Viginia's Valkyrie have had a bit of a revolving door policy regarding their rhythm section over the years but with all the comings and goings two members have remained a constant , founder Jake Adams (guitar/vocals) and his ex Baroness brother Pete Adams (guitar/vocals). Any line-up changes will have an effect on a bands direction and dynamic and of course that has been no different for Valkyrie but one thing that has not changed has been the brothers commitment to their musical vision and that vision has been to merge the old school American proto-metal of bands like St. Vitus. Pentagram and Spirit Caravan with the classic/hard rock of bands like Wishbone Ash, Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple while still remaining relevant in todays musical climate. This has proved successful so far but this year the band release their fourth album, "Fear"( Relapse Records), and it is an album that finds the band adding a touch of prog like texturing to their musical cannon.
Those of you out there fearing that Valkyrie bringing a more prog vibe into play for "Fear" will see them shifting away from an already well established proto/hard/classic rock sound need not worry as those elements, that have seen the band garner a growing legion of fans worldwide, are still all in place. The shift, if you need to call it that, is really more of an expansion of their sound, the band bringing those proggish elements to the table not to dazzle us with their musicianship and the complexity of their arrangements but to add texture and colour to their songs and make them sound much more richer and fuller bodied. That fullness of sound is no better exemplified than on opening track "Feeling So Low" a song that begins menacing and dark, on a wave of droning guitar noise underpinned by a growling bass line, then morphs into an off-kilter funky rock groove decorated with a clean distinctive vocal melody. Ok, you may say, not much has changed here this is what Valkyrie are known for, but re-spin the track and listen a little harder and you will discover so much going on just beneath the surface like drummer Warren Hawkins playing slightly off the beat to give the song an almost reggae(ish) percussive feel, Alan Farey bringing an element of funky groove to the table with his gloriously complex bass lines/runs and walks and that's before you get to the Adams brothers stunning array of twin guitar harmonies and trade off riffs and solos weaving over and around each other. As the album progresses through songs like the alt/blues tinted "Loveblind", the Celtic flavoured "The Choice" and the Thin Lizzy(ish) "Evil Eye" you will also begin to notice that melody is an important, if not an integral, weapon in Valkyrie's armory and it is one that they wield with dexterity and skill throughout this stunning new album, the band using those melodies to create an album full of songs that are heavy yet still accessible..
Rare is it, in a scene known for its heaviness and reliance on a riff, that you can come away from an album with it's melodies still ringing around and around in your head, long after it's last note has faded away. "Fear" however is one such rarity, an album packed with all the requisite bluster and swagger you would expect to hear from an "underground" rock band but also an album full of melodies you can actually sing, whistle or hum along to.
Check it out ....
© 2020 Frazer Jones