Valkyrja - Contamination
Metal Blade
Black Metal
10 songs (56:48)
Release year: 2010
Official Myspace, Metal Blade
Reviewed by Charles
Whether this album works depends entirely on what you want from black metal; where you think it is going as a genre- and where you want it to go, of course. If it either is its pursuit of more esoteric niches (the ultra-despondent, murky vision of Tenebrae in Perpetuum or The Ruins of Beverast) or more expansive vistas (Angst Skvadron, or Janvs) that represent progress to your ears, then Contamination is probably a step backwards. If you feel black metal’s heart and soul resides in the more attitude driven, rock and roll of, say, Marduk or Carpathian Forest, then you may be onto something with Valkyrja.

Here we have a consummate orthodox black metal album; polished and powerful with riffs and a vicious sound precision-engineered to hit home with exhilarating efficiency. This is not to say that it’s entirely one dimensional. Textures and pacing are managed to perfection, throughout well-crafted songs that exude the confidence of a band that knows exactly what they are aiming for and how to achieve it. Opener Oceans to Dust, is a really furious, blasting ride with some truly exhilarating riffs- which breaks down into a pounding, slow coda with twisted, eerie lead lines giving it a haunted, Behexen-like feel.

As with many albums of this type, I often feel there’s a little flamboyance missing- although it’s quite possible that I am alone in searching for extravagance in such an austere musical realm. When, during Ambience of the Dead, you are confronted with a contorted guitar solo, a mere few bars long, and buried sonically beneath the rhythm section, you are energised and feel like there is another level of haywire energy to be unleashed- but this is something capitalised on far more effectively by Urgehal than Valkyrja. Nonetheless, it’s a fine track, striking the balance that a great many Scandinavian black metal acts aim for, between slower, churning and cavernous melody and the blast-like-your-feet-depended-on-it mainstay riffs. Not that that’s a distinctive formula in this day and age, but it is a formula they nail nonetheless. Having said this, there is a moment of real distinction and vision in the closing epic, The Adversarial Incentive Within Us All. It is complex and abstract- whilst the tools it uses are extremely familiar, but it disorientates with its cutouts to near silence, its curiously shifting tonalities, and its cleverly worked texture. All of this gives an inexplicably hypnotic sensibility to its tremolo riffs. It is unexpectedly intriguing and exciting, and goes to show how some predictable elements can be subtly twisted into something creative by seemingly minor variations in songwriting.

Aside from that, there is little here that you won’t be able to imagine before hearing it. You will know if this should appeal to you, and if it will, there’s little scope for disappointment in Contamination.

Killing Songs :
The Adversarial Incentive Within Us All, Oceans to Dust
Charles quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Valkyrja that we have reviewed:
Valkyrja - The Antagonists Fire reviewed by Alex and quoted 73 / 100
Valkyrja - The Invocation of Demise reviewed by Alex and quoted 70 / 100
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