The mistake a lot of media folk continually make about heavy metal is the assumption that most metalheads have any real desire for the genre to change. Sure, we can all cope with a few hundred nebulous subgenres and nobody will complain if someone conjures a brand new form of metal that elicits the same electrifying feeling as "The Trooper" or "Angel of Death", but if all we get from now until the end of time (could be soon, folks, don't make any major plans!) is excellent examples of the heavy metal we already know and love, would that really be a problem? Not for me. Just for the record.
WOLFTOOTH are a band you can trust to uphold heavy metal values. It's clear from the band's name, the album's title and its splendidly old-school artwork that "Valhalla" is going to be a relatively straight up metallic experience. What becomes apparent, almost as swiftly, is that it's a profoundly satisfying and subtly imaginative one, too. Opener "The Possession" proclaims its debt to BLACK SABBATH with no apology, but obvious influences aside, it's a magnificently lithe and muscular metal song, with a doomy edge and fiery, staccato riffing. If you've ever ruined your neck muscles to GRAND MAGUS's take on the old school, WOLFTOOTH will scratch a similar itch, but songs like "Firebreather" and "Molon Labe" also have a fuzzy, rumbling undertow that would give THE SWORD the night sweats. And having discovered this sweet, subgenre-crossing midpoint, WOLFTOOTH hammer home their ownership: "Valhalla" is a sumptuous swirl of guitar harmonies and grandiose fuzz-rock vibes; "Fear for Eternity" is a grinding, chug-driven space-metal spin-out; "Crying of the Wolves" is one of the best songs CLUTCH never wrote, until it morphs into a climactic, SABBATH-ian spiral into the pitch-black doom cosmos.
And yes, WOLFTOOTH are making no attempts to reinvent the wheel or to stray from the hallowed left-hand path, but "Valhalla" crackles with so much energy and exuberance that the main effect is to make the oldest of ideas sound utterly box-fresh. Neither retro nor radical, songs like "Scylla & Charybdis" and "The Coven" make a very strong case for the importance of heavy metal's atavistic instincts. After all, why change the perfect formula when bands like WOLFTOOTH are still making records that slay this hard?