Demo:listen: Verval

Welcome to Demo:listen, your weekly peek into the future of underground extreme metal. Whether they’re death, black, doom, sludge, grind, thrash, -core, heavy, speed, punk-, stoner, etc., we’re here to bring you the latest demos from the newest bands. This week on Demo:listen, we bring you an exclusive stream of the debut album from Utrecht’s Verval.

Created by two of the most prolific artists to come from the underground metal scene in Utrecht, Verval’s 3 song debut, Wederkeer, is a living black metal record. Its lifespan is only 41 minutes in length, but, through our listening, Wederkeer (which translates to ‘recurrence’) is born to live, and to die, again and again. Hear the cello moan, like the resonant first breaths of a beast magnificent even in its infancy. Swathed in twinkling guitars, this tranquility, however, is short-lived. Wederkeer begins peacefully, but its first steps are seismic, its first words wide open screams. But Wederkeer discovers grace and balance preternaturally, and, before long, it’s running, leaping, soaring, defying everything you hitherto hearing this record thought a black metal record could do.

“The songs that comprise Wederkeer are quite long indeed,” admits R. Schmidt, guitarist/bassist/cellist/composer of Verval. “We felt that this material needed some room to breathe and to build up to a certain atmosphere. Also, even though there are three tracks on Wederkeer, they should never be regarded as separate entities. These tracks flow into and refer to one another quite heavily, which in the end we feel yields a whole that is larger than the sum of its components. This certainly defines Verval’s song/album structure and we feel that it synergizes especially well with Wederkeer’s lyrical content.”

The other half of Verval is drummer/vocalist W. Damiaen, also of Laster, another incredible Dutch black metal act. R. and W. played in White Oak together, but they’ve known each other for even longer, and their kinship is evident in the locked-in tightness of Verval’s music.

Says R.: “[W. and I] first met in 2010 when we collaborated on the studio project Sea of Trees, with which we recorded an EP called Aokigahara at Catacomben Studios. We later performed together for a few years in our main act White Oak, which we disbanded in 2014. After that we decided to continue in similar fashion with just the two of us, playing atmospheric black metal under the banner of Verval. We wrote some of our current material already during our time in White Oak, which we later chose to refine and record to ultimately yield Wederkeer.”

Although Verval is mainly R. and W., they did receive a little help from their friends. “On this album our close friend Galgenvot, with whom we are involved in quite some other projects as well, joined us to deliver some unique vocals as a guest. Otherwise Verval is, and will probably remain, just the two of us.”

But what does it all mean? Aim this question at the universe and prepare to be ignored. Thankfully, R. proves more forthcoming.

Verval’ [which means ‘decay’ in Dutch] as a term matches our current lyrical content more than our sound, to be perfectly honest. Thus far we tend to keep our production relatively clean, especially when compared to some other (black metal) projects running at the moment. But this aspect of our music will certainly vary for upcoming Verval material, depending on what we feel will suit each release best.

“Lyrically, Verval incorporates themes surrounding decay on different levels. We use our music as a medium to contemplate what we observe around us. The process of decay—be it in the context of our body, mind, surroundings, or, for example, societal values—is an unmistakable part of our existence. We feel that Verval is a great overarching term to couple to this project, as we will definitely not exhaust its different meanings with just one release. On Wederkeer, we mainly describe the recurrence we see in man’s everlasting search for knowledge and beauty. We tend to strive for perfection, for something we could never attain, while at the same time blindly destroying ourselves, those around us and our surroundings, time and time again, life cycle after life cycle, without end.”

If you follow the Utrecht scene, you’ve likely noticed the name Catacomben Studios before.

“Catacomben Studios to us, and mainly thanks to W., who iss its initiator and owner, means pure autonomy. In and around Utrecht, this studio has become a sort of headquarters for bands and projects that share a synonymous mindset. Some of these would include W.’s main act Laster, and side projects Willoos, Nevel, and Amtal, to name just a few, and awesome bands of close friends of ours such as Wrang, Project Nefast and Grafjammer. Catacomben Studios allows us to keep rehearsals and recordings completely in our own hands, which in the end is anything a musician could ever wish for. Naturally, W. would gladly invite anyone to come over and see what the catacombs have to offer.”

With a headquarters like Catacomben Studios, it’s understandable that Verval were content to take their time with Wederkeer. Even upon your first listen, it’s clear that Wederkeer definitely took some time to make, but repeated listens yield an unexpected vastness of layers and subtleties.

“We never felt the need to hurry ourselves into releasing [Wederkeer] as soon as possible. We took our time to reflect on its general sound and to refine the mix step by step, which in the end resulted in the best possible outcome that we could envision. In addition, both of us were (and still are) involved in a number of different projects at the time, which delayed the whole process significantly.”

But now, some four years total in the making, Wederkeer is finally finished and ready to go out into the world. With its stunning, and highly atypical cover painting, Wederkeer is as eye-catching as it is addictively nuanced and, at times, overwhelmingly beautiful. While any label would seemingly flip at the opportunity to release Wederkeer, it’s rather surprising that the record will see its release through Tour de Garde, a label known for putting out mostly underground black metal and dungeon synth cassettes.

“A close friend of ours mentioned TdG to us when we started looking for a label to release Wederkeer,” explains R. “While we also contacted some other labels at the time, TdG’s enthusiasm concerning both Wederkeer’s artwork and music really struck us in a positive way. Thus far we feel that our cooperation with TdG has been very fluid and enjoyable. Also, the Wederkeer digipack shows great production quality and it translates the amazing painted work by Jeff Grimal ([formerly of] The Great Old Ones) very well, so in the end we could not be more content with how things turned out.”

Wederkeer will be available on CD (digipack, limited to 300) sometime in February.

“The upcoming months will bring some very exciting developments for Verval,” R. promises. “We decided to recruit two live musicians who are close to us and with whom we work together frequently so we can perform live shows. Our first gig will take place in May in our hometown, and generally the best city in the world, Utrecht (stay tuned for more detailed announcements). Also, we’re excited to disclose that the recordings of our next release were already set in motion a few months ago, so stay tuned for more!”