Released: 2005, Sonic Age Brutality Records
Reviewer: Gabriel C. Zolman
Comparable to Power Symphony insomuch as their hot female singer, Zoraija, also over-emotes, this aspires to be Chastain, yet fails even to be White Skull.
The band can certainly play—opening cut “The Last One” is positively vicious, in an old Priest sort of way (think Screaming For Vengeance overdubbed). Meanwhile, the 80’s-inspired “Hold On” simply simmers with vintage arena riffs, held back only by Zoraija’s strangled croon.
This actually becomes quite a stumbling block after awhile. She seemingly fails to sing so much as hyperventilate from song to song, wheezing out each refrain like she’s just been sucker-punched. She belts each track like she’s just had dirty sex. Though Warlock is a reference point, Doro’s place as metal’s MILF-queen is secure.
While the vast majority of power metal bands take turns pretending to be either Keeper Of The 7 Keys-era Helloween or Powerslave-era Iron Maiden, this band seems to have split their time listening to Painkiller-era Judas Priest and Whitesnake in equal cheesy measure—as evidenced by the aforementioned first two tracks.
Generally, the band moves in a far different direction than their Italian countrymen (Power Symphony, White Skull), as these bands tend to be fast, with lots of arpeggios. Valkija is anything but fast—in fact, throughout much of the CD’s latter half, the band trudges right along—not running, but stomping…not waving, but drowning.
“Eye Of The Shadows” is one such anthemic stomper—and one that works quite well, though it seems more suited to the latter portion of the disc. It, like “The Last One,” is also an instance in which Zoraija’s Marlboro voice is used to satisfactory effect—coming across like something of a low-rent Grace Slick. She actually pulls it off.
“Return Of The King” slows down even more, sounding a bit in the opening passage like Candlemass during their Tales Of Creation period, before diving headfirst into a more standard-issue 80’s metal structure. “Sign Of The Hammer” speeds things up a bit, with some nice lead work from the boys, and a balls-heavy refrain…but again, the vocals shit like a seagull over this Ferrari;s perfect finish. In a way, this reminds me of Hellion, except that Ann Boleyn could sing.
Sadly, the male vocals at the beginning of “The Unknown Kadath” aren’t much better, as “Now I fight rock guardians” sounds suspiciously like “Now I am farting rock gardens.” Actually, Zoraija doesn’t do too badly on this one. Slowing down seems to help, it would appear. Don’t get me wrong—it’s still hideously overwrought—but at least it’s manageable. Sadly, the follow-up track, “Son Of Thunder,” is not. Much of this, as well as the closing track, “Hatchet Blade” is actually reminiscent of a late-80’s female-fronted thrash act called Meanstreak—but then, I don’t’ remember their singer being any good, either. “Steel Avenger” is absolutely unforgivable. She actually sounds like a muppet on this one…I do not lie...she sounds like a frickin’ muppet.
I hate to give a band so obviously talented and technically proficient such a low score (were it not for the vocals, this would have gotten a “4 out of 5”), but even the greatest songs in the world can be ruined if bellowed through the wrong set of pipes. This isn’t terrible—in fact, it could well be salvaged yet. As Lacuna Coil has evidenced, Italy is simply brimming with hotties—Valkija should simply find one that can sing, and immediately hire her. Perhaps Zoraija could dance or something, or maybe type the newsletter for the fan club that will most assuredly grow and swell upon her absence from the mic.