Virginian quartet Valkyrie are the brainchild and day job of Jake Evans, better known for being long-time guitarist in Baroness. Jake is joined in Valkyrie on guitar duties by his brother Pete, and Alan Fary and Warren Hawkins currently fill the bass and drumming positions respectively.
Fans of Baroness‘ most recent output will find much to enjoy in the sounds of Valkyrie as they share some very similar stylistic traits. Both put a strong emphasis on twin melodic guitar lines, the sort of classic duelling guitar sound you can hear on all your favourite old metal records – especially Iron Maiden – mixed with a grungy alt-metal attitude. There is a sort of solidity, an unvarnished, simple age old purity to their sound that transcends time and place.
Whilst on the “Yellow” and “Green” albums Baroness distilled the essence down to pithy four-and-five-minute songs, the sound very much the servant of the songs, Valkyrie‘s lyrics are often quite spare, mere pegs to hang their expansive six-string workouts upon: witness the way the guitars explode into life after the first verse of ‘Shadow of Reality’, the band chomping at the bit to take flight, giving the song a real seat of the pants, extended jam feel. The band share a spirit with Ethan Miller‘s Comets On Fire and Howlin’ Rain, a sort of freewheeling, fuck fashion guitar worship. I bet they are fantastic live.
To be honest not many of the songs here have an immediately recognisable character of their own, although it does come, with time. It is more like 45 minutes of one vision, the band’s one mission to get your head nodding and your air guitar fingers exercised. Opener ‘Mountain Stomp’ catches your ear by appearing on the skyline and stomping its way towards you with the monolithic cockiness of a Gene Simmons-fronted Kiss number and ‘Wintry Plain’, despite being the longest number, has a very strong, memorable melody which makes it feel more compact and commercial whilst still containing a very pretty, almost classical interlude followed by a coruscating, psych-shred finish.
If you have a hankering for musically simpler times, before all the baffling and alienating hybridisation of the metal genre, then I recommend you seek out “Shadows” immediately; one listen to the closing twin axe pyrotechnics on ‘Echoes (Of The Way We Lived)’ will have you grinning from ear to ear and will reconnect you with the true source of joy to be found within rock music.