September 18, 2010

Album Review: "Man of Two Visions" by Valkyrie

Since the release of 2007's Red Album, Baroness has become the new hot band in the progressive stoner metal scene, a slot occupied by Mastodon, Isis, and High on Fire in the past. However, not many people know that Baroness guitarist Pete Adams, who joined the band in 2008, has had a much longer relationship with Southern metal. That relationship began in 2004, when Pete joined Valkyrie, the band fronted by his brother Jake. The band certainly had humble beginnings, recording their first demo at a local college radio station. However, since then, Valkyrie has garnered a bit more respect and recognition, even counting veteran drummer Gary Isom (Spirit Caravan, Pentagram) as part of their lineup for a year. The band signed with Meteor City Records for the release of their second full-length, Man of Two Visions. It is an ambitious album that harkens back to the origins of heavy metal while simultaneously incorporating both classic rock sections and elements of the modern Southern metal sound.

The influence of Black Sabbath pervades every note of this album, although in some places it is more obvious than others. "Dawntide's Breeze" and the title track both have the classic Sabbath guitar-driven sound, even managing to use a very similar guitar tone of Tony Iommi's vintage tone from the '70s. The huge atmosphere and relaxed pace of albums like Paranoid and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is an integral part of Man of Two Visions. Additionally, the instrumental tracks "Green Highlander" and "The Gorge" keep the album's flow consistent and give the whole record a very organic feel, another trait established by Sabbath and other metal pioneers like Deep Purple.

At the same time, though, Valkyrie also utilizes the elements of modern stoner rock throughout their sound. Much like their peers in The Sword and Priestess, Valkyrie relies on evolving riffs that build on each other to drive songs forward and create personality. Opening track "Running Out" is a great example of this, as the long intro and outro bridges feature constantly changing riffs that seamlessly flow into each other, making the song bigger and bigger until it reaches its conclusion. Valkyrie also follows the new stoner metal trend of using a fairly small drum kit and making it sound much larger and more elaborate than it actually is. New drummer Warren Hawkins has just as much prowess and technique behind the kit as his predecessor Isom, which means that we can expect to hear great things from Hawkins in the future.

With Man of Two Visions, Valkyrie has emerged from obscurity and thrown themselves fully into the revival of traditional heavy metal with a Southern twist. Unlike bands such as Clutch and Fu Manchu that incorporate blues elements into their sound to make it more accessible, Valkyrie and their peers opt for a classic approach to their Southern metal in an attempt to garner the more seasoned veterans of the genre into their fanbase. Similarly, they are helping to introduce younger fans to the sound that helped jump-start the entire genre. Hopefully they will continue to use this sound as a foundation for future material, because they can't go wrong sounding like the forefathers of heavy metal.

Score: 6 out of 10

Track Listing

1. Running Out
2. Dawntide's Breeze
3. Green Highlander
4. Apocalypse Unsealed
5. False Dreams
6. The Gorge
7. Man of Two Visions

Album Personnel

Jake Adams - Lead vocals, guitar
Pete Adams - Guitar, backing vocals
Will Barry-Rec - Bass guitar
Warren Hawkins - Drums

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