Label: The Flenser
Considering that the band contains members of Ulthar, Abstracter, and Atrament, and that it’s being released by the mighty The Flenser label, expectations are inevitably raised for the debut album by Vale. Thankfully, Burden of Sight absolutely delivers, with its blackened crust onslaught possessing not only the rabid edge that helps characterise the genre, but also a slightly progressive aspect. Combined, it ensures that Vale are at the fore-front of this style – blackened crust has been lacking a real scene leader ever since Young And In The Way disbanded in the light of rape allegations, and in Vale, the scene may just have found one.
Following the customary feedback-based intro (surely a requirement for crust of any kind), Vale waste little time in painting a world brought to its knees. Burden of Sight describes in stark detail the horrors brought about by capitalism and religious mania; the kind of story-telling where fact and fiction blend into one, all delivered with a sense of outrage and fury. Vocalist Kate Coysh is on fire throughout, her vocals dragged up from some pit of desperation and despair before being spat out with throat-shredding venom.
Behind her, the band are every bit as furious, propelling the songs along with righteous fury and despair at the human condition. Fittingly for blackened crust, there’s more than a hint of death metal to many of the riffs, with songs like ‘Starvation Eternal’ and ‘Beyond the Pale’ featuring riffs that remind the listener that the early death metal and crust scenes fed off and influenced one another. What is most impressive, though, is how Vale combine familiar, well-worn techniques and use them in slightly unusual ways at points; witness final track ‘Grief Undone’ taking a slight detour into discordant textures around the 2 minute mark for a prime example, or the way the title track drops from full speed to a doom-laden crawl around the 3:30 mark with practically no warning. Rather than simply putting together a fine collection of tremolo-picked leads, muscular riffs, and pummeling drums, Vale are attempting to add a sense of character and identity to a style often lacking in it, and that helps Burden of Sight stand out from the pack.
At a touch over 30 minutes, Burden of Sight is also the perfect length for blackened crust, delivering a rush of energy and moving on before it can risk over-staying its welcome. It’s a blast of righteous anger, as inspiring in effect as it is bleak in tone; the kind of album that absolutely demands a response. It nails the fundamentals of the genre, whilst also demonstrating that Vales aren’t afraid to twist the style into slightly different, atypical forms – which, of course, helps make the more straight-forward sections all the more effective through a sense of contrast. Dark, angry, yet also strangely inspiring, Burden of Sight is excellent.