Valve’s recently released “Apnee” slapped me upside my head, the French band absolutely bewildering with the power and precision contained within. 35 minutes of absolute mayhem delivered deftly and effortlessly await adventurous listeners. Valve describe themselves as a sludge/doom/hardcore act but the five tracks on Apnee offer so much more. Black metal, thrash and grind influences also inhabit the band’s apocalyptic stew, forming a set of songs that leave you feeling bruised and broken upon their completion, but powerless not to press repeat.
Opener “Laput Ex Illis” sets the foreboding tone, raw dissonant chords accompanying a drum beat that seems to wallow in despair. The vocals alternate between a raspy black metal howl not unlike Burzum’s Varg Vikernes, to what some would describe as ‘clean” vocals, though it sounds more like Converge’s Jacob Bannon after being punched in the throat by an iron gloved fist. The title track follows, a hard hitting death march over droning feedback, which quickly speeds up into a rollicking uptempo section supported by hellish screams.
The third track is the instrumental “Odds”, something of an acoustic sound collage, a funereal dirge that ends on an abrupt and sinister note, the calm before the storm of track four, “Une Carcasse Videde Vie Et De Sens”, an epic thirteen minute masterpiece of hopelessness, packing more tempo changes and mournful, raw emotion that most bands’ entire LPs. We close on “777”, the culmination of everything before, with tempo changes coming fast and furious, a swirling torrent of banshee wails and pounding drums, leading to despondent denouement.
“Apnee” was truly a pleasant surprise and one of my favorite releases of the year so far. The band doesn’t currently appear to have any tour dates scheduled but if they come to your neck of the woods don’t miss the chance to catch their specific blend of extreme genres for yourself, and if these guys ever venture stateside, especially the east coast, we’ll be sure to roll out the bloodsoaked carpet for a new breed of European metal hero.