Valkyrja – Throne Ablaze

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Reviewed: [February, 2019]
Released: [2018, W.T.C. Productions]
Rating: [3/5]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson

If there’s one persistent knock on Swedish black/death metal mob Valkyrja it’s that their songs are often just too damn long for the kind of music they present. With a visceral, snub-nosed approach that recalls Marduk, Dark Funeral or Dissection, they really have no business churning out the eight- to 10-minute opuses that made their last album, 2013’s The Antagonist’s Fire, such a slog or which bogged down 2010’s otherwise stellar Contamination.

Throne Ablaze, the band’s fourth album, does address some of Antagonist’s excesses. But as was the case with Contamination, it retains enough bloat to turn what could have been a triumphant release by a revamped lineup into a merely decent effort marred by songs that wear out their welcome. At a lean and mean 35 minutes, Throne most likely would have killed. At a rotund 47 minutes, it still does damage, but wheezes and stumbles trying to deliver the coup de grace.

The taut, brisk opener “Crowned Serpent” gets things off to a promising start, with guitarist/lone original member Simon Wizén taking over on vocals from the departed Andreas Lind and displaying a formidable, menacing growl. But the seven-minute “Opposer of Light” that follows is indicative of Valkyrja’s tendency to overwrite – or at least fail to adequately edit. Its mid-tempo chug countered by blast beat-fueled bursts would work great as a four-minute rollercoaster ride. But at seven minutes, it drags on and on.

Similarly, the eight-minute “Transcendental Death” slingshots between lumbering doom and bracing death metal before wandering aimlessly over its back third. “Paradise Lost” offers nifty, frisky riffs and tempo changes but feels like it has two extra minutes tacked on. Their fairly basic arrangements certainly don’t do them any favors.

The comparatively shorter – i.e. less than six minutes – tracks are, not surprisingly, more effective and satisfying, a la “Crowned Serpent.” “Tombs Into Flesh” is a black metal burner with blazing guitar leads and “Halo of Lies” is buoyed by its gritty, swaggering hooks. Here, everything has its place and nothing seems stitched together or spliced on.

All that said, Throne’s longest song is ironically one of its finer moments – or make that nine minutes. The title track closes things out with a hint of classical grandiosity and the kind of epic structure that builds and builds, bringing some welcome drama to the table. It ebbs and flows, and boasts another lengthy lead break that showcases Wizén’s craftiness.

Most of all, it oozes purpose. Instead of merely plodding ahead, like “Opposer” or “Transcendental,” “Throne Ablaze” provides the album with its one genuine magnum opus. And one is definitely enough here.


Videos


Valkyrja

Lineup
S. Wizén – lead guitar, vocals
B. Thelberg – rhythm guitar
V. Purice – bass, backing vocals
V. Parri – drums

Track Listing
1. In Ruins I Set My Throne
2. Crowned Serpent
3. Opposer of Light
4. Tombs Into Flesh
5. Halo of Lies
6. Transcendental Death
7. Paradise Lost
8. Throne Ablaze

Website
www.facebook.com/valkyrjaswe/