Fear Those Who Fear Him

Written by: AP on 19/09/2017 22:05:30

Vallenfyre was originally formed by Gregor Mackintosh, the lead guitarist and keyboard player of Paradise Lost, as a means to channel the grief, anguish and anger he felt after losing his father to cancer. But since the band’s inception in 2010, it has evolved beyond that, and despite suffering a number of line-up alterations that reduced the outfit to a trio, Vallenfyre has emerged out the other end more focused and direct on this ominously titled third outing, “Fear Those Who Fear Him”. With Mackintosh’s colleague from Paradise Lost, Waltteri Väyrynen, manning the drum kit and the former My Dying Bride guitarist Hamish Glencross wielding the bass guitar, one could be forgiven for assuming that Vallenfyre must be a supergroup of the doom metal variant but this is not so — there are traces of doom within the trio’s sound to be sure, but their weapon of choice is raw and crusty death metal played the Swedish way.

As such, Mackintosh’s own summing up the record as ”twelve songs, no samples, no triggers, no bulls**t” suffices as an accurate description of what to expect. The guitar tone is dirty and high on treble, the string instruments are tuned low, and the overall expression is stripped down to the bare essentials. Groove has foremost priority and in that sense, Vallenfyre follows in the footsteps of Dismember, Entombed and Grave in sounding as crude and nasty as possible, an influence most evident in the tracks “Degeneration” and “The Merciless Tide”. Both tracks subscribe to the view that the riffs most fondly remembered tend to be those that are the simplest, and even though neither of them has a chance of immortality like Pantera’s “Walk” or Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, the two songs nonetheless tickle the synapses of one’s memory with more success than almost any other piece on this album. An exception is the penultimate “Cursed from the Womb” — the slowest and grimmest offering from the band yet — which produces the same effect but with different means; by spelling dire omens with a deeply unsettling melody and Mackintosh’s dark, despairingly growled lyricism.

In liaison with “An Apathetic Grave” earlier on, the aforementioned song also reveals another facet of Vallenfyre, which is the inevitable byproduct of the three musicians’ other musical endeavours. More doom than death metal, the pair ropes in the forlorn atmosphere and crushing instrumental weight of both My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, and drags them through Vallenfyre’s nihilistic abyss to produce some of the grisliest, most dejecting music you will listen to this year. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, the likes of “Nihilist”, “Kill All Your Masters” and “Temple of Rats” witness the trio diving into crossover thrash, racing through their combined seven minutes at blistering velocity and letting rip with a couple of chaotic, screeching guitar solos of which Kerry King would be proud in the process. Despite the presence of so many different elements across the album, however, Vallenfyre manages to avoid creating a discontinuous listening experience by always referring to the philosophy carved out in those eight words by Mackintosh, mentioned earlier in this review. Whether the music is fast or slow, flavoured with southern spice or ridden with doom and gloom, the band has made sure to shave off any unnecessary frills and focus on the pummel.

None of this, of course, would have been possible without maestro Kurt Ballou (of Converge fame) producing the effort to sound like the rattle and buzz of a rusty chainsaw. The crummy, unkempt tonality here bears a striking resemblance to Entombed’s 1997-album, “To Ride, Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth”, which must have been Ballou’s intention — after all, it was in the Swedish capital that the crusty style of death metal practiced by Vallenfyre was invented. But unlike that classic record, “Fear Those Who Fear Him” has a much harder time delivering the smash chops needed to lift it from the ‘pretty good’ category into ‘outstanding’. By adopting such an austere philosophy of songwriting for this record, Vallenfyre inevitably ends up locking itself into formulaic dross in a number of the songs, with the overall pulling power suffering as a consequence. Still, the sheer noxious- and brazenness of what the band has created here makes “Fear Those Who Fear Him” a must have for connoisseurs of Swedeath.


Download: Degeneration, An Apathetic Grave, The Merciless Tide
For the fans of: Dismember, Entombed, Grave
Listen: Facebook

Release date 02.06.2017
Century Media

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