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Valkyrja - "The Antagonist's Fire" (CD)

Valkyrja - "The Antagonist's Fire" CD cover image

"The Antagonist's Fire" track listing:

1. Betrayal Incarnate
2. The Cremating Fire
3. Madness Redeemer
4. Yearn to Burn
5. Eulogy (Poisoned, Ill and Wounded)
6. Season of Rot
7. Treading the Path of the Predator

Reviewed by on October 31, 2013

"The disc is composed of totally unrestrained, pummeling chaos that never lets up for seven solid tracks of sonic destruction."

You’ve got to hand it to the Swedes – when they go black metal, they don’t pull any punches. Tending to even be more abrasive and soul destroying than their Norwegian brethren, Valkyra’s new album “The Antagonist’s Fire” is no exception to this rule. The disc is composed of totally unrestrained, pummeling chaos that never lets up for seven solid tracks of sonic destruction.

“Black metal” can be a pretty broad term, but here it’s meant in a strict and literal way. These songs are pure ‘90s black metal channeled through a modern medium. The sound is just fuzzy enough to be legit, but still clear enough to be worth listening to in 2013. There’s a big, booming drum presence, the guitars are suitably dark and hit the right balance on speed, and the vocals are hoarse screams meant for waking the dead and summoning Satan.

From start to finish, “The Angatonist’s Fire” is relentlessly antagonistic. The album absolutely slaughters for the first few tracks, blazing with nonstop malice. Unfortunately for extended listens, what happens over time is what always happens when you leave the heat on too high for too long – it gets overdone. The non-stop brutality is a boon for individual tracks, but it leads to a dense and repetitive listen across the entire album as a whole.

There are minor differences at the beginning and ends of tracks, along with some occasional atmospheric sounds in the background or melodic changes in the guitar tone. “Eulogy” for instance is a more energetic track with some traditional metal-inspired guitar riffs, but the overall the bulk of each song is fairly indistinguishable from any other song. That can be a problem when there are eight and ten minute offerings to be found here.

Although the album as a whole needs a bigger hook to differentiate it from the releases of any other similar band out there, “The Antagonist’s Fire” is still high quality black metal that offers what fans of the style crave. If you dig Marduk or Dark Funeral, it’s definitely time to add Valkyrja to your list of go-to black metal bands.

Highs: Unrestrained and absolutely relentless black metal that slaughters everything in its path.

Lows: The album is dense and repetitive if you listen the whole way through instead of just picking out individual songs.

Bottom line: Although in need of more diversity across the album, these individual tracks are sonically devastating black metal of a very high quality.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)