Astray Valley – Midnight Sun (Art Gates Records)

Monday, 11th December 2023
Rating: 8 / 10

Alternative forms of modern metal / metalcore have been gaining acclaim across all parts of the globe – probably due to the wider exposure and higher profile acceptance in streaming or satellite formats. Welcome Astray Valley as another upstart in this field – they’ve been a part of European festival/tours with groups like The Agonist, Jinjer, and Infected Rain while releasing a series of EP’s and singles to build awareness. Midnight Sun is the quintet’s second full-length, signing with Art Gates Records in the hopes of adding a strong footprint through their material.

Throwing as many dynamic elements or nuances into the songwriting usually pays huge dividends because the versatility keeps listener engagement on a higher level of frequency. Everything from staccato-sounding guitars with shifting clean to growled vocals, spacious or cyber-oriented keyboards, whirlwind double kick propulsive drumming to solid, mid-tempo / groove mechanics, and larger than life hooks keep colliding song to song – all in tighter three to four and a half-minute windows. Be it Arch Enemy-like through the guitars and dual vocal employment for “Darkest Times” on through to a more commercial-leaning affair with buoyant, jumpy guitars to a super sing-along chorus with “The Hunger”, it’s evident that these musicians are well-equipped to deliver powerful tracks that have that x factor to cement themselves deeply into the heads (and hearts) of headbangers everywhere. As a singer Clau Violette possesses that multiple threat angle of serene, clean melodies plus ripping screams to tear limbs as much as captivate in capable, memorable ways. When they wish to add a bit of djent, stunted work into the normal alternative/groove metal mix, you’ll get a Gojira meets Jinjer-like atmosphere for “The Storm” – a back half highlight where the impassioned screams go in tandem to the swirling, lighter to heavy musical montage. With eight tracks at 32 minutes, the band goes for the gusto – closing in a savage fashion with “When the Sun Goes Down”, the hypnotic voicing towards the end offering a stunner conclusion to the record.

While not necessarily breaking new ground, Astray Valley serves up a solid collection of material for Midnight Sun that should appease most current followers of alternative, modern metal / metalcore. And that’s one can hope for in the development of a bigger following to conquer more stages across Europe and beyond.

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