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Valkyrja - "Contamination" (CD)

Valkyrja - "Contamination" CD cover image

"Contamination" track listing:

1. Advent…
2. Oceans to Dust
3. Catharsis (Contaminate the Earth)
4. Solstice in Withdrawal
5. Laments of the Destroyed
6. Ambience of the Dead
7. The Womb of Disease
8. Welcoming Worms
9. A Cursed Seed in the World
10. The Adversarial Incentive Within All

Reviewed by on February 1, 2010

"Valkyrja was knocked for the atmospheric Opeth-style interludes on their first album, and have almost completely removed those from 'Contamination,' and the result is an endless black metal bashing."

Valkyrja is the latest in the long line of Scandinavian black metal acts to be hailed as the next big band. Their debut full-length was reissued in 2009 by Metal Blade after bouncing around for a couple years on vinyl and cassette. The album “The Invocation of Demise” received mixed reviews, but a heavy touring schedule and supporting slots for some larger bands got them known in Europe, and now many black metal circles are gaga for these guys. Listening to their newest album, “Contamination,” it is easy to see why. They don’t do anything different from any other good black metal band.

Valkyrja was knocked for the atmospheric Opeth-style interludes on their first album, and have almost completely removed those from “Contamination,” and the result is an endless black metal bashing. And it is all truly there. Tremolo picking dominates the main melody for the vast majority of the album, and blast beats are all over the place. The vocals of A.L. are the rasp of a very angry man singing, and there are touches of slower tempos and guitar solos just to break the monotony. The band even calls themselves mostly by initials, continuing the trend of black metallers eschewing names like “Steve.”

While it may seem like I am down on the straight ahead Scandinavian black metal, I’m not. The music is well done. The riffs and wall of sound is constant and bludgeons its way to my heart. The vocals have just enough variation to be interesting, and there is enough melody layered on top of the tremolo mess to make the songs more than noise. “Laments of the Destroyed” subtly moves through many different sections, crescendos and melodies, while still keeping up the frontal crush.

The real downside here is twofold. First, Valkyrja overreacted to the negativity surrounding their musical wanderings off their initial full length. “Contamination” could use some more textures and pastoral fields, as the second half of the album really does get numbing as Valkyrja bangs on and on. Secondly, the songs themselves tend to be much too long. Valkyrja carries each thematic section to its ultimate conclusion, instead of cutting riffs and sections off when the point is made. The five minute songs hang in fairly well, but the longer songs that stretch beyond six minutes just get stuck in their own modes. The band doesn’t have enough creativity or whimsy to carry an epic song through the bleak northern wastes, and we just end up getting lost, and a headache.

The black metal community is an interesting one, as they are more or less the most resistant to change and modern metal trends. Most black metal bands that are widely liked are the ones that are “troo” to the music and the culture. Valkyrja certainly is troo – maybe even too honest for their own good, which ironically is to the music’s detriment.

Highs: The layered tremolo riffs and melodic guitar lines create fantastic black metal moments.

Lows: The longer songs are just way too much music – the band can’t handle all the material in one go.

Bottom line: The next big thing of Swedish black metal is popular for all the wrong reasons.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)