This is nothing other than pure FILTH!
Its no secret, especially if you’ve read more than a couple of articles of mine, that I’m a big fan of death metal, but those that know me personally (or checked out my Last.FM page!) will know that Paradise Lost, and specifically Greg Mackintosh, are a huge inspiration to me. So when i found out about Greg forming Vallenfyre a couple of years ago as a side project to concentrate on an old school death metal vibe, you could probably imagine that i was simply beside myself with excitement.
Vallenfyre’s debut (“A Fragile King”) turned out to be one of my biggest highlights of 2011, and still gets a regular play at BurningFist Towers. So, “Splinters” had a lot to live up to and thoughts on whether it was even possible to top (never mind reach the quality) of “A Fragile King” began to occupy my mind. My worry, was of course. misplaced.
From the off, “Splinters” grabs you by the scruff of the neck, picks you clean off your feet and roars so loudly in your face, the skin is torn from bone. It then proceeds to pour vinegar on to the exposed flesh, just to make sure you’re still paying attention. The ironically named “Scabs” starts this ball rolling with what initially feels like a down-tuned Paradise Lost melody – but its not long before that’s thrown out the way to let the pounding disharmony and utter dismay of some wonderfully raspy vocals to proclaim “These scabs will never heal!” A furious opening salvo.
“Bereft” is an altogether different beast though (and a personal fave), and has one of the best uses of guitar effects I’ve had the pleasure of hearing in some time. I’m not even sure i can describe it accurately, but its akin to being dragged, kicking and screaming in to the darkest hole imaginable while the riff begins filling your soul with oozing gloom! The pace and tone are so slow and heavy, it only adds to the feeling of despair.
Then, BANG! “Instinct Slaughter” comes out of nowhere and floors you – its one minute 30 seconds of pure death metal violence. “Odious Bliss” (one of the lead tracks from the album) reigns things in a little and has a classic, Swedish death metal feel to it. For fans of the genre, it will inevitably feel very familiar but enjoyable all the same. This relentless barrage continues with “Savages Arise”, but again, the pace changes when “Aghast” rears its ugly head, with riffs made of pure fetid slime. Nothing could be more fitting that when Greg bellows “On the shores of DOOOOOOOOOOOOM!”. You feel it more than anything.
Testament must also be paid to the rest of the band (completed by Hamish Glencross (My Dying Bride), Scoot (Doom, Extinction of Mankind) and Adrian Erlandsson (Way too many quality bands to list!)) that have unmistakably helped craft this monument of dismay, but also its worth mentioning that Kurt Ballou has had his grubby mitts on the production of the album and helped ensure nothing is lost to the murk.
There is also a lot to pick through where the lyrics are concerned too – subjects of family loss and the pain it brings is clearly evident (“Its all a reaction | to grieve | its even a struggle | to breathe”), as Greg’s father passed away in 2009, and that became the catalyst for Vallenfyre to be created. This all adds to the genuine roller-coaster that this album has become – Its full of peaks and troughs, glimpses of hope then despair, chinks of light and then utter darkness, as the penned word is razor-sharp, observant and even thought provoking.
The 45 minutes on offer are some of the finest death/doom/crust/call-it-what-you-like committed to disk and “Splinters”, as the name may suggest and the glorious cover art visualizes, will stick firmly in your soul. Highly recommended listening to fans of the darker, heavier styles of Metal.