Review Summary: In an attempt at....something...Mastery has only managed to present itself as a jester in the guise of a philosopher.VALIS
is the sound of black metal collapsing in on itself from the weight of indulgence. It isn't clear whether or not Mastery do this in a tongue and cheek fashion, with each grinding note seeping with ambiguous sincerity. Because of this, it really is difficult to connect with what the California one man project is doing. One the on hand, it's a brilliant move to eviscerate modern day black metal by contorting every trope into a senseless heap. Yet there is an underlying feeling that maybe this should be taken seriously, and that the man behind Mastery truly feels like there is something of note here. Whatever the intention, VALIS
is worth a listen if only for listeners to judge for themselves.
Ephemeral Domignostika (first clue to this being a farce) can be seen in promotional photos donning corpse paint and a Bathory shirt (second clue) whilst sneering into the camera. And that really evokes the aesthetic that hes was going for, with the overt "black metal" sentiments being a contrived cover rather than feeling "trve." You see, VALIS
does not have a lot in common with most black metal musicians these days. The album is crystal clear to hear. Its gleaming production give everything a pristine gleam, which in its own way keeps with the genre norms of being cold and distant. What defines this record, and in many respects sets it apart, is the caustic noise that is present in nearly every second. The record is a constant barrage of sharp, mechanical sounds that make the listener feels as though they are being gnashed by the teeth of some unfeeling beast.
If that sounds annoying to you then chances are that it probably will be.
After all this is where VALIS
loses what could have made it a really cool record--it's simply to far up its own ass to see that it isn't that profound or interesting. Mastery play choatically, with some songs featuring up to 100 riffs, all meshed together in an improvised free jazz hell. It's noisy and technical, like Krallice by way of Lightning Bolt. But instead of this grind tinged pieces being relevant works, they stretch onward into ambivalence. One song even cuts through to the 17 minute mark. Yes, it's almost 20 minutes of non stop acerbic black metal. Admirable as it may be, it's just hard to see the point of it all. While Mastery truly have an amazing grasp of sonic manipulation, it comes of as absurd in practice. There is no feeling here. There is no artistry. Just cold and barren soundscapes that work like wars of attrition rather than actually pieces of music.
And really that may be the point of it all. Maybe Mastery is saying something truly profound here. Maybe this is all a massive criticism of modern day black metal, as he takes every tried and true staple and chops it, screws it, and obliterates it in a perfunctory method. At the same time, VALIS
is a wasted breath, saying so much with so little actually being said. Simply making something noisy and avant-garde does not make it interesting. In fact, there really is not a whole lot here that happens to be clever. Such methods have been used before with much better results (see: Wold, Emit, Amocoma), making Mastery appear to be a jester in the guise of a philosopher.