VALIS ABLAZE

This Bris­to­lian crew are shrug­ging off the djent scene for a whole new breed of tech­ni­cal­ity

Metal Hammer (UK) - - New Noise - words: dan­nii leivers

SOUNDS LIKE: Com­plex and hyp­notic prog-tech with end­less am­bi­tion

FOR FANS OF: Tesser­act, Dead Let­ter Cir­cus, Kar­nivool

LIS­TEN TO: Para­dox

If there’s one end of the metal spec­trum that has lit­tle pa­tience for chas­ing trends and play­ing it safe, it’s the prog and tech scenes, where cere­bral ten­den­cies are revered above all else. Bris­to­lian pro­gres­sive crew Valis Ablaze started life as a djent-fu­elled propo­si­tion in 2012, when the scene was ap­proach­ing sat­u­ra­tion. How­ever, quickly re­al­is­ing the key to longevity would be find­ing a sound of their own, the band un­der­went a lineup change and sonic over­haul. The re­sult was an ex­pan­sive sound that mar­ried Tesser­act’s more ethe­real sen­si­bil­i­ties with the groove-prog of Mon­u­ments.

“We wanted to break down bar­ri­ers and re­move all the stan­dard things that peo­ple ex­pect,” ex­plains Phil Owen, who joined the band on vo­cals in 2016. “We were like, ‘If we wanted to sound like any band, who would that be?’ A lot of them weren’t djent – they were bands like Dead Let­ter Cir­cus, Tesser­act and Dis­perse. Now our sound is melodic am­bi­ence mixed with riffs, so you get a con­trast be­tween dreamy sec­tions and some­thing hard-hit­ting. We have heavy riffs and a pro­gres­sive metal sound, but there’s a lot more lay­er­ing go­ing on. It’s our own sound but with a lot of pieces we like from our ma­jor in­flu­ences.”

Since com­plet­ing their volte-face, the quin­tet have re­leased their In­su­lar­ity EP, signed to Long Branch Records and sup­ported bands like Tesser­act, Sikth and The Con­tor­tion­ist. Now, with de­but al­bum Bound­less, it’s very clear how far they’ve come in a short space of time.

“Yeah, that’s what a lot of peo­ple in the in­dus­try are say­ing, too,” agrees Phil. “For us, it’s hap­pened re­ally quickly. Be­cause In­su­lar­ity was quite a dras­tic change in the sound, I think a lot of peo­ple were shocked by that and we got a lot of hype.”

Packed with sim­mer­ing sound­scapes and ephemeral rhythms and awash with strings, synths and pianos, Bound­less is an am­bi­tious con­cept al­bum and an oth­er­worldly mix of off-kil­ter riffs and ra­di­ant melodies. Fea­tur­ing a vo­cal guest spot from the band’s pro­ducer, Drewsif Stalin, and gui­tar so­los from Sithu Aye and Reece Full­wood from Mask Of Ju­das, who have added cos­mic gui­tar work to an al­ready scin­til­lat­ing mix, it rep­re­sents a step up in ev­ery re­spect from the band’s EP and sounds al­to­gether too ac­com­plished to be the work of a band still at the be­gin­ning of their ca­reer.

“It’s based on the sleep cy­cle,” says Phil, ex­plain­ing the con­cept of the al­bum. “It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing topic and there’s a lot of di­rec­tions we could have taken that story. But lyri­cally, it’s about a pro­tag­o­nist who goes through the dif­fer­ent stages of sleep and meets a guide in their dream who takes them through the past, present and fu­ture. We can learn from dreams; it’s es­sen­tially our own imag­i­na­tion and sub-con­scious try­ing to speak to us. I think, some­times, sym­bols and vi­sions in dreams can mean some­thing to us in wak­ing life. They can be re­ally pow­er­ful things. We’ve built the whole al­bum around that con­cept; we’ve got re­peat­ing pat­terns in the mu­sic, the songs run into each other and there’s a slow build that peaks with the heav­i­est track, Para­dox. Right af­ter that, you have the light­est track, Re­flec­tions, so there’s this huge con­trast of be­ing in a re­ally deep sleep then wak­ing up from an in­tense dream into re­al­ity.”

De­spite their tech roots, these days Valis Ablaze are a lit­tle trick­ier to pi­geon­hole. And although Phil wel­comes this as a con­se­quence of the band’s pro­gres­sion, he con­firms they’ll al­ways be a tech band at heart. “While we push bound­aries and evolve the sound, we’ll al­ways be in­volved in the scene in some way,” he says. “It’s where we started and so it will al­ways hold a spe­cial place for us.

It’s great to be still part of it but it’s also nice to take a bit of a step out. Af­ter this, the sound might change again, but right now we’re where we want to be.”

Bound­less is out now via long branch

“WE WANTED TO BREAK DOWN BAR­RI­ERS”

Valis Ablaze: the more things change… the more in­ter­est­ing they be­come

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