(This is the first of two NCS reviews of A Fragile King by Vallenfyre. The author of this one is TheMadIsraeli.)
If you didn’t already get the point from our numerous posts about these guys, they’re the shit. Islander was going to review this, and I hope he still does. I’d hate to think I stole some fun from him, but considering that this is filthy, dank, dingy, doom-soaked, old-school death metal, it’s right up my fucking alley and I can’t resist writing a review. If you’re a total whore for bands like Asphyx or Hail Of Bullets, as I am, you’ll find a comfortable home here.
If the banshee wail of feedback that starts “All Will Suffer” doesn’t give you a clue, its crunchy buzz-saw toned opening trudge of a riff will. The entire song is a slog through disease-ridden, stygian marshes at its finest. The first thing that immediately sticks out is a quality that makes for great death metal: The ability of a band to insert subtle hints of melody into an otherwise atonal framework. This is definitely one of the strengths that Vallenfyre has going for them in spades. A Fragile King is loaded to the brim with memorable half-melodies, we’ll call them.
“Desecration” actually has a purely melodic outro, a mournful one with an almost funeral-doom character, in contrast to the song’s otherwise dissonant and sinister aura. Other tunes like “Ravenous Whore” or “Cathedrals of Dread” bring the speedier moments of savagery, eviscerating everything above and below.
The riffs are solid, burdensome, and colossal in scope. Listening to them almost produces a sensation of being drowned in a tidal wave of blood-soaked flesh. What also hooks me about this album is the absolutely immense Winter vibe (fittingly, I recently wrote a “Revisiting the Classics” piece on Into Darkness). “Seeds” really channels that feeling, but raises it (or rather sinks it) to an entirely new level of grim and morbid. You can literally feel yourself subsiding into the floor.
The performances on this album are insanely awesome, but when you’ve got a lineup like Vallenfyre’s, any other result would seem like an impossibility: Greg Mackintosh (from Paradise Lost) on vocals and guitars; Hamish Glencross (My Dying Bride) on guitar; and Adrian Erlandsson (At the Gates, Paradise Lost) on drums (with Scoot on bass and third guitarist Mully). The production is a work of art as well, channeling pure early-90’s, Entombed-style drudge and muck from the depths. This may be the best guitar tone I’ve heard of the Swedish buzz-saw persuasion ever. EVER. The bass is also quite present, adding much-appreciated filthy girth to the already snarling distortion of the guitars.
A Fragile King is definitely worth checking out, and considering seriously for a full-on purchase. Grab this for some old-school fun. I’m including the official video for “Cathedrals Of Dread”: