British Sea Power's fourth, proper studio album skillfully navigates the middle ground between 2008’s soaring Do You Like Rock Music? and 2009’s wistful, largely instrumental soundtrack for the 1934 naturalist docudrama Man of Aran. Like all BSP records, Valhalla Dancehall aims for the nosebleed section while remaining oddly detached. The band’s penchant for crafting stadium-sized epics without any real hooks was nearly obliterated by 2008’s brilliant “Waving Flags,” which could have elicited goose bumps from a cadaver, but outside of the infectious, Big Country-inspired opening cut “Who’s in Control?,” Valhalla Dancehall remains firmly rooted in the formless, Arctic grandeur that has defined the band throughout the decade. Angular, post-punk romps like “Thin Black Sail” and “Stunde Null” echo the raw power of the group’s 2003 debut, while the slow burn of “Georgie Ray,” “Baby,” and “Cleaning Out the Rooms,” the latter of which appeared on the 2010 EP Zeus, reflect the pastoral Sussex and Isle of Skye environments from which they were hatched. Birders and naturalists looking for the soundtrack to their next big expedition have no greater ally than this Cumbria-born collective. They have whittled and honed their sound so decisively (even new elements like electronics and samples feel like they’ve been on the palette for years) that their very name can be used as an adjective (British Sea Power-esque). That said, introducing a few new colors to the canvas might help with recruitment, or better yet, convince the current troops that a fifth tour is not only imminent, but necessary.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger