Walhalla - Release The Beast

Finland’s Walhalla has been rather quiet for almost 20 years, releasing an album back in 2000 and then going inactive for 19 years. Guitarist Lord Heikkinen is one of the sole remaining members and has been involved in a variety of other projects like the gothic metal band Soulgrind or Speed Metal Fierce. In 2019 he revived Walhalla and recruited new members to bring for that Viking tinged play on words with a sound that is one part Kreator, another part Unleashed with the death metal tinges, and even a little bit of Witchery. Different from his other projects, fans of blackened thrash rooted in the 90s/ early 2000s sound will find this very appealing. With vocalist Count Penetrator who has been with Heikkinen in Disformed with his blackened snarls, Suntio of Silentium on drums (who replaced Agathon who wrote some of the songs for the album but passed in 2022), Jan Varjag on bass formerly of Soulgrind, and Micko Hell of Igigi on guitar as well, each has taken a moniker to kind of give that humorous nod to the overall project, somewhat like the legendary Gwar.  However, Wahalla see m a bit more serious in their approach as they unleash furious track after track on “Release The Beast.”

Right from the start with ‘Through The Shores Of Archeron’ one can hear the Kreator influences. The speed is a bit mid paced with plenty of groove and chug, but one can hear a bit of that Disformed influence in there. One thing listeners will really appreciate is the balance of sound- everything sounds crisp and clear with still that 90s feel but with modern production values. There are the anthemic Thrash style tracks that are sure to be hits like the sarcasm dripping ‘Peace Love and Understanding’ and then the more death metal tinged ‘Cabin in the Woods’ with the rumbling bass leading the way. For those looking for the more gothic tinged that leads more towards Soulgrind influence ‘Sinner’ has some darker tones and beginning keyboards before delving into the death thrash bits that are Unleashed tinged. Vocals vary from the typical Legion of the Damned snarls to the more Kreator inspired shrieks and rasps, but very rarely do we hear the Unleashed death grunts save for a track like ‘Morningstar Above.’

While there are no massive epics on “Release The Beast” like Walhalla’s debut has, listeners can still be impressed by the amount of solos that are loaded on this album. A track like ‘Bride Of The Profane’ really shows how the two guitarists play well off each other and keep that dynamic Thrash vibe going between them. There is one bit of a curveball though with the hidden track after ‘Goat For Kirill’ which has the band going in a completely different direction with the clean vocals and the much more upbeat tone of the music, but still thrash at the core, just a little more rock inspired. Overall, the album is louder than “Firereich” and sounds a little more death metal tinged than black metal with the thrash influences, and while the bass was meatier on the 2000 album, overall the song structures seem better and revitalized. Thrash fans in general will enjoy “Release The Beast” with few complaints aside from the lack of variety. While it may not has as dark of turns in the riffs as “Seasons In The Abyss” by Slayer, the catchiness of each song is still infectious and should be appreciated very much. Walhalla may not hit fast, but they hit hard.

3 / 5 STARS

1. Through The Shores Of Archeron
2. Ensemble To The Feast
3. The Bride Of The Profane
4. Peace Love And Understanding
5. Cabin In The Woods
6. Demons Over Nordland
7. Sinner
8. Walhalla Rising
9. Morningstar Above
10. Punishment Of The Crippled World
11. Goat For Kirill