While written and recorded in honour of a loved one, Remembrance itself honours the musical prowess and innovation of he who mourns. Manny Rodriguez’s blackened bedroom project is an emotive and diverse EP deserved to be welcomed by the warm masses of the black metal fanbase.
Anyone who’s been involved knows that the metal community loves to put labels on their music. One could spend hours describing and carefully dissecting the genre of metal into subgenres, sub-subgenres, sub-sub-… okay, you get my point. With that being said, there are definitely some weird and inherently wrong subgenre abominations out there that nonetheless play flawlessly on tape. The Valley Ritual’s Remembrance is a member of this citation.
When I was approached to review Manny’s project, he introduced it as a blackened stoner release with some other influences in addition. I immediately knew that I not only wanted to hear this funky fusion, but I wanted to write about it as well.
Prior to discussing the music, first we must understand the composer. Manny Rodriguez is based in Orlando, Florida and this is the only release under his belt (For The Valley Ritual, at least) as of the posting of this article. The mastermind writes and records all of the music on the EP, which, while in its own right is impressive, becomes more deserving of respect when you look at all of the different instruments and flavours of the release.
Remembrance features a fluid mix of the typical: guitars, drums, and vocals. However, the release sets itself apart from the competition with its use of piano and foreign-influences. “In a White Dress” features an excellent piano section that contemplates the abrasive nature of the blackened release. In addition to this, “As the Ghost Travels” opens with a sitar-sounding oriental-inspired introduction that really adds a nice bit of flavour to the track. These untraditional elements really set the album apart from other works within the genre.
Remembrance is also fairly diverse in terms of its tempo. As mentioned above, there are inclusions of piano and other soft sections, but there are also a fair share of blast-beats and chaotic screaming to be found as well. While these opposite characteristics may seem as though they would clash, upon listening to the release they end up complementing each other nicely. The metal-enthusiast side of me really appreciates and subsequently looks forward to those blazing fast harsh sections, but my ears also end up being rewarded when that soft riff or piano section is introduced. The two polar sides of the release work together harmoniously.
The diversity of the album comes from the nature of its creation. Manny mentioned that, although they were compiled into a properly-flowing album, the six tracks on the record were composed and tweaked within a 2-year time span. The varied vocal styles, use of untraditional instruments, foreign influences, and tempo differences all stem from this free-flowing window of creation, which undoubtedly contributed to the album’s uniqueness.
You’d think that the record’s inherently-staggered nature would be its only downfall, but that is not the case. Even though each track has different flavours and is based around different moments of creativity, they all manage to contribute exceptionally to a communal feeling of frigidness and wonder. The relatively low-fi black metal production works splendidly in unison with the higher pitched wailing vocals to give the listener the sensation that they are in the company of something much greater than themselves.
The lyrics featured on the record confirm this vibe. Tracks like “Guardian”, “At Dawn We Ride”, and “As the Ghost Travels” all allude to elements within our presence that, without our knowledge other than a subtle feeling in the back of our mind, loom over us. The album’s cover art sets the scene perfectly for this vibe as well. The greyscale image of the forest puts you in the accompanied setting whereby you walk alone within the depths of nature but, unbeknownst to you, something flutters along with your presence.
We all know that feeling where you think something or someone is watching you, but when you turn around you are left with nothing but surrounding emptiness. Remembrance emanates that exact feeling track after track. The slower, more peaceful sections of the release, such as the piano interludes or the album’s soft conclusion, are juxtaposed with the harsh nature of the featured vocals and the sparingly-used blast beats to sonically describe that war with peace and chaos that is ever-present throughout our lives.
Modern conscious human life is based around this war. It is a constant battle that is out of our control; the Ying and Yang of reality. If daily life has been a relative ease, you are due for an unexpected surprise. Yet, if you have been struggling day after day, a break from the negatives of uncertainty is due your way. This element of life is perpetuated through the image of the cover, the feeling you get when you look behind your back when you are alone, the juxtaposition of the melodies and the chaos. It all culminates to form this depiction of the uncertainty of life which, following an unfortunate event, sparked the creation of Remembrance.
My lack of discussion strictly regarding the instrumentation on the release reveals how strong the record is musically. I could sit here and write about how the backing melodies fuse perfectly with the vocal segments or how the drumming is exceptional. I don’t care about any of that because this release takes me above caring about individualities such as those. Upon listening to the release, you won’t be thinking about the instrumentation as you’ll be succumbed with feelings of emotion and inspiration. That’s what a great music does.