REVIEW: WARFATHER – “The Grey Eminence”
With a name like Warfather, what choice do you have as a listener other than to submit meekly to a brutal onslaught of Metal, drilled right into your psyche? Add to it, the mention of Steve Tucker, and instantly the mind starts racing back to the 90s era Morbid Angel, as you find your palms inadvertently form a fist and raise those metal horns up.
Warfather was formed back in 2012 and released their debut album ‘Orchestrating the Apocalypse’ in 2014 amongst mixed reviews. Some complained about the bad production and others complained about it being unimaginative and downright boring. I admit, when I too listened to it, the fault lines were apparent, but there was a manic energy in the band’s sound that was promising. Well, two years hence, Warfather is back again with ‘The Grey Eminence’ and trust me, they will debilitate you with their sheer intensity on this album. The album will be out on September 16th via Grayhaze records.
Right from the starting note of “Orders of the Horde”, you know you are in for a brutal ride. The opener first pulverizes you with a combination of tremolo flutters and relentless blast beats before drowning you into a sludgy pool of slow old school Death Metal groove. Bryan Bever on drums is like a demon from hell relentlessly pounding away, providing a frantic base of blast beats over which Tucker’s deathly growls and Jake Koch’s razor sharp riffage trace a beautiful tapestry. The solo hits all the right spots and leads the track into a quiet portion elevating the ominous tone before exploding again one last time, to end this monstrous opener.
“Headless Men Can No Longer Speak” follows a similar pattern of razor sharp riffage colliding with manic blast beats interspersed with a meaty rumbling double bass. This track has one of the best solos of the album and the groovy base the band creates stays on in your head long after the album is over. I couldn’t help but relate it somewhat to Metallica’s “Frayed Ends of Sanity”, especially the opening hook. The track is like its brutal Death Metal cousin and shares that same fist pumping groovy stop-start tone. But it parts way soon after before returning again towards the end after the immaculate solo.
Warfather maintains the manic Blackened Death Metal sound that we witnessed in their debut while introducing a new sludgy tone and a more liberal use of pinched harmonics. However, the most relentless element on this album has to be Bryan Bever’s work behind the kit. Consider “For Glory or Infamy” or “The Dawning Inquisition” for example. The sheer dynamics on these tracks will make your jaws drop. Thankfully, the hollow snare sound of the drums in the debut is replaced with a meatier drum tone that makes the overall sound thicker and much more consistent. Further, the band also refrains from using atmospheric keyboard segments this time around, and thus, sounds much more raw and frantic on this album as compared to the debut. The nice tempo changes in between the manic barrage of riffs makes the compositions much more balanced. The solos are a mix of atonal squeals and lightning fast shredding that is both very impressive and finesseful.
The title track is one hell of an intense ride as it incorporates a slow groove laden sludgy hook punctured repeatedly by a frantic tremolo riffage and an unending double bass. Lasting for almost 7 minutes, this track is the longest and one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album. Tucker’s vocals sound monstrous throughout the album and definitely reinforce the fact that he is one of the best Death Metal vocalists out there. The album is produced by legendary Erik Rutan and he does a fantastic job in removing the faults Warfather’s debut suffered from to deliver a sound that is fit for the band. Also, maybe we are reading too much into it but maybe it also hints at the direction the new Morbid Angel album may take.
To summarize, Warfather have released a demon of an album in ‘The Grey Eminence’. The band introduces some subtle yet recognizable improvements in production and songwriting that makes this sophomore effort easily surpass their debut. Combining manic Blackened Death Metal sound with powerful sludgy elements in this new album, ‘The Grey Eminence’ will easily make it to the top 10 lists of many this year.