Valis Ablaze have gone from strength to strength and Render marks the next chapter in their journey. Their progressive sound encompasses a variety of musical styles from serene soundscapes to heavier djent rhythms.

Neon Dreaming gives the album a dramatic opening. The build-up of synths and overlaying guitar melody produce a theatrical effect before the vocals and heavier guitars are introduced. From the start they explore a wide spectrum of sounds and textures. The balance of the instrumentation in the mix is interesting. The bass guitar is notably higher than expected, particularly in the verses. This emphasizes the funk-influenced melody which doesn’t feel out of place with the rest of sounds present. Phil’s vocals have a unique edge which contributes to Valis Ablaze’s distinctive sound. His vocals soar in the chorus, blending with the synths whilst the remaining instrumentation grounds the heavier tones of the track. Subtle touches such as reverb on the instrumentation contributes to the drama of the track. Notably, enhancing the drums with this effect, there is an echo effect which creates a large sound that feels very atmospheric.

Render sees the quintet delve further into the realm of experimentation with their music. Hollow Heart really shows this. The recurring lead riff is a great motif, although the tone doesn’t quite complement the rest of the instrumentation. The djent tone used in this track is epic. It blends perfectly with the percussion and produces a really meaty sound in the lower pitches of the track. The chorus has quite a catchy vocal hook showing they’re not afraid to combine various aspects of different genres into their own sound. Keyframes has a dark, eerie sound. The haunting clean guitar lead, with subtly background synths produces a ghostly effect. The non-standard time signature, highlighted by the bass and drums, gives the track a burst of energy and a sense of motion. The vocals enhance the theatrics of this song with a melody line that layers nicely over the guitars and synths. The alternating sections of minimal layers and many, many layers elevate the track. The final section of the Keyframes is incredibly dynamic with the addition of the bass drops, machine gun-style drum rhythms and continuing spooky motif.

Saturation has a very futuristic, electronic sound. The opening synth motif with vocoder vocals is suddenly contrasted with a traditional piano melody. The two styles create a beautiful, serene soundscape. The build-up sees the bass, more synth melodies and clean vocals added to the mix. The chorus loses some of the unusual sounds introduced in the opening of the track as it brings the focus onto the raw bass tone, heavy guitars and soaring vocals. All of the sounds explored in this track are very powerful but the transition between the two feels a bit too disjointed. Proxy brings some pop-like vibes into the mix with more major tones. The chorus sees the vocals soar over a huge sound produced from the instrumentation. The guitars and bass chord progression have a hard rock feel, while the raw bass keeps the funk and groove sounds present. Including a djent breakdown, with an overlaying shredding melody was clearly the next step for this track. The level of experimentation in this album is fantastic and finding so many unexpected sounds and tones in these tracks is awesome.

Valis Ablaze are pushing boundaries of tone, texture and genre mixing in this album. The fact that they can be so experimental and yet maintain a sound that is clearly recognisable shows off their song-writing abilities. It can take years for a band to establish a unique sound, never-mind then taking that sound and exploring it in all directions. There are a couple of issues with the instrumental tones, but on the whole Valis Ablaze have executed this album incredibly well.

8/10

For fans of: 22, Leprous, Monuments
Words by Holly Royle

‘Render’ by Valis Ablaze is out now on Long Branch Records.

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