Having shared the stage with exciting acts such as Oathbreaker and Bölzer, Portuguese post-metal act Wells Valley seems to be no force to disregard in the scene. With their new EP The Orphic they prove their worth again, not in the least during their blistering rendition of Pink Floyd’s Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.
The self-produced EP is an exercise in post-metal grandeur that refers to the genre’s greats when it comes to impact and intensity. The mystical lyrics and coherent atmosphere make Wells Valley a band to be watched and The Orphic is a record well worth your time, so we sat down with the band to talk about what lies behind this EP.
ABOUT WELLS VALLEY
Wells Valley is a post-metal trio from Lisbon, Portugal, established in October 2011. The band’s distinctive sound draw from avant-garde, sludge, doom, industrial and psychedelic metal.
The group features guitarist and vocalist Filipe Correia from the experimental death-metal band (Concealment), the drummer and producer Pedro Mau from the progressive-metal/hardcore band (Kneel) and bassist Pedro Lopes.
Swarm of the Lotus, Trypticon, Nine Inch Nails, Converge, Neurosis, Blut Aus Nord and Cult of Luna are key influences to their sound.
The first studio release “Matter as Regent” consists in six extended length tracks which combines a bleak dense atmosphere with the heaviness of doom/sludge monolithic riffing. Wells Valley’s lyrical themes invoke subjects like occult, mysticism, theology and human condition.
The Orphic, EP (2017, Bleak Recordings, Chaosphere Recordings, Raging Planet)
“A delightful melting pot of ideas (…) it feels a bit like The Lion’s Daughter meets Deathspell Omega. You get the big, booming chords, gruff howls, and adrenaline-inspiring drum builds (“Ophanim”) of the former along with the bending, coiling black metal riffs and violent screeches of the latter. The resulting unholy union is a very focused assault despite the above-average runtimes. Fantástico.”
– Metal Trenches
“With a gradual yet technical delivery, their style is one that carefully borrows from its influences without outright imitation, and amalgamates them distinctively. The largely inevitable presence of Neurosis and Cult Of Luna are discernible beneath what is primarily a sound directed by a slowed Gojira-like drive in reverb laden guitar lines.”
– Metal Storm
“Take prevalent components of psychedelia, sludge, atmospheric doom, progressive post-rock and say, experimental black metal, and you will begin to glimpse what’s going on here.”
– Taste Nation LLC
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“Wells Valley” does not seem to be referring to a concrete concept, but it does conjure up images of a transitionary world, like the “Wood between the Worlds” in the Chronicles of Narnia, or “The Neitherlands” in the more recent Syfy series The Magicians. But where does the name really come from?
PEDRO (bass): Well, the name Wells Valley is related to the story of humanity. Earlier civilizations settled in the valleys where the population felt safe and where everything was controlled so they could survive near the water and can provide water for their harvest.
And wells have the most ambiguous of meanings, for many people the meaning of life, for others, death. [During dry years], people depended on water from wells, and also in war this was a very valuable resource. Poisoning the wells was a practice used by Prince Vlad—the Impaler—to delay his pursuing Ottoman Turk adversaries. It was also used to poison the enemy with diseases such as the bubonic plague or tuberculosis during the first world war. Contemporarily you can refer to Sebrenica massacre. It is also used as location for suicide. So you can imagine the [diversity of the] picture.
Your previous album Matter as Regent was met with mixed acclaim. Did you do anything different this time round with The Orphic?
MAU (drums): We have been together since late 2011, and we wanted to make a record so we could get some gigs and start playing live. We have been struggling a lot since day one to find ways to keep the band alive, since we don’t do this for a living and the revenue is not enough for us to pay our rehearsal room. We need to take money from our own jobs so we can pay for it. There’s a huge effort involved money-wise.
So with that said, it’s obvious why we went for a DIY approach with very limited resources. I have a mini studio in my hometown and we took advantage of that situation to use it for recording Matter As Regent. We tried to maximize the resources, and fortunately we made a good record that was well received worldwide, even without any help for mixing or mastering. We did all the stuff by ourselves. I can tell that 98% of the reviews were all good… so that’s a good sign.
Well, I see a lot of positive opinions about The Orphic.
Meanwhile we invested in new gear so we could make a better record this time. Mics, soundcard, a new PC, room treatment, etc. So this time all is more organic and “truer” sounding. And by the reviews we’re getting so far, we believe that our effort was worth it.
Your lyrics feature a lot of Biblical language, but also references solar worship, gnosticism and Greek mystic religion. Would you care to elaborate on this curious pairing of concepts?
FILIPE (vocals, guitar): In the lyrics for The Orphic I have explored the use of syncretic religious-philosophies and you will find a lot of elements from gnosticism, Biblical language and Greek/Egyptian mythology here. After many years of dedicating time to these subjects I found a way to put all of this input on paper.
In [conclusion] all the metaphysical/theological aspects of these lyrics speak of the relationship between the cosmos and man—even the lyrics from Pink Floyd’s “STCFTHOTS” are based on this affinity. The connection cosmos/man marks the intellectual atmosphere of the entire The Orphic lyricism.
Covering Pink Floyd is a very brave thing to do, but you do it well. Why did you choose to cover them? How does Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun fit in the context of the EP?
MAU: The story of how this version came about is a curious one. One time at a rehearsal, Filipe and Pedro were playing some Pink Floyd riffs, and in my ignorance, I thought they were their riffs. What followed was a jam session with those riffs and after a few minutes I said to them: “Hey, these riffs are very cool. We should take these for a new song.” And that’s when Filipe thanked me for the compliment (of course, ironically) and told me that they were from a Pink Floyd song. For some time we wanted to do a cover song and we took advantage of this idea.
But as I don’t know much about Pink Floyd’s discography, and I did not know the song at all, we decided to play it, but I didn’t want to hear the original song. So they guided me between the lines—change here, change there—and only after we finished the song, I heard the original. That’s why we prefer to call it a “version” and not a “cover”.
How is the metal/post-metal scene in Portugal? Are there any bands that you would recommend our readers to listen to?
PEDRO: It’s alive and kicking. There are many new bands, there’s some venues in Lisbon recently that have been promoting live acts. Also festivals dedicated to this genre are growing bigger, such as SWR, Évora Metal Fest, Moita Metal Fest, VOA and so on. And that’s the way to keep it going.
Here are some Portuguese bands we suggest: Concealment, Kneel, Vaee Solis, Katabatic, Process Of Guilt, Mother Abyss, Memoirs of a Secret Empire, Redemptus, Switchtense, Earth Drive. There’s a lot more cool bands here in Portugal, so google it… you won’t regret it!
With The Orphic having been released, what’s the next step for the band? Are you going on to be playing it live?
FILIPE: The focus is writing new material. I can [reveal to you that] we already have half an album done, so the idea is to release it sometime next year. We have some Portuguese dates but at the moment [there is] nothing beyond that.