ARTIST: VALIS ABLAZE
LABEL: LONG BRANCH RECORDS
WORDS: CARA MULLEN
A conglomerate of juxtaposing sounds, Valis Ablaze have shown their might on the 10-track sophomore album ‘Render’. The follow up to 2018’s ‘Boundless’, the band have again showcased their unique sound – in places dreamy; in others raucous. The UK band – comprised of vocalist Phil Owen, guitarists Ash Cook and Tom Moore, bassist Dan Brotherton and Drummer Dayle Williams – are all based in different parts of the country, but that hasn’t stopped them from putting out consistently exceptional music since their debut EP ‘Insularity’ in January 2017.
They’re a well-oiled machine instrumentally and all about the rhythm – the bass grooves cut deeply, pack a punch, and ignite a need for movement in anyone who listens. Paired with the blazing guitar riffs and juxtaposed with the serene synth undertones, ‘Render’ takes you on a journey of emotion – more through instrumentation than even lyrically – something not achieved by many. Vocally, we hear more contrasting with soothing, welcoming vocals faced off against hair-raising screams.
“A conglomerate of juxtaposing sounds”
The pinnacle of the juxtaposition is ‘Ascent’. Lending guitar from Sam Bell, this track really shows off Owen’s vocal talent and the musical capabilities of the rest of the band. Beautiful, crisp and clean vocals turn to ferocious screams, and the instrumentation ranges from dense, punchy bass to calming guitars. Both ends of the spectrum are explored and joined together in one song in perfect harmony. The mind-blowing guitar riff at the end is the added icing on the cake.
The real magic prevails in tracks like ‘Keyframes’, ‘Saturation’ and ‘States of Decay’ in the places where it all slows down to a lullaby, and soothing vocals are woven in with almost hauntingly calm guitar work. You can feel the instrumentation gathering traction and building to something hearty; it all feels dream-like until you’re woken up by it exploding into a full-band anthem. They ease you in with dreamy guitar riffs, setting a serene scene until the drums kick in and you’re thrown into the depths of what Valis Ablaze are capable of.
Standout track ‘Proxy’ provides perhaps the biggest sound of all the tracks and is undoubtedly the catchiest. It’s a singalong anthem and feels like the most accessible of the bunch.
“this record makes you feel something. Whether those are feelings of melancholy, hope, excitement, or amazement, these tracks stir you..”
With ‘Elevation’, the album closes with a bang. One of the tracks showcasing rougher vocals, it’s an all-out, high-energy track with an epic breakdown and undeniably groovy rhythm. The female vocals lent from White Dove give the song another layer of depth. Both voices compliment each other and blend seamlessly, making for another standout track.
‘Render’ feels like ‘Dissonants’ by Hands Like Houses’ older, weightier brother; they share the same daring bass riffs, comforting vocals, dreamy synths, and hard-hitting breakdowns, but Valis Ablaze have worked up an added layer of enormity to put to the sound.
Some songs dive right into the hectic heaviness; some ease you in gently, but both types of song on this record make you feel something. Whether those are feelings of melancholy, hope, excitement, or amazement, these tracks stir you.
The album feels like something special; something substantial. Wacky bass riffs and its ability to be both hectic and calm at the same time while still sounding seamlessly coherent are for sure its strongest points.
This is not your average progressive metal album.