Veldes counts among several of the pleasantly quiet discoveries I’ve found over the last few years. I still remember the debut, To Drown in Bleeding Hope, fairly well from when I first heard it in 2013. Veldes was the sort of project I may have never heard about, had the composer behind the work not contacted me directly. With a fairly innocuous, safe approach towards nature-themed black metal, it also wasn’t the sort of music that would stand out so much as to create its own hype. Veldes remained a kept secret for most intents and purposes, but the debut’s atmosphere made it a worthy find for any who came upon it.
That said, Veldes hasn’t seen fit to reclaim the magic of the debut on its other outings. The Skyward EP bored me to tears, and the subsequent releases had nothing close to, say, the chilling moment where T.L. sampled The Road via To Bleed in Drowning Hope. For whatever reason, Veldes has slunk into an even gentler mould as time has worn on. The spirit of struggle on the debut gave way to a meek sense of resignation. Such seems to be the case with Ember Breather—Veldes’ second full-length, and a solid indication that the project has lost some of its original might.
As a composer, T.L. has a sharp grasp of atmospheric black metal, particularly on the spectrum’s slower end. Elderwind and early Drudkh are likely first stops in comparing Veldes, although the sheer introspection recalls blackgaze as much as anything else. Veldes’ compositions unfold as slow, minimalist sprawls, generally building a single up over the course of a track. T.L. is also prone to filling up the sound with simple keyboard accents atop the guitar. In this sense, Veldes isn’t so far from Summoning. But where Summoning fills the arrangement with dense orchestrations, Veldes keeps the composition to its bare essentials.
This minimalism can work brilliantly well in black metal when done properly (see Filosofem for a glowing example of this), but without a certain fluid quality, it gets hard for the music to invoke an atmosphere. Veldes’ gentle pace could have worked with an organic presentation, but much of the performance feels restrained and sterile. Even within minimal compositions like these, there is plenty of potential for a musician to have injected them with life and urgency. T.L. doesn’t botch the performance here at all, but everything feels too safe and calculated to encourage atmosphere. A lot of the time, I found myself admiring the simple effectiveness of the writing without really feeling the atmosphere like I’d hoped to.
Veldes is still a relatively solid act in my book, although the absence of such apparent flaws seems to be a result of the artist taking the tame route too often. While I was writing this review, I was re-listening to To Drown in Bleeding Hope to see if my opinion had soured on it at all. The debut still holds up as well as it did in 2013. I can hear a fire on that album. I smell ashes with Ember Breather. Hopefully T.L. can reignite whatever intensity he had tapped into with the debut; the works he has made recently haven’t come close to that standard.
01) The Roamer’s Curse
02) Void Path King
03) To Ruins of Throneless Realm
04) Dust Scatterer
05) Crowned in Oblivion