In­no­va­tive five-piece breathe new life into the djent genre.

Prog - - Limelight -

Just when you thought that the whole djent phe­nom­e­non was run­ning out of steam, along comes a hand­ful of new bands breath­ing vir­u­lent life into the genre. Chief among tech metal’s new breed are Bris­tol/Man­ches­ter/ Belfast quin­tet Valis Ablaze, whose pow­er­fully melodic and up­lift­ing take on the djent blue­print sets them firmly apart from the generic, growl­ing herd. You might even say the band have pop sen­si­bil­i­ties, par­tic­u­larly in light of their cover of Rag’n’Bone Man’s now ubiq­ui­tous Hu­man.

“Every two years we do an April Fool’s joke,” ex­plains gui­tarist Ash Cook.“Last year we cre­ated a tour poster which was ad­ver­tis­ing an acous­tic Meshug­gah show with Kar­nivool, Vola, Sky­har­bor and us open­ing, at the SSE [Wem­b­ley] Arena on 19 Fe­bru­ary 2018. If you clicked on the ticket link, it took you to our cover of Hu­man. I wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily a big fan of the song, but the mes­sage be­hind it was some­thing we could get be­hind. We turned our ver­sion around in about five days and it did okay, we got some ra­dio play. But we didn’t push it mas­sively be­cause he’s on a rather large la­bel and prob­a­bly has lawyers!”

One-off en­deav­ours aside, Valis Ablaze are a fo­cused unit with a sound that man­ages to be sub­tly dis­tinc­tive and en­dear­ingly fa­mil­iar. First full-length al­bum Bound­less builds on the gleam­ing fu­ture metal of 2017’s de­but EP In­su­lar­ity, weav­ing shim­mer­ing tech metal tex­tures around an overtly prog-friendly con­cep­tual core, as vo­cal­ist Phil Owen’s emo­tive tenor ex­plores the in­tri­ca­cies of the un­con­scious mind.

“Ef­fec­tively, Bound­less is a con­cept al­bum about the sleep cy­cle and what hap­pens to your mind while you’re asleep,” says Cook. “That jour­ney was the ba­sis for how the songs flow and morph into each other. There are re­cur­ring melodies and vo­cal lines. Cer­tain songs share quite a few vo­cal pas­sages, both melodies and lyrics. It all re­flects the con­cept. But we did con­sider that it’s a bit dan­ger­ous writ­ing a con­cept al­bum about sleep, be­cause peo­ple could ar­gue that it’s so bor­ing it made them nod off! For­tu­nately, we haven’t faced that one so far.”

One ac­cu­sa­tion that Valis Ablaze have in­du­bitably re­ceived on numer­ous oc­ca­sions al­ready is that they are merely the next bunch of Tesser­acT clones claw­ing at the coat­tails of a re­ced­ing scene. In truth, Cook and his com­rades have a sin­gu­lar iden­tity, the tropes and trim­mings of djent pro­vid­ing them with a sonic be­drock, rather than in­form­ing the whole she­bang. As a re­sult, they sound more like heirs to their fore­bears’ throne than plucky also-rans.

“I do ap­pre­ci­ate that be­cause we do get those com­par­isons, be­cause of ‘Mil­ton Cleans’ and djenty gui­tar tones and the clean vo­cals,” the gui­tarist shrugs. “I won’t pre­tend

I’m not a fan of Tesser­acT my­self, but they’re just one of many in­flu­ences. It’s not a box to tick, like, ‘We must have their gui­tar tone!’ What­ever you lis­ten to creeps in, but I’m also into syn­th­wave at the mo­ment and I think those tex­tures bring some­thing to the sound too. Ul­ti­mately, writ­ing the al­bum was all about chal­leng­ing our­selves and each other.”

With their metic­u­lously con­ceived de­but al­bum re­ceiv­ing froth­ing plau­dits, Valis Ablaze have high hopes for the fu­ture. Ded­i­cated to strad­dling the di­vide be­tween fi­nessed, melodic artistry and thun­der­ous, jaw-shat­ter­ing heav­i­ness, their next move is to see ex­actly how many peo­ple they can lure into this ul­tra-mod­ern mu­si­cal dream­world.

“One of our favourite things is when you go to a show and you can bang your head and sing along at the same time,” Cook grins. “We like to think that half of our set is rock­ing out, the other half is about smil­ing and sing­ing, and that’s some­thing that’s al­ways in the back of our minds. We’re not try­ing to write hits for the ra­dio, but it’s al­ways good to see peo­ple mov­ing around, isn’t it?” DL



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