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Valis Ablaze - Boundless Award winner

Valis Ablaze
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 29 March 2018, 7:24 AM

VALIS ABLAZE hailing from Bristol, UK, got their first EP "Insularity" out in 2017. The EP, produced by Drewsif Stalin, was an unprecedented success for the band that saw them support many of their more modern influences and grow their fan base quickly throughout the year. The band now present their debut full-length album titled “Boundless,” which contains eleven new tracks.

“Afterlight” is a brief, three-minute opening track. The atmospheric elements remind me of TESSERACT. As the vocals float hauntingly and beautifully in the air, the instruments are building a rocky and weighted base beneath it. The skillful combination allows you to both soak in the allure of the song as well as be punished by its Djent heaviness. It segues into “The Crossing.” The opening guitar sequence is fascinating. Clean notes combine with distorted notes that cross one another and form like a helix headed for the horizon, alive with the color of the sunset. As the track moves along, there are textural and rhythmic changes that move with both grace and fervor. It builds in a crescendo through the end, and shatters through the invisible barrier, seeming to almost cross over to your tactile world.

“Lumen” is tender and pretty right from the start, with interconnecting instrumental melodies and vocal harmonies. They transfer rhythms and meters like a shapeshifting shedding his identity; always staying a step ahead of the listener. Yet, the melodies are complete accessible. Demner is really moving that bass guitar in this song as well, with meaty notes and agile fingers. “Evade” has a darkness out of the gates, and a thick instrumental section that reigns down like fists on your head, pummeling you with complex and aggressive rhythms. Owen keeps things from becoming too chaotic however with his emotional and expressive vocals. But you are in for a quick surprise that smacks you in the face, as his vocals turn black for some moments, giving us the first listen at how some Death utterances give the track two faces.

“Hex” opens with a heavy sound from the synergy between rhythm guitars, bass and drums, while lead guitar notes dance over top. It’s one of the heavier songs on the album as it maintains a near constant portly quality that builds and levels back along the way. “The Static Between Us” has a slower lumber that speaks more melancholy tones. Death vocals peppered in give the stew a heartier edge that bites back a bit. But there are tender passages as well, where the aggressive beast is subdued in the background but ever-lurking. “Signals” is a short transitional piece with lamenting tones, whose electronic at the end segues into “Faster than Light.” It’s a brisk song with some punchy and aggressive rhythms, held from taking over completely by some fantastic vocal harmonies. Still, the depth of some of the accents really dig deep. A glittering guitar solo by guest axe-master Sithu Aye is on point.

Musician and audio engineer Drewsif is featured on the song “Frequency.” It has a more pensive and dreamy sound at times, but can dive out of the clouds and into your face quickly. “Paradox” has a bruising and punishing sound from a driving low and slow cooked riff that burns passionately when combined with the drawn out vocal agonies. Sometimes dangerous and other times ethereal, the juxtaposition of opposing elements comes together so well as a whole. MASK OF JUDAS guitarist Reece Fullwood is featured on the closing song “Reflections.” It opens softly and with piano notes. They really reach into the bag of melody on this song and let it hand out, unabashedly and gloriously. Beauty is interwoven into each breath and each note, winding throughout the song. They could not have chosen a better musician for the solo either, as Fullwood adeptly plays on that melody line so wonderfully.

“Boundless” is a roller coaster ride from start to finish. It’s one of those rides that occurs on a tepid summer day with a cool breeze flowing. You feel warm, but never overheated. There is high anticipation, and then rushes of adrenaline in waves that give you a heightened sense of your surroundings that move by you almost too fast to perceive. There are also moments in between when it slows enough to let you catch your breath and take in the beauty of the landscape. Few albums recently have had this level of balance. Don’t let this one slip past you!

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Afterlight
2. The Crossing
3. Lumen
4. Evade
5. Hex
6. The Static Between us
7. Signals
8. Faster than Light
9. Frequency
10. Paradox
11. Reflections
Phil Owen - Vocals
Ash Cook - Guitars
Tom Moore - Guitars
George Demner - Bass
Rich New - Drums
Record Label: Long Branch Records


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