Now here's a strange release. To be released on February 7, this album by the Portuguese trio Wells Valley is so bizarre that it doesn't really fit in with any of the genres mentioned in the accompanying biography. The sludge and doom these guys create is loaded with tons of other influences, even to the extent of becoming completely weird and experimental. With contrarian rhythms and surprising riffs, Matter As Regent is already one of the most challenging albums to review in the first weeks of the new year. I often find myself reading the biography over and over again, just to get a clue of what these guys were thinking when they recorded this thing.
So, are we dealing with an awful album? No, not at all, on the contrary. Matter As Regent is pretty stunning. I can truly understand why this album is pushed into the sludge and doom genre. It's heavy as hell and most of the time it's pretty slow as well. Yet Wells Valley dares to violate the doom-rules by often going a lot faster and even incorporating some blastbeats. Furthermore they use vocals in a different manner than most sludge bands. They do use the typical aggressive screams but also work with subdued spoken word. This gives the songs a dark-metal or post-metal edge. Some passages even nugde towards shoegaze and post-rock.
If I have to name bands that this album reminds me of I can only come up with bands outside of the genres mentioned above. There's the chaotic songwriting of Sonic Youth, the heaviness of Neurosis, the pounding industrial touch of Voivod and the overall weirdness of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. All these elements seem to be present in each of the six tracks. This brings an extra sense of variation to the whole album and that's a huge plus. The most slugde-sounding songs are 'Hands Are Void' and 'Plead For Light' but even they often sound like Tool could have made them in an experimental mood.
My favorite one is 'Star Over A Wheel', a monster of a track that kicks off in a hurry and suddenly shifts towards something creepy and disturbing. Second favorite is the opener 'Ghost Of You', an unpredictable piece of music, driven on an industrial drum beat. Maybe "disturbing" is the best word to describe Matter As Regent. There's nothing soothing on this album, even the atmospheric passages breathe dismay and utter darkness. Wells Valley has clearly succeeded in creating one of the first real surprises for 2015, but it's one that I think only experienced listeners will appreciate. Play this in front of a bunch of young metalheads and they will probably run away in terror.
Matter As Regent is co-released by Raging Planet and Chaosphere Records. It will be released as a limited edition CD. I have no information about a possible LP or a digital release. I can recommend the album if you're an open minded extreme music lover looking for something truly surprising and unpredictable. On the other hand, if you are a stubborn sludge fan who fears outside influences, you might want to have a good listen before you buy the album. Anyway, I'd suggest marking February 7 in your agendas, it might as well be the day our friendly green earth becomes a dark monster swallowing all of us and boiling us in a pool of seering hot lava.
Told you it was a weird album...