UK death-mongers Vallenfyre have returned with 2014’s Splinters. Have you yearned for old-school death metal done right? This 11-song disc, released on Century Media Records, is a full-length album of pummeling buzzsaw riffy goodness. It has been tailor-made just for you. Try convincing someone that this didn’t come out of Sweden, or at least Sunlight Studios, circa 1990-1991.
Well-produced, very nicely mixed, and crisply mastered, the furious, downtuned disc takes no prisoners and issues no apologies. Some songs on Splinters have abrasive or dissonant, disruptive “feedback” overlays, to keep cozy comfort at bay. There isn’t excessive production, layering, or ‘overthinking’ – it’s just go-for-the-throat killer music. Tempo-wise, songs range from blasting fury (“Instinct Slaughter”, “Cattle”, and “Thirst For Extinction”) to a slow, doom-laden, plodding dirge (“Bereft”, “Aghast”, and “Splinters”). The remaining five fall in to that sweet spot you can whip your hair and ruin your neck to: “Odious Bliss”, “Savage Arise”, “The Wolves of Sin”, and on. This is not a ‘puppies and flowers, happy sunshine dance’ disc. If you want cheery music, look elsewhere. This is bleak, raw death, presented as it should be.
Songs are well-built on very solid and emphatic rhythmic foundations, like most great death metal releases. There are no typewriter drums or cookie monsters here: the low, harsh, gritty growl of Gregor Mackintosh, matched to the burly overdriven grind of Scoot and the pounding madness from Adrian Erlandsson is a match made in soulless shadows. Guitar-wise, Hamish Glencross‘s leads are nothing to “give up playing guitar because you’ll never get that good” about; they are more of an accent or color to the rhythm then anything. The guitar leads are well-performed and brief, more along a motif played over a rhythm line style then anything. All songs are very, very riffy, and boy are those riffs delectable. Lyrics seem to be de facto for the genre – critical of Christianity, doom-laden, bleak, anger-tinged, and depressive. Some tracks seemingly just want to squeeze every drop of lifeblood from you.
Pay attention, folks; this is how you ‘do’ death metal to garner positive attention from more then new fans and youngsters. It’s good, and like those early Scandinavian classics, you don’t sit there and think ‘man, this needs some variety.’ Every track has something to offer. What Vallenfyre are doing, they’re doing really well – the music’s easy to listen to and easy to enjoy. Recalling the era of tape trading and fifth-generation “dubs”, it wasn’t the “mix and master” quality that got listeners hooked, it was the band’s skill and delivery. It was how the riff hooked you in to a frenzy: the songs parlayed a potent message. For digital buyers, like most of that analog Sunlight material, you don’t need an uncompressed ‘full quality’ disc to really get in to it, but that sure adds value.
Criticism, if there has to be some: It’s nothing breaking the mould, but who cares? This is how you uphold a genre stagnating in it’s own putrefaction.
Before extreme metal branched in to so many sub-sub genres – hatecore screaming, “breakdown” moshcore, blastbeats, and “brutal” guttural vocals – we had pure death metal. Splinters has taken aim at a classic, narrow, and difficult niche, and hit right on target. What a fantastic sonic reflection. If you enjoy the first wave of classic Swedish death metal (Left Hand Path, Like An Everflowing Stream, Into The Grave, Hallucinating Anxiety, etc.) with just a touch of British hatefulness a la Terrorizer or Napam Death, you’re going to love this disc. Pick it up at once.
The Wolves of Sin
Dragged to Gehenna
Thirst for Extinction
Gregor Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) – Vocals and Lead Guitar
Hamish Glencross (My Dying Bride) – Rhythm and Lead Guitars
Scoot (Doom, Extinction of Mankind) – Bass
Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates, Paradise Lost) – Drums