30th January 2017 – Self-release
03. Lost In The Syntax
As the old saying goes, the only constant is change. Even so, the amount of change that has been seen in the Valis Ablaze camp since we first tagged them as ‘ones to watch’ back at the start of 2015 is notable. First triggered by the departure of their singularly theatrical vocalist Adam Leonard, a certain amount of change in direction was inevitable. He was then followed out of the door by guitarist Hugo Azvedo. Bassist Tom Moore then transferred to guitar which, for him, was always his primary instrument. The search for a new vocalist ended in the recruitment of Phil Owen, previously seen in action in Orion, and with the vacant bass slot fiĺled by Kieran Hogarty, the new look Valis Ablaze sequestered themselves away to write Insularity.
Valis had already established a reputation for chunky, modern metal riffing that flirted around the edges of the thriving UK tech scene. Whilst this is still evident in the DNA of Insularity, they have also transformed into a much sleeker, shinier, song-focussed proposition.
Obviously, the first thing to leap out are the vocals. Whilst Phil’s audition video proved he has the throat for a mighty roar, it has been left on the shelf for this release. He focusses instead on clean, soulful melodies that sonically sit somewhere between TesseracT vocalists Dan Tompkins and Ashe O’Hara. Lead single “Inertia” was characterised by a big, memorable vocal hook, and the remainder of these tracks prove it was not a fluke.
The band have travelled a similar path musically, stepping away from the more overtly technical in favour of straightforward grooves. However, they have retained the muscularity of their older sound, making Insularity clearly a progressive metal release, rather than prog rock. In doing so, they have neatly side stepped the common pitfalls that often produce pretty, but ultimately directionless, twinkly tracks.
We premiered the two lead singles, “Inertia” and the skittish “Lost In The Syntax” on these pages, and they served as an excellent primer for this release. With just under 30 minutes of music, it falls into the grey area between EP and mini-album, but whatever you call it, its clear that Valis Ablaze have switched their aspect ratio from 4:3 to 16:9.
Outside these two tracks, the quality of the remaining songs on Insularity remains pleasingly high, with the title track being the absolute apex. “Persuasion” also contains the most satisfying breakdown, which is sure to get people headbanging from the waist when they play it live. A couple of clues to their djentier past remain, like the sporadic employment of ‘Milton Cleans’ over stuttering basslines, especially evident in atmospheric closing track “Legacy“.
Especially with the likes of TesseracT and Skyharbor leaving their metal roots further and further behind, there’s a gap in the market emerging for songs that marry the dreamy atmospherics and melodies with chunkier riffs, and Valis Ablaze are clearly stepping up to fill it with poise and confidence.
Its fair to say that we were expecting big things from Valis from the moment that we heard that Phil was joining the band. With Insularity, they have not only met these high expectations, but exceeded them. The future is bright.