The Antagonist's Fire
Review by Fernando on June 25, 2019.
Swedish black metal outfit Valkyrja are an interesting band to talk about for a variety of reasons, primarily how often they’re compared to their fellow Swedes Watain in sound and style. However, while the influence is there, their third album is proof that the band are on the right path to develop their own voice.
The main aspect to note in this album is how the music is a marked departure from the traditional sound and style of Swedish black metal. The band opts for a sound that’s less melodic and complex for a more aggressive and haunting, combining mid pace tracks that build momentum and then explode in a deluge of violence and darkness. The big standouts in this album are tracks like "Madness Redeemer" and "Betrayal Incarnate" where this dark crescendo style is on full display and glory.
However while the style is much more straightforward, most likely in an attempt to quash the Watain comparisons, the band still manage to add solos and riffs that would please any fan of the more melodic-centric side of black metal pioneered by the Swedish forefathers of the style. The guitar work by Simon Wizén while fairly standard for black metal is not devoid of finesse and technical prowess, as mentioned before, the album is not completely devoid of melody, instead of it being the focus its present more as supplement to enhance the music. The other major standout is the drum work by Jocke Walgren of Amon Amarth fame, he displays the mandatory blast beats with great efficiency but is also able to show his more complex side in the bridge sections of songs where the focus is on keeping the initial momentum of the more aggressive side of the music.
All that being said, while the album has the right ingredients and puts the band on track to stop wearing their influences on their sleeves there’s still the elephant in the room and the main reason why they’re constantly compared to Watain: the vocals by former singer Andreas Lind are extremely reminiscent of Erik Danielsson if not nearly identical and this is the biggest detriment to the album as a whole. While it can be partially ignored thanks to the excellent performances by the rest of the band anyone who is familiar with Watain will immediately notice the similarity and it sticks out like a sore thumb. As a whole the album is very good, but the vocals are its biggest flaw and it would take to not think about them to fully enjoy it.
Best tracks: "Madness Reedemer", "Eulogy (Poisoned, Ill and Wounded)", "Treading the Path of the Predator"
Rating: 8.5 out of 10289