Vale of Amonition just might be the most bizarre metal project that I have ever come across. Based in Uganda, the duo’s style could be described as progressive funeral doom though the execution is hardly clear cut. The riffs are blunt, the rhythms have a tribal bent when they aren’t exerting at a glacial pace, and vocals cycle through an untrained but hearty mix of drawn-out warbling, raspy growls, and poetic spoken word.
Consisting of three songs that total to slightly over a half-hour, Ancient, Evil & African understandably doesn’t quite have the same weight as the group’s two full-length albums. There’s definitely purpose in its construction though as the lyrics invoke a sort of mythic history that details a violent uprising of black slaves against colonial oppression. This sharp intent is counteracted though never blunted by the rather random song structures, resulting in an often-disorienting experience.
The ornamentally titled “Tones of the First-Formed; Flesh and United with the Wind” starts things off in a particularly interesting fashion. It essentially serves as a prelude for what is to come but manages to cram a lot of ideas in its six-minute runtime with a slew of wind effects and an acapella beginning, a midway percussive buildup, and vague metallic hints toward the end. It runs the risk of dragging its tempo but ultimately comes out compelling, even reminding me of Swans thanks to its threatening majesty.
Unfortunately, the subsequent two tracks, each running twelve and fourteen minutes respectively, aren’t quite as effective. The way these songs are structured makes them too haphazard to leave much of an impact, especially on the title track, but the limp musicianship may be the most crippling flaw. The guitars are brittle, the drums sound flat, and the vocals don’t have much power behind them. A fuller production job and livelier performances might’ve made up for the songwriting oddities, especially when it comes to the closing “For the Glory of Hell.”
While Ancient, Evil & African offers an incredibly unique sound with a convicting vision, it sadly doesn’t show Vale of Amonition at their best. A lo-fi presentation can make a concept more endearing, but it can also be limiting as the interesting ideas this EP offers are ultimately undermined by the lacking production and sloppy musicianship. Doom fans could check on a novelty basis, but you should check out 2017’s Those of Tartarean Ancestry if you really want to hear these elements put to better use. Vale of Amonition has it in them to make something truly special and I hope that they can give it to us in the near future.
“Tones of the First-Formed; Flesh and United with the Wind”