If Wolftooth’s 2018 debut was comparable to The Sword in their prime, then their second album is closer to something from the Grand Magus playbook. Valhalla sees the Richmond, Indiana group moving even further away from their already tenuous doom connections, allowing their classic metal influences to fully take the spotlight. The results aren’t too dramatically different as the atmosphere keeps its wintery air, and the pacing is still fairly mid-tempo, but there’s a very noticeable hard rock mindset at work throughout.
This mindset is especially reflected in the musicianship, which retains the debut’s tightness with a more accessible slant. The vocals play a greater role in the proceedings, sitting very prominently in the mix with more layering and melodic hooks at work. The high-pitched delivery may still be an acquired taste for some but feels more confident than before. The drumming also feels slightly less aggressive, but the rhythms are steady and active as ever.
On the flip side, the guitars and bass still provide a strong backbone with their grit well preserved. Alternating between chunky chugs and hard rock struts with plenty of harmonies to spare, the guitars shape the songs quite nicely. The bass isn’t necessarily in your face but provides a hefty undercurrent throughout, and that extra fuzz is always welcome when it pops up.
Seeing how Wolftooth’s catchy songwriting has been their strongest asset from the get-go, it’s nice to see that get played up even more on Valhalla. Lead single “Firebreather” sees the most of that hard rock influence as its riff set feels like KISS or AC/DC while the title track and “Scylla & Charybdis” pair their memorable choruses with bright Accept-style chugs. I also enjoy the charging pace of “Fear for Eternity,” the more mid-tempo “Crying of the Wolves,” and the more epically minded closer “Juneau.”
Overall, Wolftooth’s bid for greater accessibility works in their favor on Valhalla. The band hasn’t evolved too much since their debut but rather put their core elements toward differently prioritized influences. The songs have too much hustle for doom and aren’t quite at the driving pace of most traditional metal, but the memorable songwriting makes their sweet spot even sweeter. I’ll always have a soft spot for Wolftooth’s first album, but their second should get them even more attention.
“Fear for Eternity”
“Scylla & Charybdis”
“Crying of the Wolves”