Following up their debut album, prog rockers ‘Boundless’, Valis Ablaze are back with low end grooves and atmospheric synths, laced with intricate rhythm work, emotion and power. ‘Render’ was mixed and mastered by James Wisner (Paramore, Underoath, Hands Like Houses).
We caught up with vocalist Phil Owen and guitarist Tom Moorethe band for a track-by-track rundown of what to expect from the album.
01.) NEON DREAMING
The opening track explores the idea of living in a world of grey that blankets all we see, without being aware that underneath is a layer of neon fluorescence, a stark contrast so bright that we can go beyond to see things in a different light. It sets the tone of the album with the theme of how we translate different perceptions and create our own personal realities depending on how we view them.
Musically ‘Neon Dreaming’ was a bit of an experiment juxtaposing quite light and upbeat melody lines with the low growl of the 8 string guitars. The theme is developed in a cool way later on in the song where lead layers take more of a back seat by using the rhythm guitars playing both high and low notes. It almost makes a final call and response between the melodic and rhythmic elements before the end of the song. We thought this would be a great opening track to ‘Render’ because of this texture and it’s interesting synthesiser layers too.
02.) HOLLOW HEART
This track tackles loss of feeling and living with emotional numbness. The longing to feel something again while almost pretending the problem isn’t there, and the optimistic hope that it will eventually return.
Track 2 from ‘Render’ started with the melody at the very start of the song. The track is an upbeat experiment with it’s pacing and time signature and has a fun modal feeling of curiosity before falling into an emotional chorus. The song has more of a focus on rhythm and feel than Neon Dreaming and the heartfelt delivery of the vocals really made it for us.
03.) THE CONVINCER
‘The Convincer’ is about how people increasingly use social media to escape reality to portray an image that may not necessarily reflect real-life, allowing others to judge them on the lives they want them to think they have, rather than what’s authentic and genuine.
This track is an exposition to the darker side of the bands style – playing with natural harmonics from the stringers a lot. It drives the album in a more intense and dissonant direction presenting an interesting texture in the verse sections lead by more rhythmic lead guitar parts but still held down by the energetic rhythm section.
‘Keyframes’ is a personal favourite for me, and perfectly builds up from the start to the big section mid-way. Lyrically, its about being in a dark place or having a particularly negative situation looming and being able to literally click your fingers to stop time. And considering that if you go on alone and possibly forever, what you would feel if you couldn’t go back.
Acting as a musical ‘Part 2’ for The ‘Convincer’, this song can be considered an opposite to the way the album started. The darker tone is developed and where ‘Neon Dreaming’ was open in it’s harmony, ‘Keyframes’ feels closer, again upholding a dissonant nature. Contrary to some of the more complex songs on the album this one takes quite a linear structure and the lulling 6/8 feel is an interesting contrast to the troubled feeling harmony.
05.) ASCENT (FEAT. SAM BELL)
‘Ascent’ is about rising above yourself and any situation to begin seeing positive in everything, no matter how hot the sun may burn while we ascend. It stems from an inspired idea I had as a kid about gravity reversing and the sensation of falling upwards, with ‘Ascent’ being more a personal rising or levitation than a falling, so it’s a never-ending infinite flight.
This song was born from the melody and chords at the beginning of the track. It is heavy on the moody synth elements and it also one of the more technical and energetic feeling tracks on the album.
It was Tom who had the core idea of this one, before I wrote around his idea. ‘Saturation’ covers a continued theme heard in ‘Neon Dreaming’, the use of colour. With colours representing distractions and the real world being of washed-out or lower saturation, our time is saturated with distractions, making the real world feel like it’s almost getting in the way.
Musically this song is a change of tone from the first half of the album taking a new electronically orientated feeling. We wanted to experiment with vocal effects so the opening sections of the song are centred around the vocal arrangement.
‘Proxy’ is an observation of current affairs, where higher powers are increasingly applying pressure and piece-by-piece constricting liberation and freedoms. This is actually the first time I’ve written lyrics that have a political stance, but I had the instrumental demo sent over and at the time, there were frustrating events happening in the UK and across the world which I wanted to address.
Track 7 on the album is a musically uplifting turn for the album and we experimented with a more triumphant feeling, contrasted with the low guitars again. This exploits some of the more electronic elements building on some of the textures featured in Saturation.
08.) STATES OF DECAY
This track is probably the most emotional I’d say. It starts with a soft reflective beginning, slowly building up to the crescendo of layers and heavier notes as it progresses. Lyrically, it’s about detachment and disconnect, and while nobody wants to have to experience feeling forgotten, it can also offer strength to accept and move on, with a realisation that it’s the others who have truly lost out.
In a similar way to the vocals, the instrumental aspect of States of Decay is very emotionally driven. Personal circumstances affected the way that the song was written quite heavily. Starting with more electronic elements again the track begins in a very minimal fashion but takes the listener through more of a rollercoaster of different feelings, hitting some of the more emotionally climactic sections in the album too.
09.) INFINITE WORLD
This track perfectly summarises the album for me; perspectives. It underlines how we are all different and see things in very different ways. Sometimes we share those perceptions, sometimes we differ vastly, but it’s important that we see things in different ways in order to grow, rather than not wanting to see a situation or viewpoint from another person or cultures perspective.
Contrary to ‘States of Decay’, ‘Infinite World’ feels more playful, originating from the main theme presented in the bass guitar at the beginning of the track. This is another song more diverse in intensity, reaching one of the heaviest points in the album half way through.
10.) ELEVATION (FEAT. WHITE DOVE)
This is the final track and it’s about dissolving your current realities, perceptions and mindsets when they become too much and chaotic, then elevating to a place in order to start again. Removing perspectives which have grown and embedded over years is hard to do, but ultimately, is finally worth it. We had White Dove, a female singer from Germany, to add a really nice vocal contrast in this track, acting almost as a motherly voice who reassures us that you cannot get through any major change without a little hurting along the way, but with perseverance – you will feel better on the other side.
Musically, ‘Elevation’ was a really interesting track to end the album on, written in an energetic and aggressive feel. This track brings a different kind of dissonance into the mix which is less emotionally driven. To end the album on a powerful note we really wanted to change this tone into something that is more of a feeling of acceptance. This is brought into place using the melodic theme that almost battles with more driven textures, then takes over and reaches climax to finish the track.
Valis Ablaze‘s new album ‘Render’, is out now via Long Branch Records and you can stream and download it from various outlets (here).
Features Editor for DEAD PRESS | Based in MK