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Judging by the crudely black and white pencil-sketched cover art, this album must be a primitive Black Metal release. The CD insert proves this assumption correct stating, “The Dark Archives was arranged, rehearsed and recorded in 5 days with 2 microphones and preserved with a cassette 8 track, to uphold the true spirit of analog.” It is funny that bands would intentionally record and sell an album with a terrible production. They claim a bad production creates a grim and cold atmosphere like the sound early BATHORY, EMPEROR, MAYHEM, SATYRICON, and many other revered bands of the Black Metal genre put out. The only thing is that later on in their career most of those bands went on to record albums with a clean, clear production. The fuzzy atmosphere may have been done not intentionally, but because of lack of funds. I guess Metal Maniacs isn't paying Marty and Craig enough to afford a professional production.
Whatever the fascination with this phenomenon is, Charnel Valley subscribes to it, wholeheartedly. “The Dark Archives” is definitely raw and fuzzy. If the two-man band didn’t come right out and state that they preserved their music on an 8 track recorder, it wouldn’t be hard to figure that out. It sounds like bootleg CDs local bands make of their live shows. The guitar tones, especially the bass, at times sound haunting. Other times all the distortion makes them sound like a lawn mower’s blade in motion. These tones are really the best thing Charnel Valley has going for them, but mediocre string work leaves their work to be desired. The drum machine does not help either. It sounds like a man has been walking through snow that is waste deep and needs a breather. The overall sound is like a Fisher Price toy drum set or a wastebasket because the acoustics are pure shit.
It’s easy to see where Charnel Valley is going with this release. “Grim” Black Metallers may see the description given of this album and pursue it. It is not recommended. If you want a quality release from this sub-genre of Black Metal, go buy an old BURZUM, a DARKTHRONE album or find something rare like LUCIFER’S HAMMER’s “The Burning Church.” Then your money will be well-spent.