Epic metal has grown to be marginally popular in recent years, at least in countries like Italy and Greece, who have adopted a movement that barely even existed in the United States, playing in the style of Manilla Road and Manowar, who, aside from a couple of incredibly obscure acts (Longings Past, Stormbringer) were the only ones playing it for a long time. However, other examples of epic heavy metal, though few and far between, did pop up occasionally during the late ’80s and early ’90s. Greece’s Ageless Wisdom put out a demo in 1990, Wotan had one in ’93 – but Valkyrie, from the Netherlands of all places, were one of the first to try and capitalize on the sound that the epic metal grandfathers – in this case, Manowar, not Manilla Road – first brought to the world.
It’s bands like Valkyrie that truly make me glad that Manowar exist. Sure, you’ve got Hail to England, but apart from that they were inconsistent, with only a few songs rising above on Battle Hymns, Sign of the Hammer, or Into Glory Ride, the album which these Dutch metallers seem to have based their demo. Vocalist Eric Smits doesn’t sound much like Manowar’s Eric Adams, but interestingly enough his deep booming warble having more in common with some of the early Italian epic metal vocalists, such as Dark Quarterer‘s Gianni Nepi or Wotan‘s Vanni Ceni (without the Italian accent, of course). This is likely a coincidence, as Dark Quarterer were pretty much contemporary with this demo and it’s obscure enough that it’s unlikely Wotan or anyone else in Italy heard it before the advent of the internet. Smits also sounds a bit like Slauter Xstroyes‘ John Stewart if he bellowed more and had a more standard delivery style.
The slow, plodding, and slightly doomy riffs aren’t particularly catchy, although they do create an appropriately grave and ominous atmosphere. While Smits is certainly no Adams, he makes up for his lack of range and versatility with power and character; he’s definitely sufficient, if not excellent. The production isn’t fantastic either, but for an obscure 1986 demo from the Netherlands, it’s not terrible. There are definitely ’80s demos that do the job better, but there are also plenty that do it worse. The riffs are audible if often buried under the leads or the vocals, limiting their power, but still, they’re generally good enough that it’s not a huge issue.
No one song really stands out above the others; they’re all pretty solid, if generally unspectacular. If you liked Manowar‘s Into Glory Ride, you’re sure to like this – hell, I don’t like all of Into Glory Ride , but I still enjoy this. If you’re a fan of epic heavy metal like I am, I’m sure you’re aware that good material in the style can be very hard to come by, so definitely don’t pass this little release by.
Highlights: “The Ride of the Valkyries,” “The Gods are Angered”