I first ran into Valkyrie in late 2011 while in San Francisco’s Aquarius Records. aQ, as it is known, is an iconic store that has a way of turning you on to all sorts of things. Valkyrie’s 2008 release, “Man of Two Visions,” has supremely cheesy cover art; and somehow that, plus whatever clever little note aQ placed on it, grabbed my attention and convinced me I should give it a chance. As it turned out, I was thrilled with that album, reveling in my quirky underground find. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and that day my gamble paid off.
Fast forward four years and this band that I thought I would never see again has landed on Relapse Records, a major player in the metal scene, with their new album “Shadows.” More importantly, they are better than ever. With seven years between recordings, Valkyrie has apparently spent the time honing their classic doom-tinged heavy metal to a razor edge. As “Mountain Stomp” blasts to life with swinging groove, the vocal is total classic Pentagram. But what really makes the track shine are the flawlessly executed NWOBHM-style guitar melodies—played in dual harmony, no less! Yes, Valkyrie doesn’t just write classic heavy doom metal; they breathe it in and sweat it out. The whole album oozes with it. The melodies are spectacular, but so too are the frequent guitar solos, every one of which is incredibly soulful.
“Soulful” is an apt descriptor for the thunderous “Golden Age” as well, and “Temple” is probably closest to their prior material, with a quirky twang on the main guitar melody. When the solo hits, the passion it exudes is remarkable. By the end, the NWOBHM-like melodies are furiously flying and awe-inspiring. “Shadow of Reality” brings some mid-’70s Black Sabbath at the intro, and finishes with more transcendent melodies. “Wintry Plains” is a favorite for its languid, blues-infused swagger and the slamming chorus. Plus the vocal here takes on a shade of Glenn Danzig in his prime, always a good thing. “Echoes (of the Ways We Lived)” reinstates the Pentagram worship and links it back again to timeless metal melodies. “Carry On” is fittingly epic for a closer, riddled with bluesy licks.
Two bits of interesting trivia here are that guitarist/vocalist Peter Adams is also a member of Baroness, and the album was produced by Sanford Parker of Buried at Sea and Corrections House. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of those three bands is aware that they’ve strayed pretty far away from this style of classic metal. And yet the fact that Adams and Parker are involved in this project is testament that they know and respect their roots. Valkyrie is the real deal, friends … and “Shadows” bleeds pure and glorious heavy metal.
Prepare to rock the fuck out: https://thevalkyrierides.bandcamp.com/