Saturday, May 23, 2015

Valkyrie - Shadows

Who is Valkyrie you ask? Well, to be honest I asked the same exact question just this year upon seeing the promo tease offered up by Relapse Records over at Bandcamp for their new album. ‘Shadows’ is actually their third full length album and debut on Relapse mated with other clutch bands such as Red Fang, Torche, ASG and Royal Thunder just to name a few. Apparently I’ve been sleeping under a rock having just found out about Valkyrie, but like the ancient Norse lore goes, the Valkyrie chose another day of life for me to listen to their astonishing new album ‘Shadows’. Will I survive the auditory battle, read on to find out?

Being late to the game, I’ll recap a brief history of the band. Undergoing several line-up changes between their formation in 2002 and their current state, Valkyrie consist of brothers Pete and Jake Adams (guitars and vocals), Alan Fary (Bass) and Warren Hawkins (drums). Pete Adams is also a guitarist in the legendary sludge band Baroness (take that at face value), which you can hear traces of in the guitar tone in Valkyrie. According to the diehard fans, the new album ‘Shadows’ was somewhat of a pleasant surprise as comments I read from fans ranged from:

Ø      I’ve been dreaming of this day since the day I was born, I’m 57 years old…”-some old dude,
Ø      “If I die tomorrow, please bury me in the shadow of Valkyrie - Shadows,”born again Christian mistress
Ø      “Listening to the song ‘Shadow of Reality’ cured me of cancer and my wife now understands my addiction to vinyl”…. –the man, the myth.

Ya, it’s that good folks. There is probably even memes on the internet describing the potency of Valkyrie?

My first impression of the band was to the point where I pre-ordered the vinyl after only a 2 song preview and a glimpse of the extraordinary artwork on display. As has been voiced in the heavy underground quite a bit lately, the artwork is a major factor in the success of rock music in the digital age. The appearance of vinyl also adds intimate value to the musical experience. Both the art and the vinyl options visible on pre-order left me no choice but to take a listen. What happened next I wasn’t quite ready for? Neither was my wallet. However, Mark Paypal sure made out well. You may know him too, maybe not.

I was hearing elements of several of my favorite styles of rock and metal in this band. Relatively long songs 5-7 minute territory, which is actually the prime length of a modern rock song for my taste, jam packed full of doomy vocals, stoney rhythm, and a hefty amount of dueling guitar solos. In fact, those twin guitar chops were the icing on the cake and one element that pretty much tops this band off as one of my favorites of the year. I am a sucker for a mean double guitar harmony. Instead of making the Thin Lizzy comparison, which is obvious and present, I’ll go with the more obscure nod to a couple modern bands I adore being Gyspyhawk with a little bit of Graviators thrown in for Sabbath worship measure. The guitar slinging goes from fuzzy distorted groove, to a ceremoniously metallic crusade of classic rock reverence. Just when you think the songs couldn’t get any better, another magical twist of chords enthralls the senses to a new level. Each of the 7 songs has its own unique blend of stoner fuzz, battleborn proto-doom, and classic guitar shreddage. It pays homage to the classics such as Lizzy, Deep Purple and Sabbath yet keeping a modern progression at the forefront distinguishing them as a modern and future classic band.

I’d say what sets ‘Shadows’ above some of the other standout albums released this year is their ability to keep the songs alive with several added jams of guitar solos interspersed throughout random parts of each song. I’m not a musical expert, but the format seems rather nontraditional in the sense of songwriting. It’s not your typical verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus type affair. It’s got wicked introductions with an energetic vocal offering, which by the way, won’t be winning any Grammys for Best Vocal Performance (meant as a compliment), followed by progressive stoner jams that sort of create a building current of excitement that prevents you from knowing exactly what is coming next. It keeps you on the edge of your earbuds as I like to say.

The songs flow really well and based on the song titles, I have to imagine it’s somewhat of a concept album. Forgive me for not being musically smart enough to decipher and explain the potential concept, probably more that I am just too lazy and just let myself get lost too deep in the instrumentation to pay too much attention to the lyrical theme at hand. I’m a guitar guy and Valkyrie is the riff dealer in the neighborhood. Just listen for yourself and you’ll understand.

After listening to ‘Shadows’ close to a dozen times, I finally decided I should probably check out their back catalog, which is completely sold out of vinyl (sign of a good band), has re-issue CDs available via All That is Heavy (sign of a good band), has a few songs streaming on bandcamp and new vinyl available at the Relapse Records store (sign of a good band). To no surprise the two previous albums were jam packed full of the same style of herculiffic melodies, scorching solos and Ozzy-esque bellows. You can definitely hear the positive progression from release to release hitting a climax with ‘Shadows’. I bought two vinyl copies of the bone white / bronze merge vinyl edition, one for me and one for a friend. Copies still available, get them while the getting’s good folks. Valkyrie will surely be one of the most talked about albums this summer and into the end of the year listings. I know they certainly will be on my list. 

Order the Record at various outlets either linked above or below here:

-The Huntsman

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