REVIEW: VALLENFYRE – “Fear Those Who Fear Him”
Vallenfyre formed back in 2010 at a time when founding member Greg Mackintosh, also of Paradise Lost, was going through a bleak period in his life. The music and lyrics of Vallenfyre were born out of Greg’s effort to cope with the loss of losing his father to cancer. The band was a way of releasing the grief and became a reflection of the anguish and anger he felt inside. A way of coping with the near unfathomable loss of losing your own father is something we all must face, which in turn brings us to question our own mortality. The style of music which he began to write was more akin to the music of his youth, which became a comforting factor allowing him to turn the negative emotions and experiance into some sort of positive. The music Greg began churning out was an old-school fest of heavy riffs drenched in doomy-death overtones and laced with crusty death metal. The sound was where the overdriven buzzsaw guitar tone of Swedish death metal met the doom heavy death metal of bands like Autopsy, Incantation and even early Paradise Lost for that matter, verged to meet crust bands like Amebix and Antisect.
The band brought together Hamish Glencross (ex-My Dying Bride) on rhythm and lead guitars, Mully on rhythm guitars, Scoot (Doom, Extinction of Mankind) on bass and Adrian Erlandsson (At the Gates, Paradise Lost) on drums. When the debut album ‘A Fragile King‘ hit back in 2011, it was one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year due in no part to the caliber of the musicians. and the fact Mackintosh was returning to a heavier sound. The band was signed to Century Media on the strength of their ‘Desecration‘ EP alone. However the band was only ever meant to be for one album and then seeing how things went from there. So when they released their second album ‘Splinters’ in 2014, fans who had welcomed the band’s debut album were only too pleased to have another album to sink their teeth into.
Now, the band are releasing their third album ‘Fear Those Who Fear Him’, and what started as a one-off side project to vent some unwanted anger has become a fully-fledged band. ‘Splinters’ more than managed to live up to the strong foundation set by the debut, so for fans who have been following the band since the get-go, the anticipation and expectation is high for album number three to drop.
First track released off the album was “Kill All Your Masters” which focused more on the bands crust punk aspect of their sound and is almost like if Discharge were a grind band. It does fall short of extreme grind speed but the essence and feeling is there. Judging by this song alone it seems the band have gone for a faster, more in your face abrasive approach this time around. However, fear not those of you who have an inclination for the more doom heavy parts because “An Apathetic Grave” brings down the hammer of doom as it bludgeons the listener slowly and mercilessly, here the tone is unforgiving. The song even has a near Paradise Lost moment during the melodic guitar harmony played over the chorus which could have been lifted from Paradise Lost’s last studio album. This is an interesting development. The solo in this song and the whole structure shows a development in songwriting. Here the guitars of Greg and Hamish blend seamlessly and the two create a mesmerizing cacophony of doom. Again on the cut “The Merciless” further into the album we get the same influence, so the doom is never far when it comes to Vallenfyre.
Just like Vallenfyre’s first two albums preceded Paradise Lost’s return to the more death-doom territory of their early Peaceville days, it now appears Paradise Lost is in return showing its influence on Vallenfyre. “Nihilist” is where the punk crust grind sound I mentioned earlier blasts out of the speakers in a short rapid fire burst of unbridled aggression. This song has to be the most aggressive thing they have done so far. Just like guitar player Mully left after the debut album, this time around we see the band lose two more memebers in the shape of Scoot on bass and Adrian Erlandsson drums. Now, the core of Mackintosh and Glencross along with new drummer Waltteri Vayrynen – now also of Paradise Lost – are the last men standing.
The band have honed and fine-tuned what could be a definitive sound for themselves from which to move forward. The loss of members has if anything refocused the band because what we are left with is the core songwriting team of Greg and Hamish. Heavy and extreme touring for the past two albums has allowed both Greg and Hamish to hone their craft and particularly Mackintosh who has become a formidable frontman, anyone who saw the bands 2016 Bloodsctock set can attest to this. Lyrically the album looks outward this time around and takes a look at the world from a more global perspective as in “Kill All Your Masters”, which speaks of the frustration at whatever it is that may seek to control the masses, whether it be religion or politics manipulating people for their own gain and inevitably causing great death and destruction. A standout lyric comes in “Cursed for the Womb”, where Greg growls “Do not fear Satan, fear those who fear him”, it is in this lyric where we see the true doers of evil are people, and we should only fear our own greed and self-destructive nature. Humanity is the great Satan – not any imaginary fairytale.
Vallenfyre’s album this time around is harder to get into due to its more abrasive and all-out aggressive nature in songs such as the short grind attacks like “Nihilist” and “Messiah”. Although for those who stay the course and give the album some more time, and it will not fail to satisfy. Just like the press release reads, “Twelve songs. No samples, No triggers, No bullshit” – that is exactly what you get. The band have upped the Antisect influences with more Discharge, but you also get the utter grim and doom of “An Apathetic Grave”, “The Merciless Tide” and “Cursed from the Womb”. ‘Fear Those Who Fear Him’, is certainly a grittier, harsher and more crusty death metal album as a whole. The band have abandoned any sense of commerciality and gone for an all-out darker, heavier, and more brutal sound, pushing the boundaries of the extreme.