There seems to be a trend in some circles of subgenres being a “gotta catch ‘em all” affair; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Other times people just don’t give a rat’s ass and want to throw back to the glory days of the old-school and worship at the altar of good ol’ Swedish death; Vallenfyre are resolutely in the latter camp. Fear Those Who Fear Him sees Vallenfyre return with their third full-length since being formed in 2010 by vocalist/guitarist Greg Mackintosh, former and founding member of gothic titans Paradise Lost but very little of the melancholy makes it way here. No, Fear Those… is an entirely different animal.
Opener ‘Born to Decay’ somewhat sets the tone with its chanting but things definitely take off once ‘Messiah’ comes around. There are almost constant shifts of tempo between songs, something very welcome as it keeps interest and never truly lets you get complacent. With something new always around the corner whether it be blastbeats and thrashy riffs or a doom-and-gloom, glacially-paced moment a la Paradise Lost like that of ‘An Apathetic Grave’ - but never quite so melancholy. That’s not to say that this is the Greg Mackintosh show; the drumming, courtesy of Waltteri Väyrynen (Ahorrence, Paradise Lost) is consistently impressive, equal parts restraint and raw aggression, always shifting to match the mood and Hamish Glencross more than holds his own with pummelling bass lines as well as undertaking additional guitar duties.
‘An Apathetic Grave’ slows to an almost funerary crawl and treats us to a real slab of gloom in the vein of Paradise Lost but ‘Nihilist’ soon has the album hurtling at a hundred miles an hour again, all venom and white-hot fury. Lyrically the scope has broadened from initially personal on earlier works to become more global, looking to a world that’s gone to hell in a hand basket with disgust and anger, as evidenced on ‘Kill All Your Masters’ and ‘Nihilist’. The guitar tone is every bit the big, burly chainsaw it should be with a heft that could flatten a mountain; Väyrynen’s drumming feels fluid and effortless and Mackintosh’s guttural bark ties it all together in a big grisly bow, like a big old-school death metal present wrapped with intestines.
All of this means Fear Those… never manages to outstay its welcome or feel like a chore to listen to; rather the shifting tempos between and often within songs make for welcome and natural progressions. The only criticism to be levelled is that while the album is by no means bad, some tracks simply don’t stand out as well as the others; ‘Cursed From the Womb’, again, is by no means bad but it just isn’t as good as ‘Temple of Rats’; likewise while you’ll recognise ‘An Apathetic Grave’ and the crustier-than-thou ‘Nihilist’ every time, ‘Messiah’ just doesn’t carry the same weight. But at the end of the day that’s nitpicking; this is old-school, crusty death; it’s not here to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it takes a sledgehammer to the house, nails the cat to the front door and leaves nothing but destruction in its wake.
Highlights: ‘An Apathetic Grave’; ‘Amongst the Filth’