An otherwise-new entity, Valravn nevertheless evince a mastery beyond their short time as a band with their first public recording, the full-length Prey. Arriving very fully formed, Valravn's debut album no doubt displays characteristics of Finland's now-world-renown black metal sound - cryogenic melody, raw 'n' rugged execution, an unapologetic assertion of traditionalism - but in other, more telling aspects, Prey asserts its own identity counter to this prevailing paradigm. ++++ Valravn truly sound like a band, as in four individuals playing together in the same room rather than the usual copy/paste practices used by so many studio-only "bands." This very tangible physicality bleeds over into the overall emotion of Prey, whereby the listener can literally FEEL every note...and every note is vital, virile, vivid. Of course, Valravn are a black metal band, and black metal by definition is monochromatic, but that vividness is writ large across the album's eight central tracks, each one as cutting 'n' concise as the next. As such, Prey feels a lot larger than it should, for the band pack in an almost-cresting sense of the epic into these tight 'n' taut tracks. ++++ From the tranquil, tellingly autumnal acoustic opening and across comparable textures, Prey burns with the intensity of a November coming fire. But Valravn's just-revealed torch is a timeless one, resonating across all seasons and most especially the dread grasp of winter, as this year comes to a close and Prey readies to spread its wings much like its cover-art subject.