Friday 5 June 2015

Valkyrie - 'Shadows' (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/5/2015
Label: Relapse Records

“Shadows” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Mountain Stomp
2. Golden Age
3. Temple
4. Shadow of Reality
5. Wintry Plains
6. Echoes (Of The Way We Lived)
7. Carry On

Valkyrie is:

Jake Adams | Guitars, vocals
Pete Adams | Guitars, vocals
Alan Fary | Bass
Warren Hawkins | Drums


Anytime I hear of a buzz-worthy heavy band coming from my home state of Virginia, I immediately perk my ears up, wondering what area they’re from and what manner of heavy they’re laying down. When Valkyrie was first introduced to me some time ago, they were described as a “killer stoner rock band from Harrisonburg.” I found that interesting, being that Harrisonburg is a tiny college town nuzzled away in the mountains of the western part of the state, a town that was never really known for heavy music. The general flavor for the Harrisonburg I remembered was more Indie rock, college rock, and emo. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a band like Valkyrie was calling this town their home. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. A high altitude city under starry skies and well above sea level is the perfect backdrop for a band whose kingsnake grooves and volcanic riffing blast like the power of a supernova colliding against a mountainside.

That Valkyrie lineup has changed rather frequently since their 2002 inception. The rhythm section has ebbed and flowed throughout the years, (once it even featured doom metal titan, Gary Isom, on drums.) The current rhythm section features Warren Hawkins on drums and Alan Fary, of fellow mountain-dwelling riffsters, Earthling, on bass. However, the thing you can always count on are the band’s guitar-wielding brothers, Pete and Jake Adams, (one of whom also plays in some little band that you may have heard, called Baroness.) It takes about half a second’s worth of listening to hear that Valkyrie’s slick and tight guitar-driven heaviness is what makes the band shine. The group stands out from the countless others who travel this well-trodden path forged by the proto-heavy gods of yore. You’ll hear traces of ‘72-era Purple, early Thin Lizzy, and even lesser known acts like Dust, Morley Grey, and Toad. At the times the Adams brothers’ harmonies even sound like Dave Murray and Adrian Smith decided to slow things down, to a toke or two, and lay down some heavy grooves with a drummer like Bill Ward or Ian Paice. Besides, a stoner-style take on Maiden sounds like a surefire win, right? It is.

Valkyrie’s latest release for Relapse Records, “Shadows,” is a record that will surely keep the band headed on their skyward trajectory. It consists of seven strong tracks, all clocking in around five or six minutes, a fine balance of heaviness, introspection, and victorious “battle cry” moments. They may not have directly intended to write such anthemic tunes, but songs like “Golden Age” and “Shadow of Reality” practically beg for those “fist in the air” screams of triumph. It’s everything you love about your favorite stoner rock bands, but rather than relying solely on bluesy, Iommi-inspired riffs, these riffs are more modal and classical sounding, (not unlike master Blackmore.) The album opener, “Mountain Stomp,” has been making the rounds since its Internet teaser moment in early April. It wastes no time charging into a ‘70s inspired riff that could almost pass for Skynyrd, (that is if Skynyrd stopped praying to Jesus and set their sights towards more eldritch deities.) The production is crisp, loud, and punchy. You can even hear a vibraslap right before the vocals come in. Smart musicians know that production techniques such as these tend to be “Easter eggs” for music lovers. And that’s the main thing that struck me with “Shadows” upon my first listen. The sound is very inspired, well crafted, and it is evident that band’s time and energy has paid off into this stellar recording. The guitars scream, the vocals soar, the low end rumbles, and the grooves are unstoppable.

It’s always good to see a band with the vitality and staying power of Valkyrie. After 13 years and running, the group shows no signs of slowing down nor losing any of the magic that inspires them. “Shadows” will surely stand the test of time, and not just for the heavy music subculture. There’s a little something in this one for anyone and everyone who digs rocknroll.

Words: Erik Sugg

‘Shadows’ is available here

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