Wednesday, 3 June 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Wolftooth, "Valhalla"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 22/05/2020
Label: Ripple Music |
Cursed Tongue Records

Valhalla CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Intro – The Lamentation of Frigg
2. The Possession
3. Firebreather
4. Valhalla
5. Fear for Eternity
6. Scylla & Charybdis
7. Molon Labe
8. Crying of the Wolves
9. The Coven
10. Juneau

The Review:

Wolftooth's sophomore release arrives at a fortuitous time. I've been savouring their debut since I reviewed it back in 2018 and I have craved more of this metal mixed with stoner mixed with tales of fantasy and heroism. “Valhalla thus arrives right on time- two years after the debut and hopefully hints at an Overkill-esque work ethic in years to come.

The debut essentially took what was great about The Sword's first three records and distilled it. “Valhalla is NOT the sound of Wolftooth abandoning their fan base and making a more mature record. In fact, though the arrangements of “The Possession” are undoubtedly more complex with layered guitars and vocals, the identity of the band remains firmly intact. The atmopsheric intro of “The Lamentation of Frigg” sets us up nicely for a delightful metal album which mixes a lot of the best of trad, stoner and a little doom.

The sound is once again tight and organic- wonderful tom sound- with a burly mix. It's not as aggressive as, say, High on Fire, or even The Sword's early work but it grooves well and there are great riffs and choruses played by a solid band in all aspects. As Wolftooth hail from the same state that gave us the mighty The Gates of Slumber, Apostle of Solitude, Thorr Axe and Throne of Iron, it might be reasonable to expect more of a doom flavour to the songs here, but if anything this is closer to traditional metal than even the debut. There is almost a hard rock vibe to the likes of “Firebreather” and even the title track even of the subject matter and component parts are totally metal.

It interests me to note the fairly uniform song lengths- 4-5mins- and also that despite this the material is not formulaic. There are stylistic traits throughout, such as the aforementioned  layered vocals of the choruses, but it's not boring. Quite the opposite. It's an album to play all the way through. There are some really heavy tracks here, too; “Fear For Eternity” is pure sword and sorcery in Conan style wrought in metal. Each song offers up light and shade, whether it be “Molon Labe” or the pretty catchy “Scylla & Charybdis”.

As the album reaches the closing stages, “Crying of the Wolves” offers up a track close to Dio-era Sabbath (yes!) and rocks hard down the back stretch. “The Coven” offers up a late album highlight with its absolutely hard-as-iron riffing and melodies. “Juneau finishes the album strongly with... more of the same; fuzzed bass, heavy riffs, reedy/Ozzy-esque vocals and some big slabs of groove.

If the debut made many metallers take notice, this should push the band over the top and hopefully bring them over to the likes of Desertfest, Damnation Festival in the UK and Keep It True and Courts of Chaos etc on the continent. This is for fans of any of the bands mentioned in this review. It's heavy, it's metal and it's quite superb.

Valhalla is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook