Album: Ungodly Secrets – EP
Above and beyond the material spoils of war, armies have battled for centuries over respect. This quest for moral superiority has lead to the formation of entire militias out of rabbles, and has lead to the destruction of entire countries in the blink of an eye. More than anything that can be measured in dollars or cents, or seen on a map, this quest for respect has lead to actions of equal parts heroism and stupidity on the battlefield that make men legends—actions of valor, plan and simple. Defined as courage in the face of battle or danger, these actions are recorded and told to generation after generation through stories, and more relevant, through song. This is where the awe-inspiringly heavy band Valor truly draw their name, and how their debut EP, Ungodly Secrets feels to the listener. A bold blend of no-holds-barred, turtle-pace down-tempo and rabid, relentless brutal deathcore, Ungodly Secrets is the sort of music that men facing certain death would want pumping in their ears on the battlefield.
Valor carefully straddle the line between low-and-slow down-tempo and crushing, blast-beat ridden brutal deathcore. Tracks like the slugging, leaden “Commanded Temptation” hit hard and linger with enormous longevity—almost as if it could be a B-Side to a Traitors EP. This side of Ungodly Secrets sees Valor focusing on degrading the listener with the purest, most agonizing form of torture they can imagine, plunging searing hot iron brands into their ears and twisting them with careful, calculated candor. Before long, however, Valor opt to trade slow, sinister torture for eager, energetic punishment—in the form of the supersonic, lacerating gem “Multi-Faced Race.” This track serves to exemplify the other side of Ungodly Secret’s one-two punch. Here, plodding, towering song structure is traded in for unimaginable speed and superficial stabs and slices into the listener’s skin. Rather than hanging on each crushing chug or muttered syllable, Valor race along blitzkrieging the listener’s head with jarring, technical riffs propelled by stunning harmonics and machine-gun blast beats.
Instrumentally, Valor are masters of both ends of their dismally heavy spectrum. “Commanded Temptation” opts for a more Spartan song structure, as percussionist Nikoli Giranda leans away from flashy fills and provides a solid, steamrolling series of immaculate drum patterns to beat the listener into submission. It isn’t until later tracks—“Multi-Faced Race” and “Mended Mind” especially—where Giranda includes more technically savvy drumming, beating on toms and smashing cymbals to create flashy, stunning moments of ear-catching bliss that take the listener’s mind on a temporary trip away from the cascade of crushing heaviness pouring down around them. As Giranda oscillates from low, beefy percussion to quick, blaring blast-beats, guitarists Adam Kaminski and Mike Canavan do the same. As “Commanded Temptation” favored thick, beefy and blood-drenched chugs over anything else, “Multi-Faced Race” opens with a razor-sharp and crystal-clear tremolo-picked lead that slices through “Commanded Temptation”’s residual thick layer of sludge. Even bassist Angel Rivera can be heard plucking furiously to keep up with Giranda’s advanced footwork throughout the catchy grooves of “Multi-Faced Race” and “Heavy Shoulders.” As the listener progresses through the initial dense crush of “Commanded Temptation” and technical whiplash of “Multi-Faced Race,” they begin to equilibrate—as do Valor. Rather than choosing one style or another, they begin to blend the two—laying eerie, shreddy leads over plodding, mammoth breakdowns. Guitarists Kaminski and Canavan toggle on and off between labyrinthine leads and lurid, languishing heaviness to create a dynamic that hints at promise for Valor to become a truly stand-out deathcore act.
Where Valor are instrumentally daring immersive, they are vocally bold, but perhaps a touch stagnant. Colby Miller dominates every track on Ungodly Secrets with a strong reliance on a gruff, but not unintelligible, growl that stays low and angry even as the rest of the band picks up the pitch. During the Traitors-esque “Commanded Temptation,” Miller’s gritty, surly growl is marvelously effective—as it is during the climactic breakdown to “Heavy Shoulders.” Even at it’s least-noteworthy, Miller’s visceral, beefy bellow still bludgeons the listener with ruthless efficacy—however, unlike every other aspect to Valor’s dynamic, it simply refuses to change with the duration of the EP. While this isn’t inherently bad, it would be refreshing to be relieved of Miller’s monochromatic range more than once or twice throughout the entire EP. Even in spite of this, the corollary is also true: as the instrumentation throughout Ungodly Secrets is varied and dynamic, Miller’s monotonous assault on the listener can be viewed as a figurative anchor, keeping the EP constant and adding the extra push of relentlessness and raw power that gives the EP cohesiveness.
Even listening to Ungodly Secrets is enough to make the listener want to jump into battle. Pulse-pounding moments of beatdown-infused down-tempo rage side-by-side with I Declare War-like riff-heavy moments of groove-infused punishment. Valor provide an EP that will not only prove victorious in the short battle for supremacy on the listener’s music player, will also be victorious in the war for showcasing the efforts of a band packed with promise for material to come.
For Fans Of: I Declare War, Boris the Blade, Traitors, Whitechapel
By: Connor Welsh