Valence – Laser Baron

The curse of the prog, none shall survive.  2/3 of Europe wiped out from the prog, leading to the Dark Ages of music.  The prog is airborne, it may come again, it may poison us all.  Really doubt you got that reference that, and thinking on it now it really doesn't make much sense.  Here's the thing, "prog", as a term, is thrown around more than secrets of illicit relationships at a political debate.  When the prog makes itself known, when the prog happens, it typically means the band in question has no clue what it's doing and likely feels the term will set them free.  "Man, what is this?  This totally sucks.  Oh, they said it's prog, well, I guess I just don't get it."  Do you expect us to be so foolish?  We are journalists of the highest degree.  When we hear prog, we actually expect the music to suck hard like a mouthful of coarse-grade sandpaper, because we know it's a clever ruse.  It's a way for many failed musicians to pretend they have relevance.  Valence, however, have given us more to expect out of this "prog" thing, and we applaud them for reading this far without flying into a rage.  Thought we were going to rip your album to shreds, did you?  Wrong, sirs.

  

Laser Baron aims to put a story into music.  We just had something like that not too long ago, of the dark synthwave variety.  This is not that, this is prog.  Not an ounce of synth to be found here.  Valence is four guys; two guitars, one bass, and drums.  That's pretty prog right there, because there are, of course, no vocals.  Can Valence survive this ancient test of the prog?  Can they achieve music that is both complex and provocative?  Not easy to do without a vocal lead, it requires stellar playing that, at the same time, is captivating.  The story they set out to musically write for you involves a Dr. Mervin Taylor, who for reasons of greed strays from his energy research to create a laser cannon, which creates a rift in space/time that sends him into the future "where technology is a tool of oppression," and the doctor is the only one who can save us all.  There's that doctor, right on the cover, artwork courtesy of Brian Allen, who does some really cool graphics that verge on modern comic book or tattoo art.  Great stuff.  So now, does the story play through and place us into a world of enchantment via progness?

 

Generally.  Laser Baron has the right approach.  Valence have command of strangeness when they want to, and they know when to bend it back to more traditional phraseology.  The title track lays out some sick combo attacks, like the four-instrument plunge around the 2:43 mark, but there are a number of notable moments.  "Wormhole" continues the flow with atmosphere fitting to the concept, and then they end it off with "The Reckoning", which sounds similar to the opener in several ways.  You have a repetition of certain chords, a similar build, similar sweeps, hmmm, it's sounding almost too similar...  That's the thing with this one.  Valence have sick style and clear capabilities.  They've got a great story, but it doesn't really complete itself.  It's almost like an unfinished novel; you're digging the chapters, and by the time you get to the 1/4 mark it's over, forgetting there's more to say that needs to be said.  The final track is practically a remix of the first, and it ends up losing itself in this loop-like quality that fuses both of them into a single entity separated in the middle.  Valence can play, but it will be very telling to see how they can carry themselves over a full-length.  This EP almost seems to be an incomplete idea, as if they started and said "nah, that's enough," and took it to the factory.  Cut, print.  It needed more development, probably with at least six more tracks, and it seems they definitely have the ability to pull it off, or do they?  Can't tell until they try, but Laser Baron has a number of fluid moments worth a listen.  If they go further with another idea of this type, it's highly recommended they finish it off, and probably fill out their sound more with perhaps samples, maybe some interesting electronics, things of that nature.  Give the prog it's due, gentlemen, don't hold back next time.

 

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Written by Stanley Stepanic

Valence – Laser Baron
Self-Released
4 / 5