Virginia doom metal outfit Valkyrie released their first album in five years, Fear, this past July via Relapse Records (read our review here and order the record at this location). We caught up with the group to discuss the new album and their experience on releasing new music during a pandemic.
What was the writing process like for Fear?
Jake: Some of the songs began as riffs we had been working on since 2015 or so, after Shadows was finished. So they had a lot of time to gestate and stew before they took their final form. Usually Pete and I get together and hash out ideas and work on songs, then bring them to the band. What’s cool about a good number of riffs on this record were that they came together nearly instantly in our practice space with the whole band. Inspiration just hit, and it stuck. Pete had a ton more influence on this record than ever before, in the sheer amount of riffs he composed for the album.
Warren: I would also add that one thing we did with this album is heavily concentrated on letting the songs breathe their own life into themselves. We cut back the number of shows that we did to focus on the songwriting, and played them together until they were ready. Like Jake said, for some, that was very quick, a few others took a little time, but nothing was forced.
Are there any tracks that were more challenging than others?
Jake: “Fear and Sacrifice” has so many components that it just took a while to get them all to line up, and we definitely tried lots of different things until we found what worked best. Very pleased with the progressive nature and dynamic feel of that song, I love it.
One could say this is a perfect time to release this album and what has the experience been like for you releasing an album during a pandemic?
Warren: For me, personally, the most difficult part has been keeping it to myself. There is a lot on this album that I’m proud of that we did as a band, and we’ve been sitting on the music since October 1st of 2019, which was when we listened to all of it as rough tracks in the studio after recording it. It normally takes awhile for mixing and mastering and artwork and all, which was all finished by February, so then to hang onto it until the single for ‘Feeling So Low’ came out in May has been hard. Also, we would normally have been planning live shows to correspond with the release of the album, and of course that is in limbo now.
Alan: It’s definitely strange not to be gearing up for shows and tours as we normally would be before the release of an album, and I for one am definitely missing that part of my life the longer this goes on. That said it has been great to see such an enthusiastic response to the singles as they’re released, and I’m thankful to still be able to connect with people musically in that way. It is interesting to see how themes that we discussed last year in lyrics and even the artwork resonate in this time. I think it is a great time for people who are more alone than they may be used to being to reflect on the kind of ideas that Jake just described, and I hope people do. It’s also a great time to turn to music and art to enrich your life and help you through whatever struggles you’re dealing with.
The theme of Fear is heard throughout the record, which picks up right away with “Afraid to Live,” can you talk more about that song?
Jake: “Afraid to Live” is a commentary on the current state of the USA – just as “False Dreams” had been on our second album. It’s about the masses who are socially programmed with false religion and political propaganda fed to them by the mainstream media, ultimately destroying their health, riddling them with fear, and making waste of the natural world in the process. Heavy stuff. But there is a lot of fear in the subject matter of other songs, but more of a personal, psychological type.
What are your thoughts on what shows would look like once things start to go back to a sense of normality?
Warren: Regardless of spacing or masks or whatever needs to happen, we will just go out and give everything we have on stage like we always do. We’ve talked about the possibility of doing a show online in the meantime, but for now we’re seeing how things progress like everyone else is having to do.
Is there anything else you want to say or add to your fans?
Jake: We want to thank everyone who has supported us now for almost 20 years! I so value the connection that the music creates with our fans and the emotional catharsis that we get to all take part in. I think it’s clear from our music’s message over the years, but I want to say that we have always stood for environmental and social justice, racial and sexual equality, and ultimately, love for humanity. Now, more than ever it is important we all take a stand against a corrupt system and work together to make a better world.
Warren: Definitely what Jake said, with an added thank you for your patience. It has been some time between albums, and there are lots of places that we want to go to play live that we have never been to before, so thanks for sticking it out with us. We get so much positive feedback from our fans, and we really appreciate every bit of it.