The Antagonist’s Fire
W.T.C. Productions, 2013
This time it was Swedish group Valkyrja’s destiny to get beheaded under my guillotine of criticism. The Antagonist’s Fire is their third and latest musical offering on the bloodied altars of religious black metal. As the name of this horde has been haunting me for a while, and even succeeding to trigger some feelings of interest, it was time to see if Valkyrja belongs in the drowning pool of urine among so many other wimpy artists of this sub-genre.
Valkyrja’s songs are pretty much perfect examples from the guidebook of modern extreme metal; there are violent tremolo-pickings played with almost ridiculous tempos, accompanied by eerie melodies with a touch of Scandinavian melancholy and coldness. And served as obvious side dishes, there are also some groovy rock’n’roll riffs and a little bit of death metal-like thrashing and pummeling. Even though the tempo is kept rather high and rapid throughout the album, there’s still some healthy internal variation in the compositions that makes this piece of infernal blast-beating madness more tolerable to the listener. Contrariwise, it’s the average length (about seven minutes, methinks) and relative mediocrity of the songs that makes one wonder if this group thinks that quantity overcomes quality. Frankly, there are only two songs out of seven – “Yearn to Burn” and “Eulogy (Poisoned, Ill and Wounded)” – that are capable of standing tall from the very beginning until the end.
Now, let’s talk about the soundscape, shall we? Apparently these guys had a hunch that a black metal album with any filth and foulness is so passé. And no, I am not that metalhead who gets a seizure if his records sound better than an old, beaten up vacuum cleaner. But please, could somebody tell these modern-day Devil worshippers that there are other valid studios in existence than Necromorbus with its utterly clean, polished and radio station-friendly sound politics? The Antagonist’s Fire is a perfect example of what this aforementioned studio is mainly providing. Actually, it really doesn’t matter which studio is your band’s weapon of choice, but if you’re going to use that very same recording place as every other band originating from the same region and genre, reconsideration is highly recommended if innovation is something you’re after. It’s getting kind of irritating when every religious/orthodox/whatever black metal act is the same when talking about sound matters.
By this point of the review you might’ve made some conclusions of your own, but let’s still make this absolutely clear: this album is like a compilation of B-sides and leftovers of Watain’s masterpiece Sworn to the Dark. Valkyrja is a weak and cheap caricature of Watain, trying to imitate their sound in every aspect. Just listen to vocalist A.L. sounding like Erik Danielsson with a very bad cough and a dead squirrel stuck in his throat. Right now my imagination is carrying me to a party infused with metal, booze and bad humor. Suddenly an unfamiliar song fills my ears and I find myself uttering: “Is this the new Watain? Did they find their inspiration on the bottom of a garbage can when making this?” Then a friend of mine joyfully chirps: “Nope, this is Valkyrja! Is this great or what?” Oh, yeah, could somebody give this half-dead extreme metal phenomenon a head shot already…
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