Valkyrja – The Invocation of Demise
In black metal circles, Norway is the breeding ground that began the genre’s sudden rise in the underground during the early 90s. With bands such as Emperor and Immortal leading the march into hell, it seemed inevitable that others would follow in their blasphemous footsteps. Sweden became another country that churned out black metal bands like a well-oiled machine. Lord Belial, Marduk, Dissection; the list goes on and on, with each band adding their own twist to a conventional sound.
Fellow Swedes Valkyrja are looking to obtain a piece of the oozing black pie with their debut album The Invocation Of Demise. Originally released back in 2007, it was re-issued with new artwork by Metal Blade, who signed the band earlier in the year. The quintet sticks to an established formula, one that has been passed down from countless bands. Throughout the running length of The Invocation Of Demise, Valkyrja shows conviction in their sound that helps the album to stand out in a ever-crowded genre.
There is little that is modern about Valkyrja’s debut album. Sure, the production is clearer than the hollow and cold sounding albums done by the greats of black metal during their heydays, but the true essence of The Invocation Of Demise lies in the past. The blastbeats are overwhelmingly loud, the guitarist’s tremolo picking is unrelenting, the bass is almost non-existent in the mix, and the vocals are raspy, torturous screams of pain; a throwback to the days of old, where these traits were the clean-cut definition of black metal. Valkyrja plays with a hunger and drive that can only come from a group of musicians with knowledge of the genre and appreciation for those who came before them.
While the band mainly sticks to a chaotic speed, acoustic guitars make an appearance to provide a classical feel to “Plague Death” and build an ominous atmosphere on the brief instrumental “On Stillborn Wings.” These moments are evenly spaced throughout the album, in order to provide clarity and a chance to catch a deep breath. “The Vigil” has Valkyrja experimenting with a mid-paced tempo, an adventurous endeavor that succeeds with flying colors. The fantastic closing guitar solo is surprisingly melodic and epic in scope, a drastic shift from the relatively straightforward riffs scattered on the rest of the album.
With the exception of two short numbers in the middle of the album, the other seven tracks are over five minutes long. For the most part, Valkyrja keeps things moving at a quick pace, so that the lengthiness doesn’t become a deterrent for the listener. “Sinister Obsession” almost hits the nine-minute mark, but the band incorporates an extended intro and some lead guitar work near the last third of the song. A weird production glitch is exposed, as the fade-away ending mysteriously comes back loud for a split second; whether that was the intention of the band or not is unknown, but either way, it is a distracting sound balance issue.
Save for the production qualms on “Sinister Obsession,” and the pointless filler “Twilight Revelation,” The Invocation Of Demise is an excellent debut album that sounds both familiar and fresh at the same time. While gaining little publicity when it was originally released two-plus years ago, the album has a chance to gain a second wind thanks to the re-issue by Metal Blade. Black metal fans will find a satisfyingly grim listening experience ahead of them on The Invocation Of Demise.
Label: Metal Blade
By Dan Marsicano