Building off the strength of their 2019 debut Etch, Belgium’s Turpentine Valley continue their careful navigation of light, dark, and the spaces just between on their new record Alder.
Their impetus is clearly the rugged, muscular terrain of post-metal, and the force of their delivery honors the legacy of that style. But what distinguishes them are the subtle explorations of fairer sensibilities that emerge from the shadows every so often, granting valuable additional dimension, and offering the listener brief but crucial respite from the otherwise considerable weight of these compositions.
This quality can be seen hard at work on the single “Parabel,” which is firmly rooted in a rugged, sludgy midtempo driven by thick bass, but at the same time, there is a hazy, dreamy guitar melody floating over everything else, attaching a gracefulness to what is an otherwise aggressive passage. The band intermittently shifts into coarser, darker tones, but that central melody consistently finds its way back in, embellishing the track with a warmth that ties everything else together and keeps it from entering too ominous a space.
As Side A draws to a close, even one of the album’s more sinister songs, “Teloor,” which spends the bulk of its running time lurching through a slow, shadowy doom metal landscape, shifts suddenly to an outro section that carries an airier and more atmospheric sensibility reminiscent of Red Sparowes. This doesn’t drastically change its overall tone, but it is an interesting deviation that reminds the listener as they enter Side B not to rely on their pre-determined expectations.
“Neuron” puts its more meditative inclinations front and center, setting listeners up for a quieter disposition before confidently veering into one of the mightiest and most memorable riffs on the record. This crescendo is all the more powerful in contrast to the pensive tone that precedes it. That careful interplay of soft and loud is a reminder that none of Alder's thoughtful nuances and diversions from formula would amount to anything if Turpentine Valley didn’t first excel at what is most important to post-metal fans, and it’s clear from the start that they have that covered. “Sereen” comes out of the gate swinging, setting a raucous, imposing tone during its lively opening, which then proves to be unyielding as the song surges forth to roaring heights.
Side B also sees its share of formidable escalations, as tracks like “Tremor” and “Respijt” show the band’s ability to boldly navigate a number of immense moments with a striking amount of skill and dexterity. If there were ever any whispers of a sophomore slump, Turpentine Valley steadfastly silence them with this substantial second offering.
– Young Epoch
All music by Turpentine Valley
Voice on 'Veeleer' by Pieter Jan De Paepe
Produced by Turpentine Valley, Tim Toegaert & Stef Exelmans
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Stef Exelmans
Recorded at dunk!studios
Design by Wim Vanwynsberghe
Artwork by Marthe Van Thuyne
Vinyl pressed at dunk!pressing (Zottegem, BE)
© 2022 Dunk!Records
EU variant: Trans Red w/ Black Smoke (limited to 350 copies)