Valyria hails from Western Canada and is a melodic death metal band that released their first EP “Collatus” in 2014. Despite having just 6 tracks (and one of them being an intro), this release exceeds 30 minutes and could just as easily be considered a full-length. Regardless of what you call it, “Collatus” offers up some incredibly competent melodeath, showing off a variety of influences from across the subgenre (and even some that are outside of it). While the first full track, “Polaris”, bludgeons you with speed and riffs, it also introduces you to the band’s vocal approach, using both clean and harsh vocals. While I enjoy both elements individually, I’ve always been of the opinion that few bands are able to combine them successfully. It’s difficult to say which side of the spectrum Valyria falls on. As you might expect, the growling is excellent, but it’s the clean vocals that are questionable. They’re very nasally, and though the singer can hit the notes in key, it just doesn’t sound right. Even compared to bands like Insomnium where the clean singing isn’t stellar, Valyria’s singer still falls a bit short. I will admit though, after a few listens, his style will likely grow on you a bit.
If you find yourself having a bit of a difficult time with the clean vocals, it’s worth pointing out that there’s a lot else to enjoy here. First and foremost, there are a lot of riffs on this album. Sometimes melodeath gets caught up having some chugging with melodic leads over top, but that is not Valyria’s focus. Instead, there are galloping, thrashing, and even shredding riffs on this EP. Sometimes the band takes a more straight forward death metal approach uses tremolo picking, while at others, they throw in some harmonized guitars playing scalar patterns. Regardless of how they do it, there’s always something interesting going on from a guitar perspective.
The rhythm section on this EP is likewise pretty impressive. It’s hard for drummers and bassists to stand out in extreme metal because nearly every metal drummer is incredibly talented and most bassists can’t even be heard. For that reason, Valyria’s drummer is definitely worthy of the throne, but doesn’t standout amongst the crowd. By contrast, the bass playing on this album is easy to hear, and while it isn’t overly technical, it does a good job of filling up the low-end. "The Blinded Torch" even features a bass interlude!
One of the defining factors of this EP is the heavy keyboard use. Though they occasionally take the main melody, they don’t do so in a cheesy Rhapsody of Fire-esque way. Instead, they create haunting atmospheres that enhance what the rest of the band is doing. It would be interesting to hear the ban focus even more on this aspect because it is something relatively unique. In any case, “Collatus” is an impressive first effort, and though I wish the clean vocals would be less prominent (particularly in “Polaris”), the EP is still very enjoyable.
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"The Blinded Torch"
3.5/5 or 70%.
Written by Scott