The past is an alluring thing. Especially in the metal community, knowledge of those who came before you is deemed an integral part of being accepted into the community. As such, bands often find themselves reaching into the collective bag of tricks of yesteryears to find their inspiration or simply a riff or two when they’re stuck. Often, this works great. Specifically when dealing with the birth of metal in rock, there are plenty of bands who pay homage and do it well. Witchcraft comes to mind as do Pallbearer and The Samsara Blues Experiment.
However, as Valkyrie‘s latest effort shows, it’s not a flawless formula. You need to inject the true and tried methods with something of your own in order to make them really shine. Shadow is not a bad album but it is one that’s easy to forget; by playing the tropes of its parent-genre straight, it completely misses the chance to harp on our heartstrings, satisfying itself with an admittedly skillful execution of weathered ideas. In the end though, that’s just enough.
Sadly enough, the place where this is most obvious is in the beginning of the album. The first three tracks can be seen coming from a mile away: from the upbeat riffing of “Mountain Stomp”, through the complex yet tired solos of “Golden Age”, and finally up to the dominant kick drum of “Temple”, there isn’t a single choice here that catches one off guard. To reiterate: the execution itself if admirable. The guitar tone is exactly what was needed, the mix is prominent in the treble and yet the groove section can be clearly heard. The vocals are Black Sabbath (we couldn’t really not mention that name in this review) to the expected degree and are delivered well.
But nothing grabs the ear. Fortunately, once one manages to extricate himself from the intial quaqmire, this moment does have several saving moments. “Shadow of Reality”‘s opening riff is magnificent, throwing us right back to our childhood with its funky bass line. “Echoes (Of The Way We Lived)” is probably the best track on the album. Opening with a ponderous line, it quickly erupts into a fury of guitarwork that’s “misplaced” in the track structure and thus creates interest. The vocals here are also on point, more drawn out and dripping with honey than before. “Echoes” also has steam for its full run, never falling into filler material.
That’s perhaps the most bothersome thing about this album: it’s reliance on filler is felt and noticeable. Perhaps that is a better version of the point we visited above. This age-old bag of tricks is so full of shortcuts to be increasingly inviting. Instead of breaking your head on the guitar strings, there’s the solution, just waiting there for the grabbing. In the level of playing on this album and the way it sounds, its apparent that the band have put a lot of effort into it. It isn’t some half-assed, phoned in attempt. But it would have done Valkyrie more service to depart from the beaten path and seek something new, of their own, to inject into this vintage sound.
Valkyrie – Shadow gets…