Being a fan of Valis's previous work might make me a little bias on their newest offering Dark Matter, but I must say it's a solid, balls out rocker that has the classic 70's rock feel to it. It gives any fan of Zeppelin, KISS, The Who or even Thin Lizzy thoughts of when they used to jump off their bed with a tennis racket, pretending to be a rock star. These guys know rock, and they know how to rock.
Valis started out in 1996 with Van Conner (Screaming Trees), Dan Peters (Mudhoney), Patrick Conner (Kitty Kitty), and Kurt Danielson (Tad) releasing their first recording, a split CD with Kitty Kitty on the Man's Ruin label. After going through a few line up changes and record labels they are still here and stronger than ever. Finding their home with Smallstone Records, they have released two albums with the Detroit based outfit. The first album, entitled Head Full of Pills, was a much anticipated album for me when it came out but I have to say it fell kind of flat. This is not the case with Dark Matter.
Dark Matter has been out for a couple weeks now, and I find myself listening to it over and over again- it's got that kind of playability to it and repeat listens reveal things I hadn't heard the previous time. It's got a thick and fuzzy guitar sound reminiscent of Mudhoney on steroids, lyrics that are about life, death, good vs. evil, sanity and insanity, and strange intros by what sounds like drunk people leaving messages on someone's answering machine. Standout tracks are "Under Satan's Will", the Soundgarden meets Pink Floyd vibe of "Hands of Grace", and the ode to alcohol "Daylight in the Swamps". The dual vocals on the acoustic track "Everyone Sun" gets me thinking about sitting around a campfire, and can almost smell the roasted marshmallows. The grand finale, "Battleship", might be my favorite track on the disc, with it's thundering drums and Sabbathinian guitar work. It's followed by a hidden track about a woman I think a lot of us have met at one time or another.
Valis really lit a fire with Dark Matter that wont burn out for a long time, giving Smallstone Records another great recording in their ever growing arsenal of awesome. I think this album will be one I will hear a lot my short time here on this world. I also think it would be a good one to hear on vinyl, so you can hear the snaps and pops to give it the true 70's vibe! So head over too their website.
- Adam Walsh
released 14 April 2009
Van Conner: Vocals, Guitar, Microkorg
Patrick Conner: Vocals, Lead Guitar
Adrian Makins: Bass, Vocals
Matt Vandenberghe: Drums, Percussion
Hammond Organ on Under Satan’s Will and Daylight in the Swamps by Brian Garfinkle.
Heavy Guitar on Battleship by Jack Endino.
Lead Vocal on Everyone Sun, Blood to Blood and Hands of Grace by Patrick Conner.
Co-Lead Vocal on Under Satan’s Will by Adrian Makins and Van Conner.
Lead Guitar on Under Satan’s Will by Van Conner.
Microkorg on Everyone Sun by Patrick Conner.
Recorded in Fall 2008 @ Soundhouse Studio - Seattle, WA.
Engineered and Produced by Jack Endino.
Mastered by Chis Goosman @ Baseline Audio Labs - Ann Arbor, MI.
Cover Design and Layout: James Bender of Thrill Industries
Photos: Steven Vest
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