Valkyrja hails from Sweden, where the ice-cold summers, and even colder winters, apparently breed tons of little metal kids.Â Everywhere you look here you run into a band, and many of them are good.Â But certainly not all of them, which begs the question: why did Metal Blade pick up Valkyrja?Â A listen to their first record, The Invocation of Demise (which originally came out on Northern Silence Records from Germany), gives one a clear image of this bandâ€”but whether that’s such a good image or not is definitely up in the air.
Black metal is long past its prime, as anyone who is well-versed in heavy metal will tell you.Â It’s not that there are no good black metal bands, anymore, it’s just that it’s hard to carve out a unique sound in the face of all the greats who were putting out music of the same time a decade earlier (and many of whom are still around).Â It’s just tough to write black metal that doesn’t sound derivative and a little boring, and unfortunately Valkyrja isn’t much of an exception to this.
It’s not that the band is bad!Â There are good riffs, the music is tight and sure, while things are a little repetitive (though, I think black metal guys prefer to use the word “atmospheric”), the album doesn’t really drag that much.Â On the other hand, there aren’t really very many memorable riffs or those moments that make the metal guy in me excited.Â Mostly the tracks blend into the background while I get distracted by other things.Â Maybe in that sense the music really is atmospheric, in a literal sense, but I doubt that’s what a band making black metal is going for.
Part of the reason that Valkyrja doesn’t impress is because they’re basically operating on a two-chord song structure.Â Every time they break into something acoustic, but minimalistic, they’re operating with two chords.Â Their riffs never get much beyond trem-picking in a single key and eventually one bores of that.Â I understand, of course, that black metal is minimalisticâ€”but how is it, then, that bands like Trelldom, Shining and Taake have continually put out excellent, interesting black metal records while still being “trve” and unique?
To reiterate, these guys aren’t bad, but if you’re looking for a new band to break into the black metal scene and really push the envelope, then don’t look to Valkyrja.Â But, if you’re looking for good black metal that reminds one of Naglfar, or Bewitched and throws back to the mid-90s (with much, much better production), then this is probably what you’re after.Â These guys are tight, and with a little bit of innovative thinking they could probably put out a record that would truly impressâ€”but I get the feeling that isn’t what they’re really going for.