Released: 2013, W.T.C. Productions
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Swedish black metal quartet VALKYRJA follow up their critically acclaimed 2010 release "Contamination" with this World Terror Committee Productions exclusive. This album has been described as the band going from strength to strength, cementing their appeal with explosive tracks which "twist the listener into a state of feverish possession". A mighty claim, but if anyone can follow up on such a proclamation it is this increasingly popular outfit.
'Betrayal Incarnate' kicks things off and damn is the production amazing. Jocke Wallgren's drums are powerful as hell, and Simon Wizén's guitar work is tremendous. This is a track to bang your head to right from the get go, the rhythm forceful and effective thanks largely to Vlad Lefay's bass work. The vocals are dark yet clear, somewhat similar to Johan Hegg at times. There is a vibrant clean guitar solo halfway through, and in the final third the pace quickens but retains that solid rhythm. Right at the end things slow to a reverberation of snare, a sound similar to the aftermath of an explosion, and a deliciously solid opening number comes to a close.
The opening of 'The Cremating Fire' is reminiscent of 'Postmortem' by SLAYER, and once the track gets going it takes on a real anthemic quality. Unbelievably fast bass work and skillful drumming exist alongside atmospheric guitar notes, and the vocals are as forceful and powerful as in the opener. 'Madness Redeemer' is just a fun song to listen to. The rhythm is tailor made for head banging, and I can just picture Jocke going wild on the drums. Simon continues to lay down some brilliantly atmospheric guitar work, and vocally this one is reminiscent of BATHORY. Full of aggression but also passion, this is a track I can listen to over and over.
'Yearn to Burn' appropriately enough begins with the sound of flames, sticking to the album theme, before a full on blast of ferocious music hits you hard. The ante has definitely been upped for this one, almost to death metal proportions. The bass is prominent, but not as much as the drums, and the vocals are much starker here than on the previous tracks. There is momentary respite in another dose of sweet guitar work, and then things get really heavy again. But now the guitar adds ambiance to the fury, creating something truly epic.
'Eulogy (Poisoned, Ill and Wounded)' is more ethereal in it's opening notes. This one is a kind of mix, at certain points a monstrously frenetic death metal track, and at others a skilled and ambient thrash track. It's an awesome sounding combination. Once again Simon's guitar work is truly phenomenal. I have to commend his work on this song in particular, he really makes the competing styles within the track work so well together by switching between kick ass solos and furious shredding. This balance is also well struck in 'Season of Rot', though this one is much more of a black metal track, in which outstandingly ferocious vocals shine.
The album closes with 'Treading the Path of the Predator', and once again the music is forceful and in your face. The drums seem to have lost the power which they held in the opening track, perhaps through lack of reverb, but the guitar work is as solid as ever. This is another track with an awesome headbanging rhythm and a cool vibe that says aggressive but not too aggressive, more passionate. This is like 'Madness Redeemer' but much more epic. Vlad matches Simon here, his bass remarkably prominent and crisp in the early stages. Four minutes in, the tempo changes in a way similar to in SLAYER's 'Epidemic', and the closing moments of the song are suitably among the most epic on the album. A brilliant end to a damn good record.
Did I find myself twisted into a state of feverish possession? Not quite, but I did at various points find myself completely absorbed in what I was listening to. Banging my head and enjoying every second, particularly during 'Madness Redeemer' and 'Treading the Path of the Predator'. This is a solidly well produced and excellently written album which you will enjoy to no end.
Review by Michael Dodd