Harrisburg Virginia’s Valkyrie has just released their third full length album Shadows, and I took it on a walk with me on the first listen. It happened to be a beautiful summer day with tons of sun, which turned out to be the perfect weather for this kind of music. I’ve always equated certain records with certain times of the year. Opeth’s Blackwater Park is most definitely an autumn record and Agalloch’s The Mantle is a winter record in heart and soul. Shadows is a summer record, brimming with swampy, sweaty guitar riffs, scorching harmonic leads and a warm, vintage cloak of doom metal and classic rock.
When I hear this album I think of Deep Purple, Pentagram, Witchcraft, and Mountain. But on a deeper level, I think of pagan fire ceremonies in deep caverns and a long baked-out drive with friends through the Mojave Desert. The album is about forbidden swords and curses as much as it’s about reconnecting with personal experiences. When I took my walk, I was nostalgic over summers in my own past while my thoughts traversed over more fantastical plains. And this is what I always felt retro rock/metal should do for a listener.
The blues rock that blackens these songs lays a bit of a hazy sadness over me. The slow, plodding riffs remind me that the drama of life can be overbearing, heavy on the soul and oppressively dark. But despite the negativity, there exists a glimmer of happiness and calmness in this music. I can escape from myself by aid of soaring melodies and sky-rocketing guitar leads. It’s like stepping back from my own problems and looking in on them from some outside source – like a reader of someone else’s narrative. And then I realized just how tragically beautiful melancholia can be. We feel most alive when we rejoice in times of absolute happiness or suffer the throes of sadness. Sadness and longing can be a vast winter plain, or a temple of gold-shelled human bones, or a shadow society that meets in secret in the chambers of your heart; the pain of their rituals evident to only I in the more difficult times of life.
Those are just a few of the visions and experiences I had when I first put Shadows on my headphones. It’s not important to try and dissect just who Valkyrie’s influences are. It’s way more beneficial to open yourself up to just how powerful heavy rock music like this can be. It’s equal parts nostalgia and imagination, and I dare any rock fan to say that this album didn’t make them feel as I felt.