British metalcore has witnessed something of resurgence of late with an abundance of home-grown acts all battling to take the proverbial crown.
This year look set to be no different with darlings of the genre While She Sleeps and Bury Tomorrow both getting ready to drop new material and bands like Bring Me The Horizon, Sylosis and Killswitch Engage consistently delivering and titillating the masses.
In a scene which is often savaged by the critics for a lack of originality or any defining characteristics, the question remains as to whether or not Southampton’s The Valiant have the musical chops to create new waves in an already crowded sea of artists.
Unfortunately, I am feeling a bit like a crew member being told to walk the plank after hearing opener Origin, and there’s not a lifeboat in sight. Instead of getting the pulse racing, it leaves me in a state of disillusioned calm which threatens to morph into boredom. Yes, it is an atmospheric little intro with those ambient sounding synths but the main problem is that it doesn’t really go anywhere fast and my attention span is wavering within a minute. Thankfully, Changes instils fresh new hope inside me and my feet are tapping once more with that infectious metalcore formula of riff heavy breakdowns, growling vocals and plenty of melodic hooks. Now that’s more like it. You can visualise the frenzied pit opening up as those guitars and double bass drumming drop – and they drop hard.
Si Phillips’ utilisation of soaring clean singing really shines through on the anthemic Alive and creates an effective contrast in dynamics when pitted against frontman Ben Byrne’s harsher vocals offerings. That chorus is ridiculously catchy (it is rather nice to be able to actually make out the lyrics and sing along for once) with hooks so huge they will be reverberating around your brain for hours to come. Title track Empress Heights impresses with its chunky one chord guitars and just try and keep your head from banging hard when the stomping breakdown kicks in. In Memory Of is a huge surprise as The Valiant stray from the generic path and present us with a ballad – and a bloody good one I might add. The melodies are incredibly powerful and the hairs on my arms are jumping up faster than the mercury on a hot summer day. Kudos has to be given to both Phillips and Byrne for their vocal performances on this one – they complement one another perfectly and it also showcases the band’s solid musicianship as a collective.
The respite is brief however, and all roads lead back to the ‘core as the quintet unleash sonic hell with lead single (and my personal favourite) No Surrender. I love this track – it has everything a self respecting fan would want or expect from their band. A delectable mixture of vitriolic vocals, a fucking enormous chorus resembling a battle cry (“Every step we take / No surrender! / I can hear the call / Marching forward!”) and plenty of chugging that will light a fire under your ass and get your fists pumping skywards.
Although the band are not exactly breaking new ground with their début effort (I can understand the whole “oh, it’s just metalcore by numbers” argument) Empress Heights remains an enjoyable album. Production is tight and polished and there is no disputing the ability of these guys as musicians. This record will definitely tick all those boxes for fans of the genre.
It will be interesting to see if The Valiant can inject a bit more diversity into their sophomore release and show the naysayers that they are so much more than just a one-trick pony. Definitely one to watch in the future.
For Fans Of: Miss May I, Bring Me The Horizon, Bury Tomorrow, Killswitch Engage, Of Mice And Men, While She Sleeps.