Review Summary: Good old school death metal, if a bit uniform at times.
With a line up consisting of members of My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost and At the Gates, Vallenfyre made themselves known with the 2011 debut "A Fragile King" and has since gained a fairly good amount of attention for their more old school and moody take on death metal. The main force behind this metal project started by Gergor Mackintosh of Paradise Lost has sort of a vent for the guitarist as a way to deal with the passing of his father in 2009. Such themes of mourning and depression was heavily present of the band's debut, both musically and lyrically, as most songs had a moody and slower pace and tone to match up with the saddened and emotive lyrics. This aspect was one of the things that made me like the debut so much, as the aspect of it going in a bit of a different direction, adding emotion, a little technicality and melody like it did while still remaining inside the boundaries of a familiar brand of traditional death metal made the album very, very enjoyable.
But with "Splinters" the doomier side of the band's sound has been pulled back a bit in place for a much more abrasive and punchier sound, creating a noticeable change that "Splinters" brings is that it is considerably more diverse than "A Fragile King" with plenty of nice grooves, more melodies and has more of an evolved feel, with these ultra grimy, distortion slathered, harmonios (at times depressing) riffs and fantastic, in your face drumming, making it closer to more death n' role type sound, something to the effect of Entombed and even Carcass at times. This more abrasive sound makes the a bit easier to get into, more in your face and much more blood pumping than before, but keeps things melodic and memorable. That being said, the doom influence is still very much present, such as on tracks like "Aghast" which is also one of the longest piece on this album, is a brooding dirge filled with some really nice guitar leads and a bleak atmosphere. On the other extreme, the most violent and visceral track would be probably "Instinct Slaughter" which is a no holding back, extreme death metal track. None of the other tracks go too far either way though, but the brooding doom and the visceral death metal bleed into each other really seamlessly, making the sound feel and sound pretty varied, wiether they be fast and brutal death metal tracks or the more emotive and depressed doom tracks.
But while the album as a whole is very enjoyable, one thing that Vallenfyre loses points for is their lack of originality. Everything about this record has been done before, and anybody going into it will not find any surprises or new ideas to blow them away with. At its core it is a pretty basic death metal record, and the material it does show off, while good, is nothing new and nothing special and it does take away from the overall appeal of the record a bit when what the music here does doesn't really separate it from bands like Grave or Entombed. But where "Splinters" lacks in originality, it does make up for with this sort of finesse and passion. The music is very tight, very clear, very intense and very enjoyable. It's one to check out, nothing mind blowing or "avant garde" but its a good time and worth listening to.