DEATH VANISH Brings the Cold Hammer of Melancholy Down On Black Metal
For as expansive and polished as much of the popular black metal has become, it's kind of nice to return to the genre's more primal and raw roots. If one digs deep enough, there's a plethora of nostalgic black metal out there. There aren't too many projects that feature a mind like Valder though. The Connecticut man hones his craft in bands such as One Master, Lustrum, and most recently, Death Vanish. For over 15 years, Valder continues to perfect his meticulous craft across these acts both as a member of a collective, as is the case with One Master and Lustrum, and now as a solo endeavor in Death Vanish.
His solo project unveils the first EP today and Metal Injection has its exclusive premiere. The four-song offering, Cold Hammer of Melancholy, follows a split last year with Misanthropos (a project which features one of his Lustrum bandmates). Across it's albeit brief, but ferocious 12-minute runtime, Valder harkens to a time of early Beherit and Profanatica. The early days of these bands captured an untethered and very natural approach to what they did. These are bands unaffected by their peers. This is an avenue Death Vanish also takes.
Throughout the EP, Valder presents biblical and mythological representations of Satan—not in the classical sense—but in a way that showcases an idea of vanishing. It's allegorical of Valder's present life. The music itself features grotesque grooves reminiscent of the early 90s/second wave black metal. The songs carry a welcomed simplicity in structure. It allows for a powerful execution of riffs and Valder's icy hiss to take center stage. Ultimately, this is a new step for a brilliant, blackened mind already with a résumé far greater than many of his American counterparts. Between the lycanthropy and occultism of One Master, the blackened sleaze of Lustrum, and now the introspection of Death Vanish, Valder expertly finds a number of tropes and aesthetics of black metal.
Read an in-depth interview with Valder about Death Vanish, the meaning of "escapism," and his record label Eternal Death. Stream Cold Hammer of Melancholy below as well and pick up a copy of it from Eternal Death. Also, follow the label on Facebook.
Metal Injection: I imagine most people know you from your work in One Master, which has been around for quite some time now, 2002 I believe? Whereas Death Vanish is still quite new having emerged in 2017. Where did the decision come from to bring Death Vanish to life and what do you see as the biggest difference—outside of how much more primal and rawer it is—between this project and One Master or even other projects you’re involved with like Lustrum?
Valder: I like bands who have a strong identity. Trying to incorporate too many ideas or trying to do too many different things within the confines of one project usually leads to bad results. I had been coming up with some song parts or ideas that I really liked but that strayed a little bit too much from the identity of One Master, and certainly Lustrum, so I wanted a fresh start with a new project. The three bands I'm involved in now are all black metal at their base but have three different ways of doing that, and trying to combine those ideas into one project just wouldn't work.
I had started playing the drums during the time that One Master was on a sort-of hiatus in 2011 to 2012 so the idea of trying to do a solo project was something I had been interested in for a while but never had the time for until recently. Doing this particular band as a solo project made a lot of sense with the kinds of primal and primitive ideas I was coming up with on guitar. The limitations I have as a guitar player masquerading as a drummer works well in this project because it keeps the songs/ideas from getting too “complicated” and keeps everything within the intended identity.
Around the time I was coming up with the idea of doing Death Vanish as a solo project, my friend who I play in Lustrum with was coming up with ideas for his own solo project (Misanthropos) and we decided to do them as sort of tandem solo projects. We did the first release of each band as a split tape. We also have done some live shows together and used a common live backing back and played in each other's live band.
Metal Injection: The split you did with your friend in Misanthropos was really cool and seeing how you describe the rationale of splitting your projects makes a lot of sense. They’re not so much competing ideas as they are natural products of your exploration of black metal divided to preserve each project’s identity. Given that you have three active bands right now, do you find it difficult to manage them—in addition to your day-to-day—or do you sort of pick up a project when it just comes to you?
Valder: Ever since One Master starting being more active again in 2013 with a revised lineup, things got a little hectic time-wise for me. Since then we've had a fairly regular schedule of rehearsing and been active with gigs, tours, and festivals (at least to me it seemed a lot for a band that's not “full time”).
In some ways, all of the activity can feel a bit much—as one gets older and has more things going on, “free time” seems to be harder to carve out. Lately, we've been cutting back on rehearsing and taking a break from gigs, letting everyone have a little more free time. Although I like the free time, as a busy “adult,” sometimes its hard to get people together without an organized thing like a rehearsal or a gig, so the “free time” can have its own drawbacks.
Lustrum has always been more of a "side band" for myself and the other member, with us fitting in songwriting, rehearsals, gigs, in between other things and taking advantage of breaks from other things. Death Vanish is similarly something that comes and goes as I have free time. Now that One Master is taking a break, I'm working on writing new songs for all three projects.
Metal Injection: The press release for your EP, Cold Hammer of Melancholy, mentions the influence that early Beherit and Profanatica have on Death Vanish. There are definitely some swaths of maybe Drawing Down the Moon and Weeping in Heaven on this EP. It certainly captures that raw aesthetic that they and bands of the second wave really zeroed in on as well. For you, where did the draw to Beherit and Profanatica come from as opposed to some other bands?
Valder: Innocence is what attracts me to them. I know that seems a weird way of describing bands with the imagery and “evil” atmosphere of Profanatica and Beherit, but I mean in the sense that they have a kind of timeless quality to them, appearing to do what comes naturally, without being influenced by their surroundings. As someone who is very introspective and in some ways hyper-aware of things, seeing people/bands who appear to not be cynical or influenced by what is around them but just do their own thing as if it is all that matters is something I'm attracted to.
Metal Injection: Across Cold Hammer of Melancholy, there are nods to mythological and biblical characters and verses. I understand mythology and occult themes are an area of interest for you. What sort of stories or ideas did you dive into for this EP?
Valder: The main “ideology” behind the project is trying to understand how escapism (vanishing if you will) can be a way to gain autonomy and authority over oneself. Trying to understand, and when beneficial, use, “escapism” as an aspect of one's personality is something that has grown within me as I have gotten older and seemed a good source for a lyrical identity.
This idea of “escaping” as a means of gaining knowledge and power is, of course, something that, in various ways, is part of mythology so it seemed natural to use it in the lyrics. One way I view the mythological character of Satan is not as some invading warlord taking over heaven, but as a solitary wanderer abandoning it and creating his own vision, and that's the manner he's used in the lyrics of this project.
Metal Injection: Oh, I see. That’s a very interesting way to approach it. I like it a lot. This idea of “escapism” or vanishing for you—how have you found your own autonomy or authority through it as you’ve gotten older?
Valder: Through honest self-evaluation and reflection. This aspect of my personality has always come through in both volitional as well as more unconscious, instinctual ways. Six years ago I got a house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to have a place to go and get away from everything. I'm hoping to move there permanently when it's financially feasible. I enjoy all of the time spent there and in the New Hampshire wilderness.
Many songs, as well as lyrics, have been written while up there. A more instinctual way this has come out is in what could be described as strong anti-social streaks. People have called me a “bat” for just disappearing at times. Reflecting on the causes of this instinct and ways to channel them in volitional ways has cut down on these occurrences. Not eliminating or denying the instinct, but understanding and channeling it in a purposeful way.
Metal Injection: In addition to the music you write and perform, you also release music through your label, Eternal Death. My understanding is you started the label as a way to release the music you create but it’s grown to encompass more releases from bands that you’re fond of. What sort of trajectory do you see for the label? Are you hoping to see it expand further or are you content with where it is right now?
Valder: I think things have progressed well during the 5+ years I've been running Eternal Death and I'm hoping it keeps getting stronger. The label started after I got frustrated with the process of trying to get material released by others and just wanting to do it myself. After the label got going, I started slowly by working with bands I knew or referred by friends, and then it expanded from there. It started focusing on CDs, and then vinyl, and recently been doing more tapes.
There are so many underground record labels putting out material now that it's not always easy to predict what releases or bands will grab enough attention to sell a lot of copies. Becoming a larger underground label requires a combination of quality, longevity, and quite frankly a bit of luck. Just like with an underground band, judging an underground label based on whether you reach some arbitrary mark of “success” is setting yourself up for failure and focusing on the wrong thing. I can't see my interest in underground black metal waning anytime soon, so I think it will keep going for quite a while.
Metal Injection: Are there any upcoming releases you’re able to talk about for Eternal Death? I know in addition to the new Death Vanish, you also released new material from Wald Krypta recently. Is there anything else in the pipeline for 2018 or early 2019?
Valder: There are five upcoming releases in the queue for 2019 right now. The first will be a new full length from Omenfilth—a great black metal band from the Philippines. They have a very early 90s atmosphere, a heavy early Greek sound. I did a tape version of their second full length this year. The recording is finished as well as the artwork from Dave Fogg and Fog Palace, we just need to put on the finishing touches layout wise. It should be off to press by the end of the year and come out on tape and CD around March 2019.
There are also two split tape release in the queue for 2019, One Master/Abazagorath and Haxen/Perdizione. The first one both bands are still working on finalizing the songs, so no specific timeline right now but probably sometime in the summer would be my guess. For the second, the Perdizione material (first release from this new black metal project) is all finished, Haxen has begun recording but needs more time to complete it. I'd guess a spring or summer 2019 release. The artwork for both split releases is already done, also from the great Dave Fogg and Fog Palace.
The fourth release already in the queue for 2019 is a tape EP from the new band Ancient Torment. One of the members also plays in Bog of the Infidel (a band I've done two releases from). They are going to be recording soon, so I'd guess a spring 2019 release on that as well. There will also be a tape EP from Misanthropos in 2019, the recording has commenced.