Valkyrie - Shadows (Relapse)

Veteran riffmasters doing what they do best...
Release Date: 
18 Jun 2015 - 11:30pm

Virginian trad metal veterans Valkyrie helpfully set out their stall from the very first note of their third album, Shadows; I say helpfully because, if this is the first time you’ve stumbled across the band, thinking from the name perhaps they might be a Norse-inspired black metal outfit or, from the Relapse imprint that they might be something unutterably heavy and left field, then all misconceptions are disabused thoroughly through the good offices of Mountain Stomp, as the band reels off a song that neatly signposts where they’re coming from with this album.

And where they’re coming from is the seventies. In fact you don’t need to stop at Mountain Stomp with that sonic analogy. Every song on this uber-solid record drips with salutes to the days of loons n’flares, with nary even a nod to the eighties to broaden out the influence palette. Second track Golden Age could well be an extension of Mountain Stop, referencing, by turn, Thin Lizzy, UFO, Stray, Budgie et al with surgical precision, whilst Temple – where the Adams brothers, Pete and Jake, really spread their wings on the excellent solo sections – throws in a rough sketch of what Wishbone Ash might have sounded like had they had a yen to beef up their sound a little.

Shadow of Reality is a guitar tour de force; layer upon layer of sludgesome riff goodness topped off with beautifully-toned soloing, the relentless tide of riffage occasionally supplanted by some chiming rhythm work just to highlight how heavy the other bits are. It’s not much of a song, if truth be told, but as an excuse for breaking out the air guitar you won’t hear better this year.

Next track Wintry Plains continues the theme, and it’s here that the effects of the unadulterated bombast heard thus far start to dissipate; The thing about all those seventies bands this band so clearly worship – even Sabbath – is that they all had a firm grasp on the concept of dynamics, being not afraid every now and then to try something a little less caustic, a few minutes of piano-led wistfulness to break up the sturm und drang perhaps, before returning to the fray again at full tilt. The second half of Wintry Plains hints that Valkyrie realise this, though they don’t give themselves to the idea fully, 

So, with all this being the case, the only real option as a listener is simply to go with the flow and immerse yourself in the riffs. The final brace of songs Echoes (Of the Way We Lived) and this reviewer’s personal favourite, closing track Carry On, offer many opportunities to do just that; The former is a spectacular, slow building guitarathon that can’t help bring to mind Lynyrd Skynyrd and their ilk as it races to its quasi-orgiastic denouement, guitars duelling fatalistically until both protagonist brothers tumble over into the abyss, fingers still twitching, whilst the latter is a stately, well-constructed epic that sounds like something Mountain might have conceived around the time of their magnum opus Nantucket Sleighride.

Look, at the end of the day, and for all my moaning about light and shade, its hard to actively dislike this album or indeed construct a cogent argument against it. In the world of Valkyrie the riff is king, and Valkyrie are kings of the riff – all hail!