Valkyrie- Shadows

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, May 15, 2015

Relapse seems like they’re on a mission to snag just about every quality Virginia metal band out there, as they’ve already put out great releases from Inter Arma, Windhand, and Iron Reagan in recent months. One of their latest pick-ups is Shadows, the newest album from Valkyrie. Although the group has been around since 2002 and released two previous full lengths this is their first new material in almost seven years. While their earlier albums channeled traditional doom and heavy metal, Shadows has found Valkyrie branching out even further and incorporating a little bit of everything within the heavy rock spectrum. It’s capable of appealing to both metal heads and traditional rock fans, and anyone with a taste for one killer lead and solo after the next will want to take notice.

Over the course of seven songs the instrumentals provide plenty of twists and turns, and what gives Shadows plenty of staying power is the amount of variety it is able to offer. Hints of the heavy metal style twin guitar attacks and flourishes of doom remain, but Valkyrie isn’t content with merely going for a retro metal sound and calling it a day. Each song switches styles fairly often, as the opener “Mountain Stomp” has a crunchier groove that’s somewhere between blues rock and stoner rock while other tracks head more towards a metal sound. This is one of those albums that have one catchy riff after the next, and each song has been written in a way that allows the guitarists to throw in some absolutely killer solo. “Temple” is one of the standouts that showcases just what the band is capable of, as it starts off with a softer groove that gives way to the type of soaring guitar work that will have you immediately cranking up the volume to completely soak it all in. This is definitely a record for those that like to focus their attention on harmonized guitar leads and solos, and Valkyrie’s able to do so while constantly blurring the line between heavy rock and heavy metal.

With how much is happening instrumentally I have to admit that it took until a few times through before my focus really turned to the vocals. That’s not to say that they’re bad by any means, but because of how guitar centric this record is they didn’t quite jump out at me the first time through. Valkyrie’s vocal style comes in at a gruffer pitch, which is where some of the blues rock and stoner rock influences come in. But even though they touch upon that lower range, the singing doesn’t have that rougher feel that threatens to overpower the instrumentals and instead hangs over the recording with an airier vibe that fades in and out naturally. It’s a direction that fits well with the band’s twisting and turning arrangements, and even though it wasn’t the element I first honed in on as I’ve made my way through Shadows more in depth I can’t think of a style that would suit the material any better.

Valkyrie may have been gone for quite a few years, but they’ve returned with an effort capable of hooking a sizeable audience. Shadows has the twin guitar attack that will hook fans of heavy metal’s originators while also providing the type of bluesy grooves that just about any rock fan should be able to vibe off of. Rather than abandoning their roots, these guys have chosen to take them and expand outwards in a way that has broadened their sound significantly, making this a release worth taking note of.

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