Release: 7 April 2023
Valensorow is a four-member band out of California, and Shorestank is an amazing mash-up of absolute chaos and mayhem. It’s definitely folk metal, but rather than weighing down the metal with melody, the folk parts are in the pit moshing with the vocals and guitars. It’s a hell of a party.
Wandering into the first track, the two things listeners will notice– after the awesome album art– is the high production value and some kick-ass vocals. The former includes lavish sound effects, some spoken parts, and a keyboard that does some heavy lifting. For the latter, Joseph Scanlan has a lot more punch than your usual death metal vocalist and has only improved with time.
Each track has a really full mix. There are some decent guitar riffs and chugs. The bass is punchy and, perhaps with the general busyness of the mix, a little understated. Lots of keyboard magic and effects– most notably an accordion, but other folk instruments as well– work as the meat of this sound lasagna. It’s jubilant, bouncy, and boisterous, and there’s a lot of it.
Speaking of tracks, “Life in a Cliffside Dwelling” is a really great intro to the album. Some jaunty folk music smashes into a sonic wall of guitar and the vocalist showing off that aforementioned talent. “The Market of Korethi” and “Dr. Gorpletonka” fit really nicely together and tell a little vignette. “Meg ‘The Leg'” is unique for being a waltz and having cleaner vocals. “Valley of the Mist” is a great outro with anthemic qualities, some more melody than the other tracks, and pulling out a whole virtual symphony.
Getting to the superlatives: I didn’t mention “Bangers and Mash” above because it is in a class all of its own. It combines all of the best features of the album and stuffs it into a single track. On the other hand, the evocative title track “Shorestank” couldn’t really hold my ear. It’s good and belongs, but it wasn’t punching as high as the rest.
I easily listened to this album five times while writing this review. Each track has dozens of layers and things to be discovered. This is bigger, busier, and far more light-hearted and bombastic than their 2015 album “The Battle of Oak Mountain”, which is great for its own reasons and holds a special place in my library. Both are worth checking out!
- Life in a Cliffside Dwelling 06:11
- The Bird and the Bear 04:06
- Shorestank 04:39
- The Market of Korethi 04:07
- Dr. Gorpletonka 05:03
- Giant 03:47
- Bangers and Smash 04:03
- Meg “The Leg” 04:17
- Another Big Monster 04:56
- Into the Valley of Mist 04:59