Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Valkiria - Here The Day Comes (2012)

After making great strides over the course of the last 15 years, Italian gothic doom two piece Valkiria are poised to take the next big step in their career. After signing with Italy's own Bakerteam Records, the duo are set to release their fifth studio album, titled "Here The Day Comes." Broken down into seven tracks which, not coincidentally, identify the different stages of day, the album is their first to feature live drums, provided by heralded Novembre drummer Giuseppe Orlando. Throw in some rich, dark tones, and you have an album that is as unique and varied as the day itself.

The soft, atmospheric tones that open "Dawn" fit the ideology perfectly, giving you the feeling of that early morning moment. The buildup involved here is key, allowing the layers and the sound to grow naturally. The use of live drums immediately pays off, with each booming kick pouring through your speakers. The vocals aren't one dimensional, either, with deathly growls slamming head on into blackened screams, only to end with clean crooning. The doom metal influence is apparent, with a slow, deliberate tempo dominating the track. As the day progresses, we come to "Sunrise." With the sun now peaking out over the horizon, the music kicks into a new gear. The melodic passages are stunning, creating great imagery. Offset by the heavier moments, the track is ripe with a more dynamic guitar lead than its predecessor. Even including a small piano melody does wonders for the overall arch of the song, which plays out as an instrumental, with the rare scream from frontman Valkus.

But as "Morning" begins, we come back to the death/doom style that the band executes so flawlessly. Orlando's drums are key, pounding and pulsing throughout. The density of the guitars grows, along with the vocal layers. An interesting component that comes into play is the fractured harmony that comes from the vocals themselves, with two distinct deliveries on top of each other. Atmospheric keyboards cut through the mix, adding an eerie feel to the overall sound. That darkness penetrates into "Afternoon," drawing a sharp contrast from one passage to the next. Clean, echoing guitars fade in, then erupt into a flurry of distortion and drums. The storm passes, making way for another melodic section. Here, the band's strength is apparent, crafting numerous melodies, and bringing them together in a cohesive and effective way. Playing the harshness of the vocals of the richness of the music is a bold move, one that pays dividends over and over. It also allows for an equal split of the focus between the vocal line and the musical story.

As we turn from day into night, beginning with the track "Sunset," there is a decidedly darker feel to the music itself (no pun intended). It is often overshadowed by the devastating guitars, but the bass shines through here, adding a depth to the music. the ability to move back and forth between a more post-metal oriented attack and the traditional death/doom sound is impressive, and allows the band to show off multiple facets of their work. Never is this more evident than on "Evening," where contrast and compare is the name of the game. One moment, you are thrashing away with speed and power, and the next you are immersed in a delicate piano melody. It may seem like second nature to be able to make those pieces fit, yet so many bands pass on that, looking to simply bludgeon you to death with riff after riff. As we fade into "Night," there is one last assault to muster. With a three headed vocal monster, you are treated to everything this duo has to offer. This is a standout track, and could be the one to turn head across the world. With a mix so crisp, musicianship that is so clean, and writing that is deeper than many others, this track speaks volumes. The haunting outro will stay with you after the music has stopped.

With influences ranging from Katatonia to My Dying Bride, it is no wonder Valkiria have created such a diverse and inspired sound. Sure, you may have heard albums like this in the past. Perhaps even recently. But rarely does an album follow it's story arch so well, and yet not find itself stale by the midway point. With each passing time of day, you are treated to something slightly different than the offering before it. The subtleties encapsulated in these seven tracks are numerous, and it would be a travesty to only listen once. "Here The Day Comes" would be a welcomed soundtrack to any day of the week.


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