Vahrzaw – In the Shallows of a Starlit Lake (Review)

Vahrzaw - In the Shallows of a Starlit LakeVahrzaw are an Australian black metal band and this is their fifth album.

Having enjoyed 2014’s Twin Suns & Wolves’ Tongues, 2018’s Husk, and 2021’s The Trembling Voices of Conquered Men, I was always going to have to check out the new Vahrzaw album.

In a supreme act of laziness on my part I’m just going to lift the following from the band themselves – “In our 30th year as a band we decided to return to our early black metal roots, for this, our 5th album, where the old guard dominated extreme metal. Early incarnations of Satyricon, Emperor, Impaled Nazarene, Ulver, Gorgoroth, Mayhem… and the demos of Carpathian Forest, Sorhin, Setherial & Thy Serpent. Everything raw and live sounding with the addition of synths and soundscapes. Minimal fuss. Maximum speed. What it should have always been.” – as this sets the scene for this record very well.

On In the Shallows of a Starlit Lake Vahrzaw unleash 40 minutes of old-school black metal. It’s raw, it’s cold, it’s atmospheric, it’s aggressive; yep, it’s traditional black metal played with grim passion and lethal intent. The music is so authentically of the second wave years it could be a lost gem from the era. Honestly, it makes me strongly nostalgic for that time. However, despite this, Vahrzaw stamp their own infernal identity on the classic sound, making sure that their own brand of virulent character is firmly carved into the music. As such, In the Shallows of a Starlit Lake is a very enjoyable exploration of Vahrzaw’s vision of traditional black metal.

The songs are well-written and clearly the product of a band that know the style inside and out. The twisted riffs and blackened rhythms are impactful and dark, while the venomous melodies are deployed like weaponry. Synths enrich the music, adding atmospheric layers and highlights as the furious material unfolds. Occasionally everything drops away and we’re left with some very 90s-sounding synths that build mood, before the violence erupts once more. Each track is shaped and crafted for maximum effect, combining harsh underground hatred with frozen Hellish majesty in the right amounts. Vahrzaw can brutalise and terrify with the best of them, but they can also build icy soundscapes of cruel grandeur too.

Well, this was unexpected from Vahrzaw, but I’m not complaining. This is a style that I love, and Vahrzaw play it very well. In the Shallows of a Starlit Lake is an album that any fan of old-school black metal should spend some time howling at the moon to.

Very highly recommended.

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