It seems that most of us misunderstood why Greg Mackintosh wanted to form Vallenfyre back in 2010. The general hype train that was created when the Paradise Lost axeman announced the news on social media seven years ago was built on the backbone of Paradise Lost's stellar albeit steady return to heavier roots. Yet in a recent interview with Metal Hammer, Mackintosh admitted that "The first album was so personal, I almost didn't release it", a statement referring to debut effort A Fragile King
. Whatever you make of this, it appears that such personal news hadn't surfaced in the media until literally months ago. Proving the point that just because the instigator of what is viewed as a side project seems like he's having fun, it doesn't mean he actually is.
This could be why 2017's Fear Those who Fear Him
sounds even rawer and more open than its two predecessors. Not much has changed musically, but instead of all instrumentation being performed via the usual crusty death/doom route, this time Mackintosh and co have opted for punkier, messier approach. It's pretty obvious when literally half of the songs struggle to reach the 2 minute mark. "Dead World Breathes", "Nihilist" and "Kill All Your Masters" amongst others seem to be linked under this barrier of punkish, chaotic energy, proving that it's not necessarily the musical performance which drives the musical direction on Fear Those Who Fear Him
, but the attitude
in delivering it. Just because these songs are shorter and seemingly messier however, doesn't mean they aren't as enjoyable as Vallenfyre's previous output. The riffs are still menacing, Mackintosh's vocal delivery is still a powerhouse of raw energy, and the atmosphere's density is able to cloud the listener in seconds with bitter emotion.
Not forgetting the album's shorter moments, but Fear Those Who Fear Him
seems to be at its very best when the band deliver more controlled, restrained material. "An Apathetic Grave", for example, is almost six minutes long but wastes no time in featuring a mid-paced explosive battery from the get-go. However, it could almost be called a gradual, progressive experiment because of its creeping build-up of tense guitar work and Mackintosh's slower-than-usual vocals. The song at times borders on dramatic, epic atmosphere because of this, and it really sounds like everything has been vamped up to befit listeners who prefer this music richer and more bombastic. That said, "An Apathetic Grave" is really the only song of its kind here. "The Merciless Tide" returns to a more painstakingly bitter approach, featuring Mackintosh's ferocious barks and generally remembering that Vallenfyre are a band that love sonic aggression. Despite a slow-burning breakdown halfway, "The Merciless Tide" brings forth such a chaotic, driving force that it's hard not to get hooked onto the tasty, groove-inflected riff work.
Fear Those Who Fear Him
may not be a direct detachment from Vallenfyre's usual brand of crusty death/doom (in fact, it's not much of a detachment at all depending on which aspect of the sound has your focus), but it does feature renewed vitality and a more obvious divide between speedier, punkier material and the slower-burning, lengthier album highlights mentioned before. One thing's for sure, Vallenfyre still prove to be among the best of their kind, and Mackintosh can do no wrong being at the forefront of such a band.