The beauty of the melody (interview with Valendino from Vallendusk)

Vallendusk is a prime example of a band you can easily miss being overwhelmed with the avalanche of music available everyday on a global scale. And it’s also a prime example of a band you shouldn’t miss. Why? You only need to listen to any of their material released and you’ll know.

Guys are releasing their 4th full-length album on April 30th, 2021 and that – along with the fact they certainly don’t get the publicity they deserve – has led to my decision to contact them and ask them a few questions to get to know them a little bit more.

My big thanks going to Valendino for answering these questions of mine. Terimakasih banyak, saudaraku!

This year you’re going to celebrate a nice anniversary, 10 years on the scene. So, first of all, let me congratulate you to this great milestone, and also to a new album being released soon!!

Now, I’d like to ask the very first question – all of you have been active in various bands before forming Vallendusk, so I guess you can’t say forming a new band was the result of the lack of activity, right? Therefore, the question is – what was the main reason of forming Vallendusk? Have you had any specific goal in mind with the band’s formation? And, reflecting on the band activity 10 years later, how much of that have you accomplished?

We wanted to create a new outlet for different musical expression than anything we ever did before. No ambitious goals had ever been set up. We just want to create music we want to hear and trust our own feelings. Being very innovative never been a purpose in the first place. From there it just sort of grew. Our musical references have been wider than ever before.. our musicianship been also evolving throughout the years. I think we’ve succeed in adding our own personal touches into the music along through the process. We don’t think we’re lucky enough to become like Behemoth or Dimmu Borgir and make a living from the music. We’d prefer to forever stay at modest level of popularity. As long as we have the passion to continue, we’d likely to stick around, producing more albums, enjoying this ride as much as possible much, without any pressure.

Your first offering to the world of music was the self-titled EP from 2012, which is an absolute blast. The opening “Antimatter” is my favourite, that’s beyond any doubt! If you can tell me, how has the album come to life? What about the contribution of individual members? As Rizky is the lyricist, are you influenced in creating your music by his lyrics, or that come after the music is already done? What is interesting, though, is the fact that Valendino, as a main composer, is practically the only one coming from a non-black metal circle, being previously active in Brutal Death Metal band Funeral Inception (ex-Bloody Gore), but listening to “Demonic Incarnation” by Valefor, the melodic element of Vallendusk can be certainly traced to it…does the rest of the band have the upper hand (so to speak) over him? 🙂

Songs you hear on the debut EP were all written and composed by myself during late 2010/early 2011, way before Vallendusk even formed. These songs were initially intended for my solo project but in the end I made a decision that I’d sell my soul to Vallendusk a hundred percents, no side projects needed. Final arrangements and lyrics on the EP came afterwards when we actually jammed together as a band sometime in August 2011.

Vallendusk – Valendusk (debut EP) from 2012

Can you describe for us your songwriting process? Who’s the one usually coming with an initial idea for the song? How often do you practice and how long does it usually take to bring a song to its completion?

Everything starts from the guitar riffs. I contribute like 60% of the songwritings and the other guitarist Danang does the rest of the portion. Most of the time I catch myself humming a little riffs and immediately record them on my phone. I normally just play around with some combination of melodic leads and rhythms that sound right and when I eventually touch something that match the atmosphere I am looking for, I continue in that direction, seeking the right path to follow to complete the riffs, structures, allowing things to take shape and let what comes out take over. I am not sure about Danang’s way of composing but i guess it’s much of the same like i do. After that, we work together with our drummer Derick to spend time with the songs, elaborate some more ideas with him as we go through.. sometimes he knows immediately if the song is good enough or if it doesn’t sound right and need to work more. After the composing work is done, our singer Rizky writes the lyrics and vocal lines that match with the whole aspect of the song. I can’t exactly remember how long does a song usually take to its completion. Never had a really specific timeline for everything we do.

By the way, if I am not mistaken, you don’t have an official bassist, right? Although according to information available, you used to have one (Dzoelay)… how come he’s no longer with the band, and how much the absence of the bass player influence the creation of your music? And while we are at it, how did you find Indra to help you with bassguitar duties while playing live?

Yes, we don’t have an official bass player since the day one. Vallendusk is all about what happens when the four of us write and play music together, working in the rehearsal-space and who involve in the creative process. In the recording studio, all bass sessions done by me and Danang. Dzoelay added in just for the live-part, same with Indra. These guys coming from our circle-friends, they have their own (primary) bands that we don’t want to disturb much. I dont know, maybe in the future if we meet a guy with full dedication, good musicianship and personality, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that Vallendusk will someday become a five-piece.

Back to the music – to me, the self-titled EP is the epitome of great sounding, melodic, atmospheric black metal and I have no doubt it has created quite an interest in the underground circles. I, for one, am still very much in love with the material and although I would be willing to bet your inspiration reaches to the cold Scandinavian forests, it still bring some of the original element. Lyrically, however, you don’t really deal in a typical black metal themes… but I think we all agree that “nature, nostalgia, feelings” (as quoted in Metal Archives) go hand in hand with the emotionally driven music. As for nature, it’s pretty much self-explanatory, but what about nostalgia and feelings? What kind of nostalgia is Vallendusk driven by? What feelings motivate you?

Our lyrics are so often driven by some kind of nostalgic themes.. both restorative and reflective ones.. which can happen to recreate, stimulate, awaken our sense somehow.. above and beyond. Rizky is the one responsible for our lyrics and he knows the topics better than I do.

The debut EP and next album, the 2013 epos ”Black Cloud Gathering”, was released by Chinese label Pest Productions. Why have you chosen this label for releasing your music? How would you rate the co-operation with them and why that co-operation ended? Was it because the contract has ran out and you’ve got a better one from Northern Silence Productions?

Well, what i think is ideal is bands should sign up with local labels and at the same time the label should be able to market and distribute their releases regularly not only domestic but also overseas.. but no such label available in our country back in the days. High postage rates will always become the problem. Being a black metal band from Indonesia, we are geographically disadvantaged as you can imagine. So when we finished our work with the self-titled debut EP, we actively self-promoting our music which led to a deal with the Chinese label Pest Productions for an EP and a full length album. We’re happy and honoured to be on Pest Productions and alongside the many talented artists on their roster. We love their back and current catalogs to these days. The agreement we had with Pest Productions was all in all just a license-rights and there’s no signed contract. Our cooperation with Pest happened and ended in a friendly manner I can say. Signing to Northern Silence productions is another step up for us. They’re like one of the most-referenced labels in the game. We finally secured a contract deal for 3 full length albums with them.

Hand in hand with music also goes the graphic art of your album covers. From the elegantly simplistic self-titled EP to the woodcut of the upcoming album “Heralds of Strife”…what do the covers symbolize, and especially with the “Fortress of Primal Grace”, can you explain the meaning behind that artwork?

We’ve always wanted an album cover that reflects the general theme behind the album. Each of our album cover evokes the imagination and perfectly set the ambiguity behind its album title. Like on “Fortress Of Primal Grace” the cover actually reflects a spiritual stronghold which can be understood in several ways. Each of us will have our own unique of set about it, that’s what we wanted. People should be in touch with their surroundings and make up their own minds. A spiritual stronghold is designed and constructed to protect what values and attitudes matter most to them that they want to persist.

With your forthcoming album being scheduled for April 30th, 2021, what can you tell us about it? Does it have any unifying theme? Btw, the first released teaser, “The Sovereign” is again, an absolute delight to listen to…It might be hard to choose, but I will ask anyway – what is your favourite track from this new album?

Musically speaking, “Heralds Of Strife” resembles 2 main characters, the quiet and the turbulent. The quiet demonstrates the tremendous inner strength as well as the emotional and spiritual balance conveyed in the music while the turbulent reflects the courage and struggle on a journey through the storm. Each of them stands on its own yet perfectly coupled together with the correct flow, in each and every song. The lyrical concepts tell the tales of hope and longing with enormous amount of struggle, optimism, patriotic spirit, survival instinct, etc. I can find some anti-colonialism sentiments as well, both old and modern kinds, reflected in some of the lyrics. My personal favorite track(s) in the album would have to be the opening track “The last soar as the feathers fall” and the closing one “The Sovereign”.

Obviously, you are probably now set to promote the album wherever you can…have you already started on some new material for a next album?

Not yet, we don’t have a wellspring of ideas at the moment. Working a work of art is different than working in a company. We do this music for hobby not a career. We just want to take some rest a bit for the next couple of months. We have other responsibilities to deal with in personal life as well.

I have to admit, since I have started to discover the Indonesian scene, I am totally in awe about the sheer number of bands from your country and the quality of the music coming from there. You come from the capital city, Jakarta, and the scene there is pretty a big one (which comes as no surprise considering the population of Jakarta). How would you describe the local Jakarta scene from your point of view? The underground bands usually go along with each other very well, what’s the situation with bands across the genres? You come from BDM/black metal circles, so bands from those genres would probably be OK with you, but what about thrash/crossover/HC/punk/grindcore bands? Do you associate and are friends with them, or go your separate ways?

I think most metalheads in Jakarta as well as some other cities from different side of the genres pretty know each other very well nowadays, thanks to social medias. I can say we have a pretty friendly scene here. We support one another. When a metal gig comes around you’ll probably find most of them attending, whether they’re into metalcore, death metal, black metal, thrash metal, deathcore, prog metal, or whatever. Competition might also be a taboo thing here. Coming from a country which not that noticeable in the worldwide metal map, it is not natural for us to compete. I was once very active in the Death Metal scene back in the mid 90s-early 20s, and I got along pretty well with other metalheads in the Black Metal, Grindcore, HC/Punk scene too. We were exchanging letters, did some tape/cd trades, and other cool activities back in the old days.

Indonesia metal scene will likely continue to grow as always. A lot of new bands are emerging and getting exposed. It comes as no surprise considering the population amount that we have. For me personally, it’s great to witness how this whole thing mushroomed into what we have now, no matter what genres I am into.

Continuing from the previous question, what good bands from your local scene would you recommend? I know a few (you might have noticed my recent review and interview with Vox Mortis, for example), but still on lookout to know more, you know…

I would recommend you to check out FromHell, Proceus, Angrar, Infitar, Choria, Pure Wrath, Dusk In Silence [interview here – editor], Exhumation, Divine Blackness, Spellforger, Netherbane, Hordavinthra, Natjaard, Chaosophia, Immortal Rites, Mystis,.. well the list could never end, just to name a few of them..

Another important scene aspect are the labels and distros. There so many of them in Indonesia, I hardly keep track of them! Which one – if any at all – would you recommend to check? Although, with the present situation of high postage rates, it is quite hard to order anything from Indonesia…

Sadist Records in Yogyakarta is going really active lately. Others worth to mention also are Hitam Kelam records, Rottrevore, Grieve Recs, Blackandje, Lawless, Interlude, Reaping Death, Deathwish, Mastema, etc.

Last, but not least – live gigs. I’ve seen a couple of Youtube videos of your performance (especially that video from Gothic Black Fest III, it’s fantastic, despite the not-so-good sound). How would you describe the usual concert in Indonesia? I see the audience is usually not very big one, why is that? How many gigs have you already played and how often do you usually play? Which concert would you say was your best so far?

Actually we had only a few shows experience with Vallendusk. Maybe only 10 times in our 10 years of existence  We had never really been into a heavy touring. It’s hard for us to get out on the road much due to our job and family obligations. We can’t afford to quit our jobs only to hit the road then return home with barely enough money to pay the bills,etc. We are trying to pick and choose the best possible shows we can for those who really want to be able to see us. For me personally our best gig would be our first gig, it was sometime in early 2012. Humming Mad was the name for that event, it held in a regular basis by the small group community called We.Hum Collective. I am not sure whether theyre still around or not. We.Hum collective was made up of people who have pretty diverse musical interests, although they all tend to like aggressive music. A good friend of ours invited us to play there. It was our first gig and we shared a great, really memorable experience.

Coming slowly to the end of this interview…any final words/message to the readers of the Indokult? I’m no fan of last words 🙂

Thank you, Rudolf, Indokult, the readers and the followers of our music. Thank you all for spending time reading this. Make sure to check out our new album “Heralds Of Strife” when it is out. Hope to see you all sometime, somewhere. Cheers!

Bandcamp: https://vallenduskmusic.bandcamp.com/

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I am the founder/owner and editor-in-chief of the Rubber Axe webzine, the underground/overground cultural publication, publishing also this website dedicated to all things Indonesian. I'm a happily married guy with 2 kids and a fantastic wife, and I'm a relentless discoverer of all things cultural and culinary. An everlasting dreamer and idealist.

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