12 May 2014
by Pete Long
A psychologist could probably draw all sorts of conclusions from the fact that when Gregor Mackintosh, one of Britain’s most prominent doom mongers, looked for a way to channel his grief at his father’s passing, he chose raw and brutal death metal. Three years on from the somewhat sad inception of Vallenfyre, Mackintosh and his group of hyper-talented friends are back once again to explore both loss and grief, via Mackintosh’s own musical heritage from the 80s.
It’s impossible to talk about this album without talking about its homages to the extreme metal pioneers of the eighties. Splinters wears its influences on its patch-covered denim jacket sleeve, with the corrosive misanthropy and raw, pummelling brutality of that time obvious to the ear throughout this record. This is neither a total throwback nor the work of a copycat though. The production deserves more than a passing nod here, as not for the first time Kurt Ballou shows exactly how to give old school metal a fitting yet modern sound. Opener ‘Scabs’ features both the melodic yet suffocating dirges and the bruising, Bolt Thrower-esque death metal that make up the two sides of this album.
A few tracks, such as ‘Bereft’ and final song ‘Splinters’, fall mainly in the former, bringing to mind the doom metal that is West Yorkshire’s most famous darker musical export (and Mackintosh’s day job). Most of the songs are more of the latter though, if not out-and-out grindcore as with the Napalm Death-influenced ‘Instinct Slaughter’. Vallenfire really shine when things slow down a little, when the assault unravels into massive headbanging riffs, as with both ‘Aghast’ and ‘Odious Bliss’. The heaviness never lets up though. The band set out to push their boundaries and get more extreme with this record – and they have succeeded.
This is more than just an album really, to get all Marks & fucking Spencer about it. It’s a history lesson, like getting to eavesdrop on some old guys in the pub telling war stories. It’s a love note to a time that inspired a hell of a lot of musicians and fans, executed as neatly as you like – and it’s worth acquiring for that alone.
Sounds Like: All the angry metalheads of the 80s.
Standout Tracks: Bereft, Scabs, Odious Bliss.