Wells Valley – Matter As Regent
Ensnared in the catacombs of a nightmare, stranded on a barren plain stretching endlessly over the distant and bleak horizon, where the only life that accompanies you are the vultures circling overhead, waiting patiently for that inevitable final breath to wheeze out of your disparate lungs, you question how you got here. But this is a nightmare lest we forget, the opening act always fizzes into obscurity, vanishing from your memory and subconscious like a match dropped on a clump of gunpowder, up in smoke it goes, proof its existent billowing momentarily before vanishing forever. And so there you stand in an alien landscape with overcast clouds provoking your niggling claustrophobia. You call out, but no sound leaves your airless throat. Meanwhile one of the vultures harks hoarsely above as if mocking your involuntary silence. You look around, your neck and body frantically moving, contorting as you search, ultimately fruitlessly, to find a means of escape or entry from where you here dwell. But this is no great walled city of Xiangyang, there is no obvious target in which to penetrate, this is lonely nothingness and you are cast in its barely beating heart.
Music is a staggeringly powerful force, the imagery the clefs and tones paint in your head, the other worlds that all but creep out of spheres of feasible imagination enrapture you. The sights, sounds and scant oppressiveness that Wells Valley bully you with is brutal. They themselves are a force, their artistic ambience gale-force, snarling and impossible to escape, like a doomed maiden tied to a railroad track just in time for the lumbering chug of a coal-loaded freight train.
Indeed, if dreams and these seismic visions that so grab at us like hands from the dark are reflections of our profoundest inner thoughts projected into an environment of stark metaphors issuing even starker warnings of our fears and mental unease, then we can reach the unequivocal conclusion that we are all twisted lunatics. The evocativeness that Wells Valley and Matter As Regent, the Portuguese trio’s first studio release since their 2011 formation manages to slither into your psyche, puncturing reality and transporting you to deep, almost hypnotic contemplation. It makes you worry how you can think of these ominous shrouded places, but that, alas, is what this band is capable of.
"Sacred Mountain is murderous, Machiavellian in its mischief but always pinpoint accurate in its purpose. It’s a chilling composition that condemns the listener to shivering depths where sunlight is but a mere myth."
Signed fittingly to Bleak Recordings – and co-released by Raging Planet and Chaosphere Records – this six track mini album unpins thematic pigeon holing and takes the listener on a voyage that references many of metal’s alluring personas. Ghost Of You and Hands Are Void pay homage to the gruelling post-metal spat of Neurosis with the former dipping its toes from time to time in the diminished melancholia-cum-battering ram barrage of The Dillinger Escape Plan. Sacred Mountain is murderous, Machiavellian in its mischief but always pinpoint accurate in its purpose. It’s a chilling composition that condemns the listener to shivering depths where sunlight is but a mere myth. Structurally, everything you’ve come to expect has been unhinged and tossed to the wind, left scattered across the sprawling rocks and concrete grey clouds of their nightmarish world.
Plead For Light is a hideous, wart-infested troll of a song that lurches for your throat and cuts off your circulation. But it breaks into more lulling, serene passages where they allow their music to breathe and rest – even if the drums never settle on a humane rhythmic pattern, and all the better for it. The contrast is a welcome, if not highly unexpected one and it broadens the track’s qualities and appeal greatly. There’s even sporadic clean singing on Kingdom of Salvation betwixt throaty rasps. The entwined battery of guitars, bass and drums at play here take the shrill workings of Hans J. Salter and John Carpenter before disfiguring them with a gilt edged machete and forming the resulting pulp it into their own merciless score.
But the jewel in Matter As Regent’s crown – I’d describe such a thing as glittering if it weren’t for their sound being anything but – is Star Over A Wheel. A heavy Gojira influence oozes from its oily skin, distressed drum work and sharp, uncleanly guitars battle alongside one another in a full on assault of your ears. Guitarist/vocalist Filipe Correia’s enraged screams are a clarion call for their unification but it is when the instruments and percussion do not complement each other that make the track what it is. Their discordance only heightens the domineering blast of their eventual syncopation and they do so with absolutely devastating effect.
The chorus, the defining edge on the jewel that tops the crown, is simply remarkable. The trio have created an ambitiously creative, diverse and inspiring record that stays in your memory long after it finishes, just like the most vivid of bad dreams, it stalks you for the rest of the day, if not longer: Incredible.
Words: Phil Weller www.facebook.com/WellsValley