Describing the sound that comes from Valis is fairly difficult, but I will give it a college try. None of the songs have any real rhythm section for listeners to feel comfortable with and riffs will just come and go without any warning, changing pace from incredibly fast to heavy and slow on a dime. The opening track of the album is the most clear example, feeling as if there are a dozen short black metal tracks thrown together with reckless abandon. This may sound like a nightmare for most music listeners, but it feels surprisingly fresh and frenetic. There are two short interlude tracks that add a little depth to the album, relying on heavy use of synthesizers to set a bare and simplistic rhythm. The short interludes are like an elevator ride to another floor or alternate dimension and once the door opens, we find ourselves welcomed back into hell by an unwelcoming vocal performance.
Valis has a vast array of emotions that a listener could feel. The opening track feels as if you are watching a highlight reel for a snuff film that never seems to end. Clocking in at just under 18 minutes, the experience is grating and mystifying at the same time. The closer has a more celestial feel, seemingly more loose and out-of-control. To use another horror reference, imagine a long foot chase in which you are being followed by an attacker but are given slight breaks to hide and stay far enough ahead. The breakdown of fast pacing to slower pacing gives off that feel, which is no less scary than the opening segments.
There are a few disappointing elements to Valis, though. The middle full length track fails to build toward any palpable level of intrigue despite having some excellent guitar work, and the interlude tracks are a good reprieve from the horror of the full length attack, but they are bare in the purest form of the word. Whereas these short stanzas could propel the album even further into madness, they instead just feel like a bump in the road to the next aural assault.
Valis is truly one of the most intriguing and confusing musical achievements in a long while. Mastery’s use of clean production, hundreds of riffs, and insane tempo changes are worth the time of any black metal fan. The album is bound to be hotly contested by any metal fan who listens to it as either being a work of genius or a complete waste of time. Valis felt more like the former on my end and deserves attention for being either a completely serious work of art or a message to how ridiculous black metal can become.