According to Danish folkore the valravn, or raven of the slain, is a supernatural raven that consumed either the hearts of kings or children, to do great evil or to seek redemption from its perpetual absence of peace. If your heart’s desire is to make Pagan Metal then certainly Valravn would be an apt name, and that’s exactly what the quartet of H. Partinen, A. Olkkola, Alarik and B. Carey must have thought as well when they formed the band. Their music is powerful and epic, predominantly midpaced but with plenty of pace changes to keep showing their ravenclaws. Within it melodies are mostly subcutaneous and sometimes present in strumming backdrops against more chugging sections, altogether giving the album a clear and heavy sound with a touch of Scandinavian cold in the guitars.
While at its core a Black Metal record, there are certainly other genres that creep their way into the sound of Valravn. For instance, ‘Liekki Tiemme Valaisee’ touches upon Death Metal and certainly reminds me a bit of Amon Amarth. The occasional grunt that alternates the piercing shrieks only enforces that feeling. ‘Kehän Murtama’ and ‘A Symphony of Horror’ even venture into Sludge/ Doom Metal territories, showing once again that Valravn isn’t a band that is easily caught in a genre. It even took me a few songs on ‘The Awakening’ to realize that I was listening to a Finnish band, as ‘Kehän Murtama’ is one of the few tracks that contains more typical Finnish Black Metal riffs in the vein of countrymen like for instance Horna. Add in influences from the likes of Dissection and later Immortal, both of which can be clearly heard in ‘Sisyphean Torment’, this sketches a diverse musical landscape boasting a Pagan spirit that Valravn stands for.
Those that listened to the band’s debut album ‘Prey’ may find the band has moved on a little but from the more melodic Black Metal formula of that first output. That is not to say that they’ve left that album completely behind, and for instance ‘The Great Deceit’ is a more uptempo and melody-dominated track, straight in line with the preceding album. In addition, the penchant for more epic parts already surfaced on the first record as well, something the band purposely expanded on ‘The Awakening’. Overall this slight shift towards a more grandiose sound should be considered as a positive development, as it gives Valravn a more discernable sound. As far as I’m concerned, it certainly propels the very enjoyable ‘The Awakening’ a few levels above the debut.