VALIANT JONES – DEPARTURE
Adelaide has always been a bit of a dark horse for bands; off the beaten track and stuck between the East coast and Western Australia’s ‘Perth or nothing’ approach, every now and again though it seems like something tears past on a flat stretch of highway in the middle of nowhere and you’re left wondering ‘What was that?”
Valiant Jones’ debut album Departure took me a few listens to get into. As far as metal/post hardcore sounds go they seem to be onto something a bit different, that takes a lot of different elements and manages to come out sounding impressively cohesive. Swinging between mid-tempo, six minute songs that sound like the quiet bits in a Dillinger Escape Plan track and crushing, bass-heavy bursts of noise, they’re a difficult band to stick in amongst the web of sub-genres that fall under the “metal” umbrella.
It’s heavy in a meditative kind of way; there’s an overarching bleakness in the songs, less like throwing windmills in the bedroom and more like a lonely walk home down a dirt road with a nothing but a set of headphones for company. Late in the album tracks like ‘Departure’ call to mind Mastodon’s album ‘Leviathan’, and their output in the albums since.
Being a three piece seems to work in Valiant Jones’ favour. The sparseness of the songs seem to really benefit from the breathing room afforded by not having a second guitar. This kind of restraint seems to be part of what sets up a difference between these guys and similar contemporary bands; excessive guitar solos are absent entirely, cliché breakdowns are likewise sidestepped, instead it’s the quiet in the songs that seems to hold the emphasis.
Overall Valiant Jones have put together an ambitious and interesting debut. Listening through the album, numerous and varied influences seem to pop out but the sound is something they’ve made uniquely their own. While it might not be the most accessible album at first listen for a lot of people, it’s the often unusual song structures that seem to really benefit from giving the record a few spins. “Panorama” is a standout track, with its vaguely threatening chorus of “I’m falling asleep at the wheel/sleep at the wheel, sleep at the wheel falling asleep” puncturing the song following a bass-heavy intro.
Clearly, main songwriter Phil Meakin has a keen awareness of common pitfalls in contemporary metal, and how to avoid sounding derivative and cliché. Departure might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it showcases an interesting band with a lot to offer, both now and no doubt further down the line.
Rating: 22/28 Days