In the world of extreme metal we increasingly see established artists forming successful side-projects, to indulge their true musical passions. When famous artists from different bands join forces, the term supergroup is often used or in some cases sadly misused. In the case of Vallenfyre, there are solid grounds to use such terminology.
Founded by Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh in 2010, as an outlet for him to deal with the death of his father, and joined by his fellow Yorkshire doomster Hamish Glencross of My Dying Bride, and Adrian Erlandsson of At The Gates, the band truly imbue that early crusty doom laden death metal vibe, thick with buzzing riffage, melody and ferocious rasping vocals. Sounding like a twisted mash-up of Swedish death metal titans Nihilist and Grave, early Paradise Lost, with touches of Amebix/early Napalm Death, and just a sprinkling of Celtic Frost to finish, Vallenfyre have taken a hungry scene by storm. However, the band are far from purely an indulgent tribute platform as demonstrated by their previous two critically acclaimed full length releases, A Fragile King and Splinters, both of which stand firm in their own right and have helped the band build a loyal fan-base which has been augmented by a dedicated touring effort.
Fear Those Who Fear Him represents the band’s third LP and their first as a three piece with new bandmate and Paradise Lost sticksman Waltteri Vayrynen replacing Adrian Erlandsson and bassist Scoot having also departed the band.
First impressions are that this album is bleaker and more aggressive than previous outings and the scene is set by short and harrowing opener “Born to Decay” which begins ominously with whining guitars and a disembodied vocal before giving way to a trademark crunching riff which carries the song to the end. Second “proper” track “Messiah” sets the tone for much of the album, blending ferocious blast-beats, grinding monumental riffing and Gregor’s rasping vocals which sound more grotesque and tortured than ever.
Variety is the theme for the rest of the record and the band show their credentials and maturity through their ability to experiment and mix things up from the more classic doom laden bludgeoning of track “An Apathetic Grave”, the funereal procession of “Cursed from the Womb”, to the rollocking death metal grooves of “Amongst the Filth” and “Soldier of Christ” and then to the aggressive grinding of aforementioned “Messiah” and track five the brutal, “Nihilist”.
The quality on show is such that it’s hard to really pick out a favourite track, with each bringing something to the altar and demonstrating the band’s unique ability to pull out the best bits from the genres that inspire them. It has it all from some monumentally catchy Celtic Frost-esque riffing, classic key changes, acoustic interludes, brutal but audible vocals and great technical drum-work (Skinsman Vayrynen more than just fills the shoes of his famous predecessor), all wrapped in a truly bleak and desperate atmosphere.
The mix of styles is matched by a good mix of song lengths from the forty second attack of “Dead World Breathes” to “Cursed from the Womb” which comes in at almost seven minutes. Overall though, track lengths err on the shorter side which gives the album a more punchy and memorable feel and there is certainly no feeling of aimless meandering at any point.
Mackintosh has really developed into an accomplished frontman, as anyone who has seen the band live will attest, and special mention has to go to his lyrics on the album which are both desperate, dour and sincere in equal parts and yet at times possess a tongue in cheek quality. This is demonstrated by the standout chorus on “Cursed from the Womb” where Greg morosely growls “Withering atrophy, fulfil my legacy”. “I’ve reached the end of my mortality”. “Catastrophic malady, path of totality”. “This empty carcass all that’s left of me”! It rolls of his rasping tongue like a foreboding mist rolling over the Yorkshire Moors… bleak doesn’t come close.
Like the previous release, the album was produced at the GodCity studio in Salem, MA by Kurt Ballou (Converge, Black Breath, Nails). The sound quality and mix are excellent and manages to capture the honesty and grittiness of that early death metal/grindcore vibe without losing any heaviness and the power of the excellent riffs really come through.
Fear Those Who Fear Him builds on the consistency of the bands previous two releases and shows these guys off as the confident and well honed titans that they have become. It’s a real death metal tour de force and should leave loyal fans happy and indeed may even stake an early claim for album of the year.
Fear Those Who Fear Him is out today (June 2nd) on Century Media.