Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Valve - Apnée

Country: France
Genre: Sludge/Hardcore/Black Metal (kinda)

Valve perform an intriguing balancing act with Apnée. The combination of sludge, hardcore and black metal isn't anything particularly new, with bands such as Hexis, Celeste and This Gift Is A Curse making names for themselves in certain circles with their respective amalgams. However, whereas the aforementioned artists play a seamless blend of the three, Valve operate primarily by isolating one or two at a time, drip-feeding the listener with parts of each. This 'drip-feeding' approach means that across its five tracks Apnée feels as though it's constantly evolving, a boon in a style where mid-tempo stagnation can easily occur.

To illustrate this, it's best to look at Apnée as a whole. Opening tracks 'Lapsit Ex Illis' and the album's eponymous number sound remarkably Converge-like in their makeup, albeit slower and with a lower-register grounding that separates them from the seminal hardcore group. However, by the finale '777', a greater focus on the oppressive atmosphere associated with blackened hardcore is apparent, eschewing some of the initial catchiness in favour of distinguishable but serpentine passages. To bridge the gap between the former and the latter is the instrumental 'Odds', which provides not only respite but forms an integral part of the album's structure. By separating the more hardcore-influenced first half from the 13 minute sludge giant 'Une Carcasse Vide de Vie et de Sens', the transition between the two slightly differing halves doesn't feel as immediate, and is therefore less jarring. Admittedly, the linkage between 'Odds' and 'Une Carcasse...' could have been smoother (instead of 10 seconds of awkward silence), but as a compositional tool it allows Valve to experiment with a wider palette rather than boxing them into a singular, albeit well executed style.

Holding the audience's attention is of vital importance to the effectiveness of any artist's work. With such a potentially suffocating presence as sludge this could have proved particularly difficult, yet Valve manage the feat with seemingly consummate ease. By sparingly combining their influences rather than placing all of their eggs in one basket, each track has something different to offer whilst not detracting from the crushing aspect so important to the genre's appeal.


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