Beyond the forest

Cincinnati’s Valdrin brings black metal tales to Blind Bob’s

By Gary Spencer

Photo: Valdrin will perform on June 15 at Blind Bob’s; photo: Mike Gfreorer

Amid the blastbeats, crushing guitar chords and the grunts and growls one usually associates with the subgenres making up modern “extreme” metal, there is often more than meets the bleeding ear. Many loyal listeners may feel extreme metal (black metal, folk metal and pagan metal, in particular) is more than senseless gobbledygook. Instead, these groups are telling stories with their music and their lyrics. These warriors of metal tell stories of some of the most written about subjects in humankind: tales of morality, spirituality, good and evil, love and hate and everything in between. The only difference is when extreme metal artists tell these stories, you have to follow along with a lyric sheet.

Cincinnati black metal trio Valdrin have stories of their own to deliver the world, all set to a grim, cinematic backdrop of complex and ever-changing rhythms and tempos, stinging tremolo-picked guitars, eerie keyboards and the haunting, throaty howls of vocalist/guitarist Carter Hicks all found on their first full-length album, Beyond the Forest, which has just been picked up for release by Canadian label Blasthead Records earlier this month. With the sound Valdrin creates, they bring their stories to life. The success rate among most bands attempting such a bold musical/lyrical feat on their first album is rather low, which makes Valdrin as a band look very impressive, and Beyond the Forest a remarkable, epic journey of a recorded debut – clocking in at well over 60 minutes of musical adventure.

Similarly, the making of Beyond the Forest was an epic journey of its own. “I personally had written and home-recorded all of what became Beyond The Forest by the end 2010,” Valdrin guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Carter Hicks said. “Over the years, we sat in our rehearsal room and worked at making Beyond The Forest a goliath of a record. It took us from the end of 2011 to the end 2012 to finish recording. We pressed 100 copies of Beyond The Forest and began sending them out. Blasthead Records in Canada agreed to release Beyond The Forest with a lyric booklet, which was essential for us.”

So, for those of us without a lyric booklet to reflect on, what is the story Valdrin is trying to tell with Beyond the Forest?

“It’s a story about a spiritual triad revolving around Earth that is begotten by the human mind,” Hicks explained. “The three worlds in the triad are Earth, Orcus [Underworld] and Aurae [Heavens]. These worlds are a byproduct of evolution – evolution of the human mind and condition is the inception of creative thought, or imagination. With the ability to have inventive thought comes the idea of imagining ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ The concept of suicide is also integral to understanding [the Valdrin] mythos. Suicide is the ultimate testament to how far one’s own negative imagination can go, to imagine ‘the self’ not existing. To enter the abyssal underworld of the Orcus, one must terminate his own existence. The story begins with Valdrin ending his Earthly life and entering into the threshold of the Orcus. He is greeted by the great overseer Nex Animus, who informs him of his divine path to restore balance within the Orcus and thus save the triad of worlds, which includes Earth, from imminent destruction.”

Sound intense? It should. As it was true for the black metal artists who’ve inspired Valdrin such as Bathory, Dissection, Windir and Xasthur, there isn’t much room for subtlety, levity or meekness in the world of Valdrin. Witnessing the musical soundtracks of such hellish landscapes up close and personal in a live-performance environment adds a whole new dimension to the disturbing tales they tell. Along with James Lewis on bass and Ryan Maurmeier on drums, Hicks brings both the sounds and stories of Beyond the Forest to life before your very eyes and ears.

“The live show has obviously been very crucial in getting our message out,” Hicks said. “I’d say it’s meditative, cathartic and energetic at the same time. We want our shows to feel as if the world of Beyond the Forest has entered into the room and we are the dungeon masters leading them through the netherworld of imagination. We are improving every day at this and the shows shall grow more powerful, hateful, otherworldly and majestic than they’ve ever been.”

Valdrin will perform Sunday, June 15 at Blind Bob’s, 430 E. Fifth St. Split the Abyss, Flesh Warfare and Coffin Birth Conspiracy are also on the bill. Admission is $5 at the door for 21 and up. Doors open at 9 p.m. For more information, please visit


Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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