Valkyrja-The-Antagonists-FireI first heard this Swedish band when they released “Contamination” in 2010 and was suitably blown away by the sheer vitriolic terror unleashed. As expected this third opus starts with a serene introduction on “Betrayal Incarnate” before the riff breathes an icy blast through it. The ease with which Valkyrja embed such powerful melody alongside the acerbic musical potency is uncompromising. The songs have huge variations in duration with the opener clocking nearly eight minutes of supremely savage refinement, with colossal drops in pace being superseded by exquisitely thought out melancholic hooks and despondency. The shorter following tune “The Cremating Fire” is what you’d expect with a title like this, a monstrously barbaric assault that has a sense of dread like urgency. As you listen to this album your mind can’t help but wonder where the hell the songs are likely to go next, as there is a myriad of tempo changes and shifts in style.

Years back this album would have been compared to the likes of the pioneers of the black metal genre but as most of these pioneers have ditched their roots for gardens of new fruit other reference points are needed and for this band Watain is obvious, as is Keep Of Kalessin. The songs are saturated in dark art where beastly apparitions materialise from nowhere, cause total anarchy before dissipating leaving their aftermath of sonic Armageddon. “Madness Redeemer” has a dramatic awe-inspiring riff and vicious undercurrent of double kick that reminds of Temple Of Baal. One thing that does strike you about this release is the lead guitar work, its positional placement in every tune is executed flawlessly and fit so brilliantly into every tune, you can sit back and absorb every note.

“Season Of Rot” stands as my song of the album, the way the riffs assail you with such remorseless emotionless fervour is terrifying yet it’s all done with such a massive element of pulverising groove. Closing tune is monumental, a ten minute epic that detonates into life and has some death metal qualities due to the drumming as the riffing takes on a Marduk guise and even though I give reference points this band has riffs all of their own, unique, pinpointed savagery all the way. There is a sophistication within the whole of this album where the battering fast components yield to hook infested swarms of melody with breathtaking intensity. You need to hear this album it is truly astonishing.

(9/10 Martin Harris)