Kicking off with a dark ambient introduction and then transitioning into heavy, doom-filled sludge metal with some faster, more aggressive sections, “Thermoclines” by French post metal / doom / sludge metal band VALVE incorporates a plethora of bleak and heavy ingredients that explore many different expressions of malevolence in its sound. Blending sludge with hardcore, fast-paced, mathcore-influenced add-ons, it slows down, incorporates elements of noise rock, post rock and effectively conveys the range of styles present on the album. We haven’t heard such a compact, yet diverse offering that captures the menacing, dynamic, and varied nature of sludge metal so well. Today, we’re giving it a proper nod with a special track by track commentary from the band.
Speaking about their new release, VALVE admit that although Thermoclines follows Apnée (2015), it wouldn’t be right to see this new album as a direct continuation of their previous releases.
“Around the time Apnée was released, some line-up changes brought new blood to the band. The tours in support of the album really brought this new line-up together as a band and helped us to get to know each other really well both as musicians and as people. The need to broaden our musical palette and to break free from the Doom/Sludge label we were stuck with became obvious.” – they continue.
Thermoclines is the result of this need. Each song was carefully brewed and road-tested, and while it sure took some time, the band believese it was a necessary process and couldn’t be happier with the result.
Asked about the lyrical content of “Thermoclines”, the band explains: “Following on themes already explored on our previous releases, Thermoclines’ lyrics deal with diving into the depths as an allegory of introspection. They mainly express personal feelings and sensations. Throughout the album, the use of “you” invites the listener to make his own interpretation of the lyrics. Is the narrator speaking to himself or to the listener?”
Now, let’s dive into each part of this journey below.
Even though XXXIII opens the album in a globally dark and oppressive manner, it remains probably the most accessible and melodic song on Thermoclines. This was also the first time we experimented with a new tuning, which led to very interesting results.
Despite the blackness of the first part, courtesy of the usual suspects (dissonance, blast beats, mournful choirs, screeched vocals…), we meant to bring light to the ensemble. After a noisy doom bridge, the synths and aerial guitar layers combo over a repeating chord progression together with a very melodic bass yield perhaps the brightest and most optimistic music we ever wrote. The lyrics remain very dark, while the music brings serenity, as if the inevitable outcome described by the lyrics was calmly accepted.
Lyric-wise, XXXIII is a reflection on the pyramids and their presence through human History. From the technical prowess of the ancient Egyptians and Mayans and the hypothesis of an outside intervention in their creation, to the pyramidal organization of society and by extension to the 33 degrees of Freemasonry from which the track takes its title.
We had the chance to shoot a live video for this song in a great location, with the amazing helping hands of Damien Hubert and Jessica Salitra on camera and editing. It was also the first time we took the time to design a real light show to accompany our music and we are very proud of the final result.
Kabuki is the ancient Japanese theater.
Here, this image is used to illustrate our interactions and social relationships.
It is essentially a question about the different masks we wear according to what groups we interact with (family, colleagues, friends…) and about how to break free from these masks in order to be entirely ourselves.
Definitely the most chaotic and aggressive track on the album, spanning a few different styles we all enjoy but never dared playing before ! We meant to surprise the listener with a song that would have been very unexpected from us.
From fast Chaotic HxC/Mathcore at the beginning to Crust/D-beat parts, tension remains throughout the first part. A long blast beat then serves as transition into disturbing post-metal territory. Later on, this feeling of unease turns to melancholy, which is an aspect that is quite present on the whole album.
To wrap this up, we went as bleak and heavy as we could, alternating fuzz-drenched Sludge with heady dissonant arpeggios and another slice of blast beats.
The music video for Kabuki was meant to strengthen the feelings of unease and tension already present in the song. To do so, we assembled a mix of public domain video clips and images shot specially for this purpose by French artists Les Soeurs du Désastre.
The basis for this song was already laid down around the time Apnée was released. We were already playing a form of it on tour back in 2016 but kept changing and tweaking parts up to the recording session. The later addition of clean vocals and arranging elements such as barely audible acoustic guitar overdubs really allowed the song to feel complete to us.
Thermoclines are the transition zone between surface water and deep water.
Here, it is an allegory of questioning, of hesitation before taking action.
It is about the need to fight with ourselves, for when faced with crucial decisions, we can be our own worst enemy.
We meant this song as a journey through a variety of profoundly different feelings, playing with frequent tempos and atmosphere changes to get there. The low tuning and the slow pace of the introductory gloomy arpeggios enhance the sensation of exploring obscured zones, whereas the following part is much more luminous and positive. Violence is not as explicit on this track until the chaotic outburst of the final part.
Closing the album, Schism is the last song we wrote for this record. It actually ended up being quite a challenging one to complete ! It even changed the way we usually write music together, as we had to turn the amps off, put the drum sticks down and begin all over again with just guitars and a computer, a much different environment than the rehearsal space in which we felt stuck !
On this one, we first develop a haunted and uncomfortable atmosphere, based on mid tempo patterns. Yet, in the same way as we did with Kabuki, we wanted to rid ourselves of the restrictive Sludge/doom label and frame we had been given in the past. Schism ends up being the perfect bridge between our ‘’old’’ sound and newer influences, among which you may find D-beat/Hardcore for instance. The “rock’n’rollesque” conclusion of the song (and therefore of the album) is another opening to yet another side of our musical selves, leaving the door open to lighter, more positive soundscapes and emotions.
On the lyrical front, Schism describes the duality inside people, the constant internal fight between good and evil in every decision, and the possibility to draw strength from facing our demons and the ghosts of the past. It also deals with living on the edge, in an intense and dangerous way.