ASTRAY VALLEY – MIDNIGHT SUN
LABEL: Art Gates Records
RELEASE: December 1st, 2023
AUTHOR: Michael Estrada
01. Darkest Times
02. Neon Misery
03. Your Skin
04. Pray For The Devil
05. The Hunger
06. The Storm
07. Days Are Fading
08. When The Sun Goes Down
Formed in Barcelona back in 2015, ASTRAY VALLEY is now looking to inject new life into the metalcore genre with their second album, “Midnight Sun“. A notable name was attached to the production aspects of this project, Max Morton, known for his recent work with Ignea. The band has also been favorably compared to acts such as Jinjer, Infected Rain and The Agonist as well. All that leads to quite a bit excitement and anticipation leading into this record. The visuals of their music videos, “Pray For The Devil“ and “Your Skin“, served to even further intrigue me. I was hoping to hear some familiar sounds with some distinct surprises sprinkled in along the way.
Opening track, “Darkest Times“, sets the mood and atmosphere fairly quickly. Clau Violette‘s vocals show massive range in a short time, her harshes immediately proving comparisons to the previous stated bands legitimate. Her cleans are smooth while the riff and drumming have an added urgency to them. There is a lot to like in this initial song on the album and it leaves little doubt that ASTRAY VALLEY have all the tools to keep things varied and fresh throughout these eight songs.
“Neon Misery“ seems to quickly flip things on their head though with a focus on the electronic aspects of their sound. This conjured up feelings I had for Phantom Elite and their excellent album, “Blue Blood“, released earlier this year. The cleaner passages are very well done and there is an uplifting quality to Clau‘s voice that is able to remain a bit eerie or mysterious. The instrumentals are much more subtle here but the industrial elements add that very interesting wrinkle to showcase all the tricks the band has up their sleeve.
“Your Skin“ seems to play with this atmosphere and feeling even more, giving it a more haunting tone. Clau‘s vocals here are aggressive from the onset and the riff easily matches the intensity. The chorus peels that away to reveal a mix of those cleans, while glimpses of electronic elements seep into the track. It’s a fairly riveting track, making it interesting to see how much the band is willing to play with all facets of their sound. The piano is another well implemented feature here as well. Suffice to say, it is certainly a highlight on “Midnight Sun“ and easy to see why it was one of the lead singles.
The other single put out prior to the album’s release was “Pray For The Devil“, which has a lighter tone to it and reminded me a bit more like Stitched Up Heart. Clau mainly utilizes her cleans on this track and it mostly is in sharp contrast with the previous song. It is amazing how prevalent the electronic elements here are, showing that they aren’t timid or afraid in featuring them to great effect.
The next two tracks, “The Hunger“ and “The Storm“, have a similar dichotomy to them. The former leans more into the alternative metal stylings that has a more catchy feel. It isn’t the most deep or complex song on the record but, when played in contrast to the latter track here, it stands out for its more melodic nature. It is the second of these two cuts however, that push us back to the darker, edgier, heavier sound that ASTRAY VALLEY is quite at home in.
The swaying back and forth on “Midnight Sun“ continues with the last two songs of the record. “Days Are Fading“ is more pulled back but the band manages to keep enough edge to them thanks to Clau‘s harshes and the electronic elements again. The closer, “When The Sun Goes Down“, has the band fuse all elements of their sound together with a resounding result. It is certainly one of the more complex pieces of the album and the piano is a welcome addition to the fray once more.
ASTRAY VALLEY deserves a mention alongside their peers for all the capability they possess with their sound. Electronic and industrial elements, heavy and harsh tones, melodic and clean vocals. Though the lighter moments on their own didn’t fully resonate with me, when the band puts it all together, “Midnight Sun“ paints a horizon that can see the band rise to their full potential.