Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Album Review: "Promised Land" by ValFreya

valfreya-promised-land-album-cover-2017Last week at Comic Headquarters the shopkeep and I engaged in a discussion to determine if there is anything more awesome than Vikings.  After carefully considering all available evidence it was determined there is nothing.

It was this mindset which led me to exhaust great amounts of vacation and resources last summer on a trip to Scandinavia, so I could traverse the same waters and stand upon the same ground as the legendary Norse warriors.  

While on a boat out to Birka Island, a former Viking stronghold which is now an archeological site, I spoke to a Swedish woman about the inherent awesomeness of their heritage.  She told me how many Swedes were mildly amused by the world's fascination with their ancestors, who according to her did not fly, weld magical hammers or summon lightning.  I have an entire room full of America's finest four color literature which proves her wrong, but her point was valid.

Whether an obsession with Vikings is misplaced or not, it certainly exists.  So when it is married up with the other most awesome thing the world has ever produced, heavy metal, the results cannot help but be anything short of epic.
Valfreya is certainly not the first to merge Vikings and metal, and I hope they are not the last, but their version is especially unique and powerful.  Comparisons to the giants of the genre, Amon Amarth, are fair.  The driving, melodic death metal odes to longboats and conquest are a staple of both bands.  The main difference is Valfreya adds a symphonic element to their tunes not present with Amon Amarth.  The songs sound as though they are a soundtrack to an epic movie about the Norsemen. 
Valfreya celebrate a successful crossing of the Atlantic
The album tells the story of Eric the Red discovering America and his relationship with the cast of Valhalla.  Musically the powerful riffs crash down upon midgard like lightning from Thor's hammer. Vocalist Crook must truly be a Valkyrie to be able to seamlessly alternate between the haunting melodies of a siren and the crushing barks of an angry god. The musicianship of the rest of the band, guitarist Graz'zt, bassist Arbic, drummer Donar, Keyboardist Shark and guitarist Karhu, is just as good as their stage names. 

Valfreya is also unique in hailing from Montreal, Canada.  Instead of making music about the glory of the Vikings from their Scandanavian point of origin, they have picked up this mantle from the Norsemen’s New World destination.  This is evident on those tracks when the band opts to sing in French.  I was surprised and amazed  with how terrific songs about Valhalla and Freya sound when sung by a French Canadian in their native language.   If you prefer your metal to be in English, fret not, as most of the album is indeed performed as such.

In addition to a strong element of symphonic metal, the influence of folk metal abounds.  I don’t know enough about traditional Scandinavian folk music to recognize it, but if songs such as “Peuple Du Nord” are not ancient Norwegian hymns to the Norse Pantheon, they sound as though they could be.

The title track was wisely chosen, as I agree with the band’s assessment “Promised Land” is the most powerful track on an album full of enough power to make Odin proud.

Valfreya is a unique take on a crowded subgenre and is most worthy of a purchase.

Release Date: January 13, 2017
Genre: Viking Metal, Folk Metal, Symphonic Metal
Label: Self Released


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