A whole host of good oceanic adjectives come to mind when trying to describe Vallenfyre‘s sound, like “roiling,” “crashing,” “deep,” or “furious.” Although these UK extreme metal stalwarts don’t play music particularly themed towards deep bodies of water in the same way as, say, The Ocean, their sound burbles and hisses in a similar manner to some forgotten Cambrian trench, oozing and rushing in various degrees through briny swill and hot gas. Fear Those Who Fear Him, the third outing from Vallenfyre, doesn’t do much to change this – no big stylistic shift in trajectory has occurred in the three years since Splinters – but hey, when you’ve got a formula that routinely kicks this much ass, is there any reason to mess with it?
Describing Vallenfyre’s genre trappings is tougher than describing the music itself; the band likes to play around with expectations and actively resists a snug categorization. Nevertheless, the closest genre to them is probably death metal: there’s certainly more than a hint of the chunky sledgehammer riffing that categorizes bands like Obituary and Entombed, but it’s tempered and tempered hard by a grindcore ethos that sees the group verging almost on Nails territory at times. Shorter tracks like “Messiah” and “Nihilist” show this off: fragments of blistering, heated audio-shrapnel tear into the listener and dig deep.
This is all well and good, and their take on the new wave of death-metal-meets-grindcore of the aforementioned Nails as well as Gatecreeper and Crypt Rot certainly satisfies, but when Vallenfyre gets really special is when they decide to take it a little slower. Evoking a miserable, blighted nihilism filtered through some Eldritch oceanic monolith and filtered again through an HM-2 pedal cranked all the way up, the glacial pace at which Vallenfyre moves on the three five-plus-minute tracks scattered across Fear Those Who Fear Him are easily their best work. A glacial pace allows the guitars to drill far deeper into the brain than they would otherwise be able to do, and the somehow-lethargic double bass pedal keeps the music well paced and consistently bludgeoning. Death-doom is probably the proper term, but these guys don’t sound like any other death-doom band out there, courtesy of the grindcore-esque guitar tone and brutally sharp production.
Like I said above, this is a kickass formula. Vallenfyre really doesn’t miss a beat on this record, and at just under 40 minutes they neither leave the listener unsatisfied nor overstay their welcome. For all intents and purposes, this is about as close to theoretically perfect as a record can get for someone who enjoys the music inside. There’s variety in pacing and structure but enough coherency and cohesion in overall sound that the record maintains a unified identity without smearing together into one long monotonous streak of tracks. The biting, nasty production lends some serious meat and heft to the whole affair, making the grooves so monstrously in-your-face that it’s impossible not to headbang to this beast.
Fans of Vallenfyre’s previous outings aren’t going to find much straying from the formula here, but given that it’s been a good three years since the release of their last record, this is far from an unforgivable offense. Everything here is done up to a remarkably satisfying degree, making Fear Those Who Fear Him what will probably be one of the best death metal records of the year. Any fan of the genre worth their salt should keep this on their radar, because Vallenfyre is emphatically not fucking around here. This is not a record to be slept on.
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Fear Those Who Fear Him is available everywhere you can typically purchase or stream music. It was released on June 2nd through Century Media.