In preparation for a European Assault with Marduk and Archgoat, Stockholm’s black metal misanthropists unleash ‘Throne Ablaze’ and they don’t disappoint with a vitriolic display of hostility.

Having been spawned in 2004, the Swedes have evolved their sound and gained ever increasing support and notoriety over the course of three albums between 2007 and 2013 culminating in extensive tours cementing their reputation as a venomous live force.

As is all too often the case, recent years have seen enforced line-up changes, not least with guitarist Simon Wizén now also handling lead vocal duties. This has no doubt been a difficult time for all involved but the band seem to have confronted these challenges head on, harnessing the negative emotions and using them as the building blocks for their latest release.

Intro ‘In Ruins I Set My Throne’ sets the scene before the ambience is shattered by ‘Crowned Serpent’, an unrelenting barrage of hostile Swedish black metal. The pace is bright down a little, at least initially for ‘Opposer of Light’ which is oppressive in its controlled blackened malice before ‘Tombs of Flesh’ continues the offensive ensuring no let-up in aggression despite the prominent infusion of melody within the battery.

‘Halo of Lies’ is mid paced with harsh vocals swirling amongst the melodic maelstrom which is continued on ‘Transcendental Death’ in contrast to the full on bombardment of ‘Paradise Lost’. The album is brought to a close by the title track which opens with a subtle choral piece until the piece is broken by a guitar riff which builds until the song is unshackled and allowed to go on the rampage.

This is Swedish black metal at its finest, and while using such a generic tag might be lazy reviewing, all of the elements are present such as rasping vocals, incisive guitar work, dense atmospheres and melodies with battering percussion giving what I consider to be the archetypal Swedish BM sound. Of course an easy comparison would be Watain, and while this gives a reasonable idea of what this album sounds like it would be a little unfair as Valkyrja are far more than mere clones and deserve to be judged own their own merit.

This is a colossal, devastating album and I cannot wait to catch them live in the near future.

(8/10 Andy Pountney)