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All Music Guide
Valis have never known the sort of stability that comes with releasing two albums in two years, and for the same record label -- that is, until 2005 -- and Champions of Magic, their fourth overall and second for Detroit's Small Stone. That's not to say that they're dialing it in, either. A generous serving of 15 songs comprising a full hour of new music is on hand here, and, stylistically, the group is also still breaking new ground. Well, in a retrograde fashion, anyway, since Champions of Magic finds these Seattle veterans reconnecting with many of their alt rock roots following a surprisingly straight-faced flirtation with hard rock styles a year earlier. Not so straight-faced that they came off sounding like Boston, mind you (more like Monster Magnet), but enough to make new songs like "Indian Giver" and "Mealworm" -- with their distinctive, psychedelic guitar licks ? la Screaming Trees, and thrumming rhythm looseness ? la Mudhoney -- sound like a return to norm and form. Admittedly, leader Van Conner's frequently weak, at times off-key vocals remain a hit-and-miss proposition (see him struggle through "Pass Me By" and "Paper Doll," among others); but his dark sense of humor similarly boosts album highlight "Kill the Ones You Love" well over the top. Thanks to the likes of "Transmuter" and the two-part "Universe," space rock sound effects continue to be a part of the overall equation (after all, this is a band that lists "Lemmy from Hawkwind" among their thank-you's!), but discreetly so, making them a nice change-up, not a dominant gimmick. In short, as long as the listener has no problem with Valis' seemingly intentional lack of performing discipline ("feel" being the operative word), and nurtures a healthy interest in the previous decade's Seattle scene, Champions of Magic is well worth the tasting.
released 30 August 2005
Van Conner: Vocals, Lead Guitar
Patrick Conner: Lead Guitar, Vocals
Adrian Makins: Bass, Vocals
Sean Hollister: Drums
Wes Weresch: Trip
Produced by Van and Wes.
Mixed and Engineered by Wes,
2nd Engineer Dawn Pfund.
Mastered by Chis Goosman @ Baseline Audio Labs - Ann Arbor, MI.
Cover Design and Layout: James Bender of Thrill Industries .
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