Sunday, 18 March 2012

VALLENFYRE - A Fragile King (2011)


01  All Will Suffer
02  Desecration
03  Ravenous Whore
04  Cathedrals Of Dread
05  As The World Collapses
06  A Thousand Martyrs
07  Seeds
08  Humanity Wept
09  My Black Siberia
10  The Divine Have Fled
11  The Grim Irony
12  Majesty Dethroned (Bonus)

Inspired and moved by his father's death, lead Paradise Lost riff bludgeoner Gregor Mackintosh decided to scamper back in time through his tape-trading days as a metal head and re-discover his death metal roots. Joining him on his doomy nostalgia trip are long-time My Dying Bride riff provider Hamish Glencross and At the Gates drummer Adrian Erlandsson. So it's not surprising that eerie, whining guitars in the vein of albums like Icon and In Requiem unbless the latter portions of most of these songs, reminding us of the band members' pedigree but also supplying a unique touch I found very satisfying.

"All Will Suffer" features those darkly gleaming, rain-drizzle walls of emotional oppression that were so prevalent on Paradise Lost classics like Gothic and Icon, while Gregor Mackintosh himself provides the dour, opaque growling like a more muscular alternative to his long-time compatriot Nick Holmes in his early years (In fact, from what I've witnessed of Paradise Lost as a live act these days, Gregor would be a much better frontman for the band than Nick Holmes). Lots of tense, burrowing double bass here from Erlandsson, while the rhythm guitars take on a distinctly old buzz-saw Swedish tone that might remind one of Entombed or Dismember. The ensuing "Desecration", which was already released as an EP prior to the album, is also pretty strong in the melodic department with grimy, corpulent grooves that are flawlessly fixated to the tearstained canopy.

The production is well suited to the composition, so bleak and impenetrable that you eagerly seek each ray of downtrodden melody as if it were the last ray of the sun to warm your bones. Though Gregor's vocals can grow dull and listless over repeated listens, he's got a strong enough presence to sell the sad opacity of the well crafted lyrics. Hopefully, Vallenfyre will continue as an active unit. They hit the right notes of crusty death/doom here and have the songwriting chops to eventually deliver a true masterpiece. A Fragile King doesn't quite reach those heights but the potential is definitely there.

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