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The voice of Valinor - 70%

Lane, November 3rd, 2012

This certain Valinor hail from Poland. Encyclopaedia Metallum alone list three other bands with same name. Valinor means "Land of the Valar" in J.R.R. Tolkien's writings. The album and song titles do not unveil, if these Poles cover legendary fantasy writings in their lyrics, though. 'Hidden Beauty' is Valinor's sophomore full length album to date, released already in 2006, but sent for reviewing now.

The intro 'Prologue' opens album with Mid-Eastern vibes, and they also appear on the following title track. It also presents the band's Slavonic roots with folkish musical bits in its melody work. Basically, the song is heavy metal with dark feelings. Growled/grunted vocals are more of black metal style, reminding me quite a lot of Vorphalack, especially on older Samael albums. 'The Voice of Space' bring forth the band's classical music influences, which are again mixed with heavy metal. It has already became evident, that Valinor can conjure up some spellbinding melodies together with dramatic, dark riffing.

'The Funeral' boost the classical music elements, and the song sound pretty much like Old Man's Child (especially on 'The Pagan Prosperity' [1997]). Fantastically titled 'A Hand Of A Dead' with its baroque-meets-classical music quickens up a bit, when compared to previous mid-paced material. Shadowbreed and Bifrost are two bands. that now come to my mind. 'Hidden Beauty - The Beginning' is an absolutely beautiful instrumental (non-distorted guitars and synths). There is no beauty hidden here, it's all audible! Not similar, but sometimes close to Iced Earth's 'Dracula', and then again, something very different. 'Requiem' bring back the metal, but still keeps up the dramatic facet. 'The Bloodless Face' builds up momentum with big synths before launching into another slice of classical music saturated dark heavy metal. Horror synthesizer instrumental 'Epilogue' closes the album. The synths aren't in a big role on every song, but rather invisible (if you can put it that way!) at times.

The production sounds a bit cheap, and its power level is rather inferior. The vocals to suffer from this. By the way, non-English ancestry can be heard in pronunciation. Back to the production: It is clear, so every element are audible in the mix. The drums sound quite boxy, and the guitars a bit blunt.

'Hidden Beauty' is somewhat unique at its best. The songs include enough hooks and generally, the production is still okay, and does not cause one to abandon the album because of it. A nice acquaintance, this!

(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)

A nice addition to the symphonic black metal ranks - 70%

TrooperOfSteel, July 7th, 2011

Valinor are a symphonic black metal band from out of Debica, Poland, and were formed way back in 1993. The band did not release any material until 1997, when the demo entitled ‘Remembrance’ put them on the map through Apocalypse Productions. After vocalist Slawomir Zabicki left the band, he was replaced by Jakub Glab; and soon after Valinor released their debut album in 2001, called ‘It Is Night’.

Two more lineup changes occurred after the release, with vocalist Jakub Glab and guitarist Piotr Rucki leaving the band. Replacing them were Robert Lipa and vocalist Tomasz Domka. Valinor worked on new material for the next few years and then released their second full-length album in 2006, entitled ‘Hidden Beauty’. The album was self-released although Valinor is still affiliated with Apocalypse Productions.

Containing nine tracks, including an instrumental plus a prologue and epilogue, ‘Hidden Beauty’ is a solid symphonic black metal album. With nothing too majorly aggressive as black metal can be, ‘Hidden Beauty’ is a nice piece of work. Quite symphonic at the best of times, the bulk of the tracks are mid to high paced, with music much the same if you were listening to European melodic/power or neo-classical metal. The only difference here is of course is the obvious black metal signature – the throaty, harsh and haunting vocals. With creative melodies and riffs, and the excellent use of keyboards and percussion in a crisp sounding production, Valinor have brought together a decent album which has surpassed their debut in my opinion. My only gripe here is that the CD checks in at just under 34 minutes, which I feel is way too short for a full-length album.

Coming from a power/heavy metal background, I found that symphonic black metal, and in particular Valinor, is quite similar (in terms of the music) to a lot of neo-classical and melodic metal bands. The good news for Valinor is that their music can be spread across and appeal to other forms of metal fans, not being restricted to just symphonic black metal fans.

There is a lot to be enjoyed on ‘Hidden Beauty’ and I can’t speak highly enough of the instrumental track “Hidden Beauty – The Beginning”. The track is a moving and gorgeous slow ballad, containing semi-acoustic guitars and atmospheric keyboards. Also the longest track on the album, at 6:32, “Hidden Beauty – The Beginning” is a superb instrumental and a major highlight on the CD. Other tracks which stood out include the speedy foot tapper “Requiem”, the energetic and symphonic “The Bloodless Face”, the brooding “The Voice of Space” and lastly “A Hand of a Dead”.

Overall I was quite satisfied with the quality of the album and surprised of the very good production, especially when the CD was self-released. Anyone who is into symphonic black metal which isn’t too harsh and aggressive should check out ‘Hidden Beauty’. Also, any neo-classical and melodic metal fans who can tolerate black metal vocals may also find of value with this album.

Originally written for www.themetalforge.com