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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.