It’s been too long since Baroness’ last album, 2012’s Yellow & Green. The delay is totally understandable, of course — Baroness were involved in a horrible bus accident that left them physically and psychically shattered — but that doesn’t sate one’s hunger to hear more of the Virginia band’s dizzying twin-guitar pyrotechnics and epic sludge riffs. Valkyrie’s Shadows, however, is a hearty, filling meal that will appeal to exactly those tastes.
Valkyrie were formed in 2002 by guitarists/brothers Jake and Peter Adams, the latter of whom joined Baroness in 2008, and played lead on that band’s last two albums, Yellow & Green and 2009’s Blue. Valkyrie had released two albums in the aughts (their self-titled debut in 2006 and Man Of Two Visions in 2007), but they went on something of a hiatus after Peter hooked up with Baroness. Now, though, they’re set to release their third full-length, Shadows. Whether the return is related to Baroness’ slow recovery or would have occurred organically either way, it’s hard to greet this with anything but open arms, and hard to hear it as anything but a triumph.
Valkyrie’s bio points out some supposed differences between Peter’s two projects, saying, “Where Baroness focuses more on the proggy and poppy side of metal, Valkyrie is all about Southern-fried and whiskey-soaked hard-rockin’ guitar jams.” But I honestly think those designations do a disservice to both bands. Baroness do have prog and pop elements, and Valkyrie do have swampy Southern rock influences … but I can hear plenty of prog and pop in Valkyrie’s music, too — and plenty of Southern rock in Baroness’ music, for that matter — and a whole lot more beyond those things. Shadows may posit itself as “the perfect summer heavy rock record,” and it may in fact be the perfect summer heavy rock record, but it doesn’t feel like a clumsy, drunken thing; it doesn’t pander or play to the cheap seats. It’s a deftly performed, richly textured record full of godhead riffs, doomy melodies, and — as you’d expect — fucking ridiculous guitars (and guitar-bass-drums interplay, too; I don’t mean to pay short shrift to drummer Warren Hawkins or bassist Alan Fary). The song we’re premiering today, “Wintry Plains,” unloads a few metric tons of stoner thunder, but right before the 4-minute mark, it takes a turn into some pastoral terrain, like something you might hear in one of Zeppelin’s gentle psych-folk numbers. It’s a bounty of delicious, sumptuous sounds. Shadows isn’t a stop-gap between Baroness records; it’s every bit as creative and satisfying as the music made by Peter Adams’ other band. Frankly, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree if you told me you thought it was better than the music made by Peter Adams’ other band. I love ‘em both, though. Listen, and let me know what you think.
Valkyrie’s Shadows is out 5/19 via Relapse. Pre-order it here.