Review: Valhalla Awaits – ‘Perdition’

Vocabulary.com has this to say about the definition of Perdition: “Perdition refers to hell, and especially the religious idea of eternal damnation: suffering for an endless period of time after death.” There is a fantastic duality about this with regards to South Wales’ five-piece Valhalla Awaits and their new EP ‘Perdition’, especially when you consider that in Norse mythology, Valhalla is “…the great hall where the souls of heroes slain in battle are received…and it appears that Valhalla was located somewhere in the heavens.” The age-old complexities of heaven and hell. After all, you cannot have one without the other.

The five tracks found within ‘Perdition’ deal with the weightier, darker side of life in 2024, where faith in our fellow humans – especially those charged with running the country – is often called into question. It’s a deeply personal set of tracks for the band, and telling these stories must have taken its toll: especially on ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ which deals with the mental health of a family member.

The subject matter throughout is heavy-hitting and opening track ‘Door of No Return’ tackles the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, in particular, Bunce Island in Sierra Leone which was the largest British slave castle on the Rice Coast of West Africa. Founded around 1670, it exported tens of thousands of African captives to North America and the West Indies until the British Parliament finally closed it down in 1808. It’s a heavy (both lyrically and musically) fast-paced opener that makes the listener sit up and pay attention, especially when VA vocalist Andrew Hunt states “…your empire will burn…”.

‘Perdition’ packs a bit of an Alice In Chains punch here and there, ‘Staring At The Gun’ mixes Stayley-like vocals with an Alter Bridge thump (the drum work from Gareth Lawrence will rattle free that expensive dental work you’ve just had done) while the aforementioned ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ is – at times – out of the AIC ‘Jar of Flies/Sap’ playbook (subtle acoustic guitar/haunting vocal harmonies). Two different versions of the same track exist, with both available on the EP. The full-blooded version is a fantastic, slow-burning example of mature songwriting, it is the pick of the bunch on ‘Perdition’. The stripped-back piano-led version featuring Clare Bell, which is also available on YouTube, is better though. Utterly spellbinding, do check it out.

‘We Remain’ is all about surviving. A bit of a Velvet Revolver feel to this one; sleazy, slithering guitar mixed with throbbing basslines, and tortured Weiland-like vocals from Hunt. The false ending at 02:48 bursts back to life with a hefty dose of Slash-esque swagger and the only thing left to do once the guitar solo kicks in is crank the volume dial skyward.  ‘All Hope Is Lost’ is full of gnarly down-tuned guitar licks that sound massive. Ex-Buffalo Summer vocalist Hunt is in the form of his life here as he puts in a performance that lingers on long after the song – and the EP – fades out. Ditto those glorious bending guitar notes – simply superb.

Given the more hopeful nature of ‘We Remain’, it might have made sense for Valhalla Awaits to end the EP with this one rather than ‘All Hope Is Lost’, but considering how the UK is lurching from one catastrophe to another at the moment, and the circus of the American Presidential race is about to start up again, there is not much to be hopeful about. Or is there? Judging by the high quality of music found within the next batch of Rock acts breaking through – Valhalla Awaits included – then perhaps there is more to be hopeful about than first thought.

‘Perdition’ is available March 8th, purchase info HERE.

Live Shows:

8th March – CRUMLIN, The Patriot (w/ Dan Byrne)
9th March – CHESTER, The Live Rooms (w/ Dan Byrne)
11th May – NEWPORT, Corn Exchange (w/ Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons + Fury)

Connect with Valhalla Awaits, HERE

Review – Dave

Portrait photo credit: Megan Jenkins

Live photo credit – Rob Wilkins

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