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Vallenfyre - "Splinters" (CD)

Vallenfyre - "Splinters" CD cover image

"Splinters" track listing:

1. Scabs
2. Bereft
3. Instinct Slaughter
4. Odious Bliss
5. Savages Arise
6. Aghast
7. The Wolves of Sin
8. Cattle
9. Dragged to Gehenna
10. Thirst for Extinction
11. Splinters

Reviewed by on June 16, 2014

"'Splinters' contains a mix of crushing doom and chugging death metal. Where the album really finds its stride, though, is during mid-tempo romps leaning towards early death metal groups such as Hellhammer/Celtic Frost and Autopsy."

Vallenfyre contains members from two of the three big U.K. doom bands, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, as sophomore effort "Splinters” contains Gregor Mackintosh (vocals, guitar) joining his mate in Paradise Lost Adrian Erlandsson (drums). Hamish Hamilton Glencross of My Dying Bride is the other six-string bender, while former Nailbomb live member, Scoot, rounds out the group on bass. Considering these members it's safe to assume this is a doom album, but that sound only constitutes a small portion of the group's sound.

Like early My Dying Bride, "Splinters" contains a mix of crushing doom and chugging death metal. Where the album really finds its stride, though, is during mid-tempo romps leaning towards early death metal groups such as Hellhammer/Celtic Frost and Autopsy. Kurt Ballou's production gives the album a full-yet-crusty sound characteristic of Black Breath (another Ballou production) and Stockholm pioneering forces such as Dismember and Nihilist.

Having a drummer from the Swedish scene (At The Gates/The Haunted) certainly helps bring these ideas to life. While the album moves at a medium to slow pace in many sections, tracks such as "Instinct Slaughter" and "Cattle" feature Erlandsson blasting at his best. These tracks also contain a punk vibe in length. "Instinct Slaughter" clocks in at a mere 1:25 while "Cattle" ends before the 3-minute mark. The opening punch of drums and chords on "Savages Arise" should also elicit some listeners to recall Autopsy's opening notes on "Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay."

If these speed bursts aren't exactly your forte, then you're only a track away from the doom/death heard on early Paradise Lost and current My Dying Bride. "Bereft" lives up to its title containing drawn out growls, crushing chords, and mournful guitar harmonies that seem to mimic violin notes. It has the same type of vibe as songs on "As The Flower Withers" or "Turn Loose The Swans." Make sure to check out the intense whammy bar solo that enters the foray around the 2:55 mark.

"Splinters" is full of melancholy capped off by higher register guitar melodies and more ripping whammy bar, something "bereft" from their better known Peaceville bands. "Scabs" opens the album in predictable doom tones and guitar harmonies of the Dismember variety bring the track to a swell before grinding speed burst take the track on a different, unexpected path.

After a complete listen, I have to say I wish the album contained more harmonies, atmosphere, and despondent doom metal passages. This is not to say "Splinters" is a weak album in any regards. The mix of styles brings a fresh perspective to a sound that has already been done, and it's nice to hear a band without predicting the next change up. "Splinters" should show Vallenfyre casting a larger net than the audience from the member's Peaceville bands.

Highs: The production and the band's ability to shift tempos

Lows: Harmonies and atmosphere are lost in punkish movements

Bottom line: "Splinters" is a solid death-doom metal album.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)