Album Review: TIME, THE VALUATOR How Fleeting, How Fragile
Somewhere amidst the rise of metalcore and post-hardcore, the notion of meshing pop music elements with metal emerged. Heavy instrumentals were flipped upside down with the addition of melodic clean vocals driven by radio-friendly choruses and emotional lyrical content. To many, this melding of musical styles was sacrilegious; those opposing this seemingly contradictory fusion of genres were for the most part rightfully justified in their disapproval. Pop music is, simply put, the most accessible and conventional genre for the masses. On the other hand, metal music is far more esoteric and abrasive with many attributes opposite of pop. Theoretically, it seems the meeting of these two musical styles would never function successfully together. However, the melding of the genres has prospered from early 2000's metalcore to modern progressive metal.
Personally, I am on the fence when it comes to pop music's presence in metal. I can see the appeal and find enjoyment in groups such as Erra, I See Stars, and Veil of Maya's modern shift, yet other bands like Beartooth, Memphis May Fire, or Blessthefall are a complete turn-off. After this realization, it's a very pleasant and surprising discovery when there's a new pop-driven metal act that coincides with my tastes.
The most recent addition to my favorable list would be German quartet Time, the Valuator. The band has been teasing fans with singles for quite a while and finally arrived at the release of their debut LP, How Fleeting, How Fragile, via Famined Records. Phil Bayer (vocals), Rene Möllenbeck (guitar, piano), Cedric Dreyszas (guitar), and Yunus Proch (drums) prove that pop music can be powerful and be engaging within metal on these twelve tracks.
Coming to the realization that my bias very much affected my listening experience through this record, I found that the heavier tracks definitely stuck out as dynamic and moving pieces where the more radio-friendly songs didn't quite grab me. Granted, even though the pop-driven tracks were not my cup of tea, they showcased the band's supreme songwriting abilities.
Tracks like "Fugitive" and "Onryo" turned out to be an excellent display of Time, the Valuator's heavier side with the former song mentioned featuring Matteo Gelsomino of Novelists. The djent passages were definite crowd movers, reminiscent of Tesseract or Monuments. With that being said, not many pieces on here were exclusively heavy.
On the contrary, a large majority of these tracks fall in a pop-based progressive metalcore territory, yet are propped up by the more aggressive moments acting as a climax in the song. Although they are a tad outside of my comfort zone in regards to their radio-friendly vocal deliveries, these tracks are nonetheless very powerful. "Elusive Reasons" is a solid example of a very well put together piece, which has the inevitability to become stuck in one's head. The same can be said about the piano ballad "When I Meet Death" or "In Control," which holds a guest appearance by Breathe Atlantis' Nico Schiesewitz.
Time, the Valuator's music reaches even deeper and grabs other styles to add into the mix. Proof of this would be the impressive jazzy swing feel shown in "Heritage" or the orchestral and synthy atmospheres expressed in "Starseeker." There's even a rap-like segment in "The Violent Sound."
Ultimately, How Fleeting, How Fragile fosters a greater appreciation for pop-metal fusion. Compositions including "Terminus" and "The Violent Sound" seamlessly weave the two styles together in a way that makes the experience unbelievably rewarding. If you've had the opportunity to listen to The Contortionist's last couple records, the amount of satisfaction derived by tension and payoff is quite similar. How Fleeting, How Fragile is an exceptionally ambitious and captivating debut as well as pure evidence that Time, the Valuator is headed for well-deserved stardom.