2014 is shaping up to be another major year for metalcore. With albums due from several major UK bands including Bury Tomorrow and While She Sleeps, as well as the likes of Miss May I and Of Mice & Men, it's a crowded genre for a band to make their mark in. The latest to try are a promising home grown British band called The Valiant, with their début album Empress Heights.
Empress Heights contains everything you'd expect and hope for from a good metalcore album. There are punishing riffs and breakdowns, which are mixed together with a healthy dose of melody. There is also very effective use of a mixed of harsh and clean vocals, one area where so metal similar bands can get it wrong. Si Phillips clean vocals are worthy of particular praise, as he has an excellent singing voice and it is put to good use throughout the album.
So, how about individual tracks? Songs such as Empress Heights' title track capture the balance between the heavy and more melodic aspects of The Valiant's sound very well. No Surrender will wedge itself into your brain with it's huge chorus, downtuned main riff and distinctive drumming patterns before finishing off with an incendiary breakdown. Another noteworthy song, Convictions captures the essence of current British metalcore poster boys Bury Tomorrow at their finest without sounding like a clone. In Memory Of shows a different side to the sound of The Valiant, with something that isn't often attempted - a metalcore ballad. It has to be say they pull it off very well and it will be very interesting to see if they take more risks like this in the future.
Overall, Empress Heights isn't an album that is going to redefine metalcore, but it doesn't try to be. The album has been described elsewhere as metalcore by the numbers and there is an element of truth to that but it doesn't take away from the quality on show throughout the album. If you're a fan of some of the other bands mentioned at the start of this review, chances are you will really enjoy this album. For traditional non-metalcore fans, we'd still recommend you give it a chance. A very enjoyable début album that suggests there could be an awful lot more to come from The Valiant if they can keep it going over the next couple of years.