The Valiant’s sound came as a real surprise especially after I noticed Lewis Johns was on production duty for their debut album ‘Empress Heights’. Anyone with a vague interest in UK hardcore will recognise Johns’ work on records by Bastions, The Catharsis, Pariso, Palm Reader and Vales so it was a bit of a shock to the system to hear that The Valiant are a metalcore band. This is not to say that Johns’ production isn’t great on ‘Empress Heights’, but my interest was certainly piqued when I started my first play of the album.
Speaking of the album, let’s speak about the album. As a metalcore band The Valiant are ticking all the boxes. We’ve got double-bass drumming, breakdowns, one-chord riffs, screamed verses and sung choruses. This is shaping up to be a standard day at Metalcore Camp and the band definitely draw comparisons to Malefice, early Sylosis, Bring Me The Horizon and we can’t mention metalcore without comparing the lads to Killswitch Engage. It’s safe to say that The Valiant aren’t exactly breaking the mould here.
Luckily the band are showcasing some decent musicianship and a range of all-important melodies that will stick with you long after you stop listening. Stand out tracks include ‘Changes’ (no, not the Ozzy song) with its enormous chorus and ‘In Memory Of’ which marks the only point on the record when a song diverges from the usual metalcore template. It’s a lovely little ballad as well, complete with strong melodies and a great vocal performance by Si Phillips.
Special mention has to be given to the guitar work by both Phillips and Gavin Mahal who bring some huge grooves to every song on ‘Empress Heights’ and also manage to prove that there’s more to metalcore than breakdowns and chugging a single chord. Unfortunately, it’s for these reasons that it’s such a shame to hear a lot of songs get stuck in the tried-and-tested metalcore formula that doesn’t make the best use of everyone’s talents.
The big problem with ‘Empress Heights’ is how predictable the entire thing is. As we’ve already mentioned, The Valiant tick all the boxes on the metalcore check-list and if you’ve been following the genre since its inception then you’ll find nothing new here that’s worth your time. It’s also a massive shame that guitarists as good as Phillips and Mahal are being forced to play stupid breakdowns like the ones featured in ‘Alive’ and the album’s title track.
It’s clear that The Valiant have serious chops and ‘Empress Heights’ could have been an album that put the band’s song-writing at the forefront, but we’re sorry to say this is another by-the-books metalcore album that adds nothing that wasn’t already done over 13 years ago on Killswitch Engage’s debut album. Fans of the genre will appreciate the fact that the band are clearly great musicians as the guitar work features some brilliant grooves and leads. We can’t end this review without giving Si Phillips another nod for his singing which adds some much needed melody, but I just can’t stress enough how predictable this record is. Fingers crossed that The Valiant can return with another record that really shows the world how talented they really are.
The Valiant’s ‘Empress Heights’ is released independently by the band on the 20th of January. I can’t actually find any pre-order links for the album (come on lads), so if you’re interested you might want to keep your eyes on the band’s Facebook page.