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The wheels keep turning. - 75%

Diamhea, August 19th, 2016

Hunter's Pride, Valtari's second concerted outing in the melodeath fold, is an evocative assembly of atmospheric goodness combined with the lethal edge of snapshot leads and knuckle-twisting rhythm constructions. The most impressive thing about this project is that it all comes from one dedicated mind, that of Marty Warren. Without a smattering of distracting guest vocalists or other diversions, he gets down to business with ten compact and virile stabs at something that sounds like mid-era Suidakra meets Dark Tranquillity, with a little bit of Finnish melancholy thrown in for good measure. The most common problem with bands in this vein is that the songwriting finds trouble stretching over forty-plus minutes, but somehow that isn't a critical detriment on Hunter's Pride.

Warren can be credited for keeping his nose to the genre grindstone and abstaining from shred-centric deviations or other indulgent displays of technicality. His leads are melodically high-caliber, with a proclivity for sort of swinging up and down the fretboard like on "With a Child's Smile" and "Shatter the Myth." The production blankets the leads in a distant, windswept allure that really seems to fit Valtari's overarching vibe, and knee-jerk comparisons to Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum would certainly not be far off base. Although to my ears, the closest direct comparison would be Euphoreon minus the garish synths. There are plenty of keys here, but save for some seriously downplayed piano lines, it is mostly atmosphere-thickening chords rendered deep in the soundscape.

As Hunter's Pride wears on, I can certainly find fault in the lack of diversity in tone. Occasionally Warren breaks into a more In Flames-esque rollick like on "Enshrined in Ice," but the primary sensation is one of morose introspection, or something like that. Lots of minor keys that strike a particularly appealing epic flair without the need to hammer the same licks again and again, so kudos for maintaining coherence in concept at least. The seemingly programmed kit is arranged well, but lacks presence in the mix. The thick chords tend to gobble it up, resulting in plastic sputtering, especially during the double bass volleys.

Not a whole lot else to say here, except that Valtari succeeds at most of what it set out to accomplish on Hunter's Pride. It isn't bog standard melodic death, and draws from enough stylistic avenues to maintain balance and deliver a rewarding listening experience. Warren's strongest asset are his leads, and I would be interested in seeing him in a proper, full band with more minds to bounce ideas off of. Regardless, he can do alone what many bands have failed at, and that counts for something.

A forgettable ambassador for melodeath. - 40%

ConorFynes, September 4th, 2014

Though it seems counter-intuitive, the more familiar and generic a piece of art gets, the more difficult it becomes to analyze and decipher. Musical genres, like the works that inhabit them- each possess a set of strengths and weaknesses that often come with the territory. Take a genre like melodic death metal; it covers bands as stylistically dissimilar as At the Gates and Arghoslent- it describes a vast range of approaches and potential moods, yet whenever the genre is mentioned, we're likely bound to have a very specific idea of what to expect. Enter Valtari, an Australian one-man band that sees fit to fulfill the most basic expectations of melodic death metal. Unfortunately, it doesn't go much further than that. Hunter's Pride is functionally written and performed, but lacks the fire and identity needed to create a lasting impression.

I am given the overwhelming sense that Valtari's multi-instrumental mastermind Marty Warren devised the project with the prescribed genre and influences in mind already. I'm sure a legitimate debate could be fostered over the question whether it's preferable to outline a project's stylistic expectations prior to working or to simply let it out naturally, but I highly doubt an album could cling to Gothenburg melodeath tropes so closely without some measure of contrivance. It's a needless assumption to try to guess the specific intent of Valtari's style; rest assured however, Hunter's Pride should come as readily familiar territory to anyone who has ever delved some of the classic Swedish melodeath. Think In Flames or Dark Tranquility, stripped of their stylistic departures and reduced to a core essence. In the case of imitation, a band had best do what they can to outdo (or at least match) those who influenced them. This much cannot be said for Valtari.

I hesitate to call any aspect of Hunter's Pride to be poor outright, but there seems to have been very little ambition for Valtari to crawl out from under the shade of its influences. The verse-chorus style songs were almost certainly built around their melodic leads. While the promising title track offers some twisting chord progressions in the style of Dissection, the rhythm guitars tend to plod innocuously behind the pretty leads. Melodic death metal has a tendency potentially above any other brand of 'extreme' metal to adhere to popular songwriting conventions, and Valtari unsurprisingly offer no exception to this rule. Although some of Warren's lead ideas are definitely compelling (barring the title track, "Enshrined in Ice" comes first to mind), the predictable songwriting and snoozy pace wears thin quickly.

Whereas I tend to associate melodic death metal with generally polished recording standards, Hunter's Pride sounds dryly produced. It does not boast the finesse of a professional recording, nor does it enjoy the organic richness of lo-fi or analog fare. Valtari has been mixed and recorded well enough to excuse its execution of any fervent criticisms, but the dull, muddied manner in which these songs are presented have no doubt curtailed the album's visceral impact. As tends to be the case with solo metal projects, the degrees of success in its execution vary widely. While production and mixing are marginally functional, Warren demonstrates skill and tact with the guitar, particularly with his melodic leads. His growled vocals are decent as well, although the quasi-melodic rasp during some of the mandatory choruses sounds forced. Though it shouldn't come as any surprise given Warren's past history as the drummer of Kania, Valtari's greatest boon is its mastermind's skill with percussion. Whereas much of this execution seems to plod dully along, Warren consistently arrests attention with his refreshingly intense drumwork. The performance standards of solo acts are usually weighted upon one instrument. In most cases it is the guitar; the drums are often feeling dry. For what it's worth, it's refreshing to hear a one-man act that inverts the trend.

There are good (if not great) ingredients on Hunter's Pride, but Valtari often suffer the punishing shortfalls that usually come with being a one-man act. Marty Warren is an excellent drummer with an ear for melody, but it's not enough to make the music come together. As with all things, some greater measure of balance is needed. Far moreso than that, Valtari's complacency to cover well-weathered ground makes the band's weaknesses that much less tolerable. Lovers of the genre should take less offence to Valtari's derivative sound, but from where I'm standing, there's much better melodic death metal out there.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical

Valtari Returns with a Gargantuan Endeavor! - 87%

TheAntagonist, January 28th, 2014

To say I was impressed by Valtari’s 2012 release, Fragments of a Nightmare is an understatement. Sole member Marty Warren, provides a fresh take in a somewhat stagnating melodic death metal genre. Valtari, who hails from Australia— a continent which boasts a formidable array of metal acts such as Destroyer 666, Nocturnal Graves and Woods of Desolation— offered up Hunter’s Pride at the outset of 2014. It is hard to imagine that this album will not shake the foundations yet again.

The melodies flow effortlessly on the opener “Bitterness” as well as a megaton of aggression and vitriol which take you by storm. Interspersed keyboards/synths are abundant and provide a fitting accent to the overall tone of the album, but do not overstay their welcome as evidenced on “Undefeatable”. Marty Warren’s vocals are once again massive and inspired. By the time you hit “Can You Hear Me” the hooks are dug in deep and everything starts to meld; with each arrangement beginning to distinguish itself. Hunter’s Pride is heavily laden in hooks and “In Slides” is no slouch. Simply put, the riff is just crushing and it sustains the song to a well-timed bridge which then proceeds to slay until the end. This is just incredible guitar workmanship.

“With Child’s Smile” and “The Gift” seem to get buried beneath the rubble from the destruction that the other tracks have left in their wake. These are merely minor missteps, but they are just not as strong as the rest. “Shatter the Myth” has a more slowed down, atmospheric feel to break things up. It’s a decent enough track and helps with the pacing, but it also tends to get overshadowed. “Tyrant” is a worthy track with a chorus riff that will be ingrained in your cranium and continue to reverberate even after the album has stopped.

Two tracks that will annihilate your ears are “Enshrined in Ice” and the title track “Hunter’s Pride”. With a track name like “Enshrined in Ice” you have to be expecting a lot. To save the suspense, it definitely does not disappoint. This beast just rips along and pulls no punches and the ending— epic to say the least. The title track “Hunter’s Pride” which also happens to be the final track is a perfect closer. The riff madness continues and contains one of the best riffs. It’s very serpentine and the song just grooves perfectly. Once again, there is great employment of the keys here and many fantastic tempo changes.

Valtari has managed to put together a solid release on Hunter’s Pride. The riffs are more refined and mature; the keys add that extra element and aggression is not spared in the face of melody. There are only minor blemishes here but they cannot tarnish this gargantuan endeavor. This is one disc that is sure to scorch your cd player.

Originally written for Adequacy.net:
http://www.adequacy.net/2014/01/valtari-hunters-pride/