Valis: Dark Matter

Dark Matter
(Small Stone)

When the dust settled from the breakup of Screaming Trees in 1996, Van Conner didn’t waste any time in pushing forward with his side project Valis. Conner took charge as front man and guitarist for Valis, driving their powerful sludge rock mixed with psychedelic space rock.

Valis, which took its name from a Philip K. Dick novel, has had a few lineup changes over the years, but for its seventh full length Dark Matter the lineup consists of Van Conner on vocals/guitars; his brother Patrick on guitar/vocals; Adrian Makins on bass/vocals; and Matt Vandenberghe on drums.

On Dark Matter, the hard-hitting quartet cast aside most of their spacey influences and go for the jugular, using driving fleshed-out guitar riffs over chest-pumping drums which beg to be heard/felt live thanks to tracks like the opener “Resurrection Sickness” and the closer “Battleship.”

But before you get that head banging there is a whole kettle of diversity in between to feast on. The fuzzed stoner rock takes a back seat to the mellow indie pop of “Under Satan’s Will,” and a tip of the hat to Ozzy-esque “Grapefruit Earthquake.”

When you think Van’s old friend Mark Lanegan stopped by to lay vocals down on the sorrowful ballad “Hands of Grace,” it is actually Van’s little brother Patrick taking over the lead vocals brilliantly. Van also steps aside on the mic for Patrick on the dark “Blood on Blood.”

Dark Matter shows Valis isn’t stuck in one genre here. This is a very talented band capable of pulling off the heaviest of heavy and the smooth indie pop sound anytime they wish. Dark Matter also shows that despite lineup changes, Valis continues to grow musically behind the strong leadership and vision of frontman Van Conner.