Valkyrja – Contamination Review

Valkyrja // Contamination
Rating: 2.5/5.0 —Alright, some improvement, but still not understanding the infatuation
Label: Metal Blade (EU | US)
Release Dates: EU: 15/18.01.2010 | US: 01.19.2010

Early in my tenure in 2009 I received a record that was being re-released by Metal Blade: Valkyrja’s Invocation of Demise, which was a release of an earlier record that was initially released in 2007 on Northern Silence Productions. There were several substantive complaints that I had about the record, which can be summed up as follows: there is nothing new and/or interesting here; it is repetitive and boring; the songs are hyper simplistic and despite being fast, don’t feel terribly heavy. The challenge, then, for Valkyrja to produce a record that I review better is to improve on these things (and since Valkyrja is out to prove themselves to me and me alone, they certainly will try… *cough*) with their new release Contamination.

Recorded in the suburbs of Stockholm Contamination is the culmination of a three years and a new record deal from Metal Blade. While it came out pretty fast, the record doesn’t really sound that rushed. However, it still sounds pretty much like Valkyrja sounded on Invocation of Demise. The style of black metal is still pretty much blast-heavy, trem-picky and slightly melodic, without ever wandering into the territory of Taake-type melody. Instead, Valkyrja can probably be more likely compared with Watain without their extremity or originality.

However, Contamination is a definite improvement on the previous album. The riffing on this record is far more interesting and the song writing is definitely more compelling. There are some good riffs littered throughout and there’s even a song or two on here that I really like (“Catharsis (Contaminate the Earth)” being probably the best song on the record and the track “Ambiance of the Dead” being pretty compelling as well). Three years, and a lot of time to improve their writing and tightness as a band probably definitely helped pushed these guys towards a better record.

That said, the improvement is minimal and the result is an alright record but I still don’t understand the infatuation with the band that seems to be showing up in some black metal circles. They’re talented at what they do, but it seems that black metal as a genre is very much mired in the “we like what we’ve always liked” thing, or they’re producing totally pretentious shit and calling it gold until more than 15 guys have heard of it. This record is basically 58 minutes of the same thing and, frankly, it just gets boring. I make a point of sitting down and listening to all of the records that I get all the way through, despite whether I want to or not, THREE times. I have now done that, but it took me several weeks to even get through it once. I would start the album, get about half-way through and finally break down and change it. It’s not like I don’t like the tracks when I hear them, it’s just that they get repetitive and they’re not compelling enough to keep me engaged for a longer period, and an hour of it is just too much.

If you’re a fan of black metal you’ll probably just think I’m not a fan of the genre and write me off, but I once again will defend myself by saying that I like black metal that is well done, innovative and interesting, just like with any genre of metal. If a band is producing something elite, then it should be obvious: and Valkyrja is pretty good, but definitely not elite.

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