Despite the many twists, turns and tribulations the national progressive metal movement has endured over the past decade or so, it’s felt like Valis Ablaze have been a constant staple of the DIY underbelly of the national scene since their inception in 2012. Even with their own turbulent trails, with the early years of the band being bookmarked by numerous lineup and directional adjustments, the group have been a constant warm, reliable and contentious presence within the scene for many a year now, a trustworthy gateway into a subterranean word of underground, DIY tech metal.
Whilst the initial early years of the band’s career may have been fraught with fragmenting uncertainly, the group stabilised in 2015 with the collective musically departing from the arrogant aggression of their youth in pursuit of a more translucent and melodic aesthetic. Since then they’ve continuously built upon their chosen sound over the years through of string of EP’s and a their debut full length Boundless in 2018. Clearly never the ones to sit idle nor dormant, the group have already cooked up their sophomore release, Render. Another slab of technical and deeply considered prog metal, Render is a record that fully embodies Valis Ablaze’s creative sensibilities and collective ethos and is the record that shall enable them to escape from the overshadow of the genre’s juggernauts.
Much alike their contemporary peers, Valis Ablaze are undoubtedly the product of the genre’s respective pioneers, with many drawing parallels between their own output and the work of Tesseract’s. It’s a fair and perfectly understandable comparison, with Boundless and it’s preceding EP’s clearly borrowing a multitude of sentiments from the aforementioned Tesseract. However, whilst Render is still evidently inspired by the pioneers and leaders of the genre, the record shimmers with a new found scene of confidence, ingenuity and urgency.
There’s haste and confidence shining throughout this record, with Render taking influence from the leading authorities of the genre prior to personal refinement. Yes, Render still sits comfortably within the confines of the genre and adheres to the sensibilities of the prog metal movement without probing the extremities with reckless ambition, but Valis Ablaze have managed to nail their own personal aesthetic with this release. It’s the sound of an artist that has finally found their own voice following years of experimentation and evaluation and it’s one that signs with confidence and charisma.
However, with Render not pushing the borders of a genre known for fervent experimentation, Valis Ablaze conduct a range of subtle, yet evident sonic experimentations with this release. Certainly, none of these statements of expressionism reinvent the metaphysical wheel that is the genre, but these intricacies play a vital part in Render establishing Valis Ablaze’s newfound identity. Such experimentation takes form in the shape of the incorporation of a newly introduced rhythm section, subtle, yet vital synthesised atmospherics and delightfully sleek polyrhythms. Yet, for the most part Render is an album of evident contrast and juxtaposition, with low end grooves and robust density contemplating the shimmering, atmospheric leads and the soaring vocal work of frontman Phil Owen. It’s an approach on the technical metal genre that’s been undertaken countless times over the past decade or so, but Valis Ablaze execute this method with finesse and confidence.
In all, whilst Valis Ablaze certainly don’t reformulate the genre with Render, it needs to be noted that they don’t intend to. Instead, Render see’s the south west collective offer an urgent and masterfully executed take on a genre that has become seen as sterile in recent years. After years of trail and error the group have finally found their unique voice and identification with Render and the release stand’s as the group’s most confident and sophisticated work to date. A dextrous release that shall see the group rightfully rise from the depths of relative obscurity.
Render Is Out Now Via Long Branch Records