Valley of Fear - Valley of FearValley of Fear brings together two different noise and metal heavyweights in the form of Justin Broadrick of Godflesh, Jesu and Skullflower's Matthew Bower and Samantha Davies - who also record together in duo form as Voltigeurs. Despite releasing a couple of Skullflower albums on his Headdirt label this is the first time - to my knowledge, anyway - that Broadrick, a prolific collaborator, has recorded with Bower. With song titles based around snakes and serpent mythology, Valley of Fear is a sprawling beast of a release informed by metal, noise and drone that takes early post-industrial bleakness into psychedelic realms.
With fuzzed up guitar squall, set against a rudimentary drum machine rhythm 'Serpent's Trail' lets loose Bower's searching dark psychedelia guitar skree, with moments of molten riffing from Broadrick. Right from the off you can tell that some of it is unmistakably Bower and some unmistakably Broadrick but the entire thing is more direct than Skullflower partly due to the lumbering bass and drum machine rhythms and in its own way 'Serpent's Trail' captures the heavier, monstrous roar of early Godflesh, alongside the blackened hum of Skullflower. There's scant evidence of Broadrick's work as the ambient shoegaze of Jesu here or on any of Valley of Fear for that matter.
It's not only Broadrick who returns to his noise roots here, the definitively lo-fi 'Ourobous' with its ritualistic drum pummel and wall of levitating blackened noise is like listening to an unreleased outtake from early Skullflower's releases such as Birthdeath or Form Destroyer. Kickstarted by repetitive moments of throbbing bass, noise and drum machine rhythm, things get more ferocious on 'Naga' with Bower's searing, serated guitar slipping its way around Broadrick's monolithic abrasive riffing.
With piledriver rhythms cast far back in the mix, the final piece, 'The Exit Door Lead In' seems to have all three playing together, vying with each other to close all the spaces, to complete the circle with a dense squall of ferocious wailing guitars. And yet - and I don't know how they did it but, for some reason, the only thing to pierce the blackness - is a mass of disembodied voices and even these are imaginary, as even I know there's none here. It's truly remarkable, that they can conjure up haunting voices from a trio of psych-noise guitarists.
While Broadrick's Posthuman release as JK Flesh has been gathering attention lately Valley of Fear has slipped out almost unnoticed. For noise fans though, Valley of Fear is a marriage made in hell, achieving a fair balance between the collaborators. It's altogether less formless than Skullflower and less riff heavy than Broadrick's work with Godflesh. With psych-noise guitars, Valley of Fear in its own way recalls the earliest onslaught of guitar noise right down to the rudimentary black and white graphics. This is fantastic stuff from a much desired collaboration. Limited to a mere 500 pieces, you really don't want to miss this For more information go to www.mutant-ape.co.uk