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Wednesday 4 July 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: Valis Ablaze

Valis Ablaze, Unprocessed, BOE, Endeavour, Decapod, Exchange, Bristol

After a 12 hour shift on a baking hot Sunday what better way to spend the evening than inside one of Bristol's smaller venues as five heavy bands beat your face until the late night? In what I'd consider to be a mini showcase of local(ish) talent this show was Bristol based band Valis Ablaze's hometown return show and they brought a clutch of local supports along with label mates Unprocessed. It was looking to be a long eclectic night as even though all the bands fell under the 'prog metal' banner they all had different styles. So it was time for an ice cold beverage (bliss) and in for the first band Bristol quirk metal act Decapod (7) made up of 5 members (10 legs see) the band purvey angular prog metal that beats with an alternative heart, touches of Faith No More, Tool and Stone Temple Pilots, Decapod kicked off the musical performances with heavy as lead bass work and the non-linear guitar playing. Add to this a vocalist with schizophrenic performance style that's ideal out fronting what is an odd sounding band, he switches between almost spoken word, crooning and angry roars. Well received by those braving the heat from early on Decapod made sure that the opening to this night started as it meant to go on.

Now I have to admit I'd never seen Endeavour (6) but I have seen frontman Chris' other band One Machine, they are a thrash band however Endeavour are a more traditional, classic metal influence prog metal act in the style of Nevermore fusing melody with extremity. Now here's the problem I'm not a fan of Chris when he sings cleanly, his harsh vocals far better suit him, you can't fault his effort, he's animated, working the crowd well, the band two are solo happy and play with passion but it's vocally where he falls down their cover of Them Bones highlighted this, Layne Staley he ain't! Still a warm enough reception for the local act who continued to ride the wave of the evening. Next another local act as BOE (6) who are a band with two vocalists however unlike the duality of bands with clean/harsh singers both Liam and Colt did both just trading off as the band played almost nu-metal grooves, they remind me a little of Raging Speedhorn (but with more grooves) and because of that I headed outside for a cold soft drink and a sit down, however they had a small but dedicated hardcore following going mental.

Drink finished and it was back in for Germanic djent Unprocessed (9) had more strings on stage than a darning machine but they played thick heavy grooves, punctuated by harsh vocals and electronic atmospherics. As tight as a pair of Speedos what differentiated them from the other bands and their labelmates was that their sound features intricate overlapping melodic leads that are both a counterpoint to each other but simultaneously weave an intense sound, although they just as quickly and effortlessly break into thunderous thrashing, hints of Gojira, Monuments were present as they stormed through a well paced set that got the crowd moving in unison especially on their closing instrumental that just chugged on and on. A very impressive discovery of a band on their second ever UK show (their first being the previous night in Nottingham), everyone now suitably warmed up, both with anticipation and oppressive heat it was time for the headliners and hometown boys to take to the stage and with the night showing the diversity in progressive metal, we were about to take another turn as the headliners could easily be lumped into the Djent category but their music is a bit more esoteric than that.

They had the cleanest vocals of the evening, Phil Owen soaring high above the dense yet melodic music that has continuing technically that had been on the display throughout the evening but paired it with emotive songwriting and a lot of ambience that translated well on stage. Actually only the ominous Evade featured any screams. It was on anthemic numbers such as Lumen and Frequency that really showcased the class of Valis Ablaze (9) as both builds and builds from a raw dramatic starts into massive final grooves as George Demmer (bass) and Rich New (drums) hammered it home for Ash Cook and Tom Moore's guitar prowess. Showcasing tracks from their EP and their recently released debut full length (Singularity and Boundless respectively) this home town show belonged to them and the crowd lapped up every moment, bouncing, windmilling, headbanging in unison with the band themselves. While it might be too late to see them on this current tour make sure to catch them next time round as they are at the forefront in the next wave of UK tech metal.

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