You may remember Bristolians VALIS ABLAZE were featured twice on Metalmance last year; the first time being a review of their stunning EP Insularity, then the second time being a review of their impressive performance at Tech Fest. This year is destined to be an incredible year for the tech metallers; having signed to Long Branch Records, supporting legendary acts such as SIKTH and now releasing their hotly anticipated debut album, Boundless. VALIS ABLAZE have seriously stepped up a notch and are bound to set the British tech scene – ahem – ablaze.
The parallels to TESSERACT cannot be ignored as the opening notes in Afterlight ring. Vocalist Phil Owens is coming to the fore here on Boundless, demonstrating his talent that was only hinted at on Insularity. This is true for the remainder of the band too, VALIS ABLAZE sound more confident which has resulted in a solid body of work. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. The band aren’t just a TESSERACT rip-off, yes the influence is there, but there are also nods to so many other genres and bands. Afterlight sounds similar in style to other British progressive hopefuls, BRUTAI. Instantly with this first song the massive production propels VALIS ABLAZE into the stratosphere, with the irresistible melody raising the emotion higher. The song flows seamlessly into the second offering, The Crossing, a brooding track which blossoms halfway through into a proggy joy.
This joy carries on with third track, and arguably the masterpiece of the album, Lumen. Beginning beautifully with a blissful piano melody and rumbling bass, the song explodes into a memorable tune. Every instrument has its part with many dynamics and interesting riffs, courtesy of Tom Moore and Ash Cook, providing a rich depth that their EP was lacking in parts. If you are unable to appreciate this song then you don’t deserve the rest of the album.
The TESSERACT-esque notes are back again in Evade, but they soon evaporate when the killer riff and drums crash in. Evade ends up being one of the heaviest songs on the album, making it an unexpected delight. An unexpected twist occurs again with Hex, with the vocal melody having an enjoyable pop stance amongst the guitars that are akin to the likes of MONUMENTS and DEITIES.
The start of The Static Between Us has an ambitious drive to it, which then spans out into a NORTHLANE-esque sprawl. Another bruiser of a track, The Static Between Us packs a punch. When you think you are safe in their melodic clutches, VALIS ABLAZE soon shatter the illusion.
Faster Than Light marks the first of the guest appearances. This impressive slab of metal features the disgustingly talented SITHU AYE, who assists in kicking things to the next level. Everything about Faster Than Light is spot on; the riffs, the melodies, the pace… you can understand why the band are gaining quite quite a reputation. The same can be said for next track Frequency, which features the band’s long term friend – and producer of Insularity – DREWSIF. It is an exceptional track, oozing with a maturity that is rare to hear on a debut album. VALIS ABLAZE are nurturing their sound and are not afraid to threaten the world with the promise of something special.
The penultimate track of Boundless is also the first single off the album, Paradox. I have to admit I have found this song difficult to digest and it still has not fully ‘clicked’ with me. Personally, it doesn’t sound as focused as other songs on the album. Having said all that, it is still a strong song but it just doesn’t quite match the calibre of the others.
Reece Fullwood of MASK OF JUDAS and EUMERIA guests on album finale, Reflections. His awesome guitar playing compliments the song beautifully and quite frankly, steals the show. Boundless is brought to a spellbinding close with a stellar melody and riffs, with the last notes resonating in your end until the very end. An absolute stunner of a debut, VALIS ABLAZE have been patiently honing their craft, perfecting every detail, before bestowing it on the world. If the band haven’t cemented themselves as rising stars of the British scene by album number two, then Metalmance will be stumped as to why. VALIS ABLAZE’s potential is indeed…boundless.