarely resorts to speed, usually relying on slower or mid-paced parts to create atmosphere and feeling. It’s an emotive listen, with the artist obviously skilled at crafting black metal that’s atmospheric and filled with evoked images of cold landscapes and foreign lands.

The vocals are agonised howls, screaming with tormented misery and echoes of half-forgotten loss. Alongside the textured music they speak of a feral pain that’s somehow pure and distinct from its surroundings, yet also intrinsically linked to them.

I can’t help but easily fall for this kind of compelling, absorbing atmospheric black metal. It’s easy to get lost in the soundscapes of Kval’s blackened imagination, and I’d definitely recommend a visit or two to these frozen shores.

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