Vallenfyre - Splinters (2014)
Review by Trevor Proctor
Review by Trevor Proctor
Vallenfyre was initially formed as a side-project by Gregor Mackintosh who is the main song writer and lead guitar player for established British group Paradise Lost - when forming the band Mackintosh also became “frontman” and began lead vocals for the first time in his lengthy career along with lead guitar. The term supergroup has been used much too loosely in recent years but when we consider the pedigree of Vallenfyre’s members it’s a term that’s 100% accurate - the rest of the group consists of Hamish Glencross from My Dying Bride on rhythm and lead guitars, Scoot from Doom and Extinction of Mankind on bass and Adrian Erlandsson from At the Gates, Paradise Lost and The Haunted on drums.
Vallenfyre was originally formed by Mackintosh following a recommendation from a bereavement counsellor as means of channelling his grief and sadness following the unfortunate death of his Father to cancer in late 2009. A Fragile King was Vallenfyre’s debut full length release in 2011 and instantly caused a stir within the metal community, garnering the group widespread and much deserved recognition as the album turned out to be not only a heartfelt and cathartic release but also a fantastic debut with a distinctive sound that featured very highly on a number of critic’s lists at the close of the year.
Vallenfyre’s music is a melting pot of many influences and styles featuring elements of crust, grind, doom and early death metal amongst others; they have just released their second album, Splinters via Century Media, an album fans and critics alike have waited patiently to hear. Splinters was produced by Kurt Ballou and Vallenfyre and recorded and mixed by Kurt at GodCity studio in Salem, Massachusetts, with the album being mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege.
Opening track Scabs was first released in March as a taster of the album via UK extreme metal magazine Terrorizer and thankfully was instantly recognizable with the band sticking to, yet improving upon, the successful, authentic and distinctive sound present on A Fragile King. As their styles vary greatly on this album so do song lengths which range from just over a minute to over seven minutes in duration. Second track Bereft is not only the longest on the album, it is also one of the most heart-wrenchingly bleak and grim; perfectly matching yet complimenting the atmosphere generated by opener Scabs – it’s a seven minute track laced with morose beauty and reflection along with Mackintosh’s trademark vocal style punctuated with melodic lead guitar.
Splinters as an album sees Vallenfyre display greater fluctuation and divergence between song tempos and styles than on their excellent debut. Whilst Bereft is a lengthy doom laced beauty others such as Cattle and Instinct Slaughter are played at a much faster tempo, are much shorter in duration, yet are heavy and fast as hell – at times drawing similarities with early grindcore.
Odious Bliss is another standout track; it’s a much more straightforward death metal track featuring buzz saw guitar work reminiscent of early death metal – these variations and diversity across the album contribute to an amazing album that never ever becomes complacent and twists and turns with each and every track. If you like any or all of the previously mentioned styles there’s plenty here to satisfy even the most demanding listener and if you’re not familiar with Vallenfyre I suggest you give them a listen.
Those of us familiar with Paradise Lost are well aware of the talent Mackintosh possesses but in Vallenfyre he has unearthed a further talent in the role of vocalist/frontman as his vocal style is not only unmistakable but is also the perfect accompaniment to the music of the group.
Thankfully Splinters sees Vallenfyre become much more than just a side-project, they have taken the distinctive sound of their debut album and developed, strengthened and improved it to create an album that is even stronger; they have become a musical entity with a unique sound of their own - let’s hope they continue to release albums of this standard for many years to come. This is an excellent album from beginning to end, and yet another release that’ll surely be contending for a high place in this year’s critic’s year end listings.
3. Instinct Slaughter
4. Odious Bliss
5. Savages Arise
7. The Wolves of Sin
9. Dragged To Gehenna
10. Thirst for Extinction
Splinters is available now from Century Media.