I think it’s important for people to look outside their comfort zone for music as well as most other things in life, and it’s something I practice myself. Close readers know I’m the doom guy around here, and I was a thrash man in another life. During a previous thrash deep dive, I discovered I’m something of a metalcore fan, too. It’s not a muscle I flex often, nor do I have a whole lot of reference when discussing the subgenre that might give me some gravitas on the matter. However, the bug has bitten me once again with the latest from Employed to Serve.
For those unfamiliar, Employed to Serve from Woking, UK, have been kicking it for nearly a decade now. Their particular brand of metalcore leans very heavily on hardcore influences and at times feels more punk than metal (more on that to follow). For me, that makes it seem even more engaging and inviting than the average metalcore record. It also makes their music so much more emotional and aggressive. After diving into their background more, I was overwhelmed by just all of the feelings these songs have in them. Metalcore is, of course, a particularly aggressive subgenre, but Employed to Serve takes that idea to the extreme. There’s a whole lot of engagement in their music, so hopefully everybody’s down with a band that wants you to feel their music as much as listen to it.
Conquering is no exception and keeps that streak alive. There is a ton of emotion and drama throughout the 11 tracks. What I was most impressed with is the structure and songwriting on each track. These tracks weren’t just written. They were designed. The rise and fall of feeling on each track was designed to accomplish a specific goal. Great example: one of the prerelease singles, “Exist”, is built around a chorus and bridge that features vocalist Justine Jones shouting “simply exist” in a sensible moment in the song section but also isolated on her own (as quiet and isolated as any shouted vocals can be in a metalcore song). It makes her statements that much more powerful, so it’s hard to say that it wasn’t intentional. At this point in their career, the band has gotten this part of making music figured out, and it’s what makes their music, and this record in particular, so damn good.
To top all of that off is the music itself. I was impressed by several different aspects of what Employed to Serve does. Good songwriting and groovy music go hand in hand, and the rhythms were overwhelming to me. You can never deny a good groove in music, especially when you’re not expecting it. There are moments of infectious rhythm throughout Conquering that any listener will latch on to. I was also particularly flabbergasted by the guitar work of Sammy Urwin and David Porter. Few things have called for good skronk like Conquering, and the duo uses those sounds effectively without being overly reliant on gimmicks. There’s also a lot of old school guitar work, harkening back to metalcore’s roots in thrash metal in solos or even fast-paced picking in bridge section riffs like on “Twist the Blade”. As before, there’s a lot of good music qualities to Conquering that any music listener will enjoy.
Conquering is the complete modern metal package to me. Employed to Serve wears their influences on their sleeves while also forging the future of metal with a uniquely original sound. While still not being the biggest metalcore guy in the world, I’m very interested in learning more about this band and understanding what they are trying to achieve with this music. Fortunately for us, the band was gracious enough to tell us! Keep scrolling down for the Anatomy Of Employed to Serve and learn what inspires the band and how they like their tunes!
– Pete Williams
Sammy Urwin (guitar, vocals)
Lamb of God – As the Palaces Burn (2003)
As the Palaces Burn has been huge influence on me over the years, particularly from a lyrical phrasing point of view. I think Randy’s vocal performance on this record in particular is amazing. I bought this album with my pocket money when I was about 13/14 and I learned all the words to it and I definitely feel that this record has seeped into my writing style when it comes to writing vocal structures and writing riffs too.
Standout Tracks: “11th Hour”, “As the Palaces Burn”, “Ruin”.
Exodus – Tempo of the Damned (2004)
Conquering is definitely our most extreme and technically demanding album yet. We’ve incorporated a lot more thrash elements into our sound, which can be heard particularly on tracks like “Stand Alone”, “The Mistake” and the title track. I was listening to all sorts of thrash when writing this album; Testament, Slayer, Exhorder, but Tempo of the Damned was the album that got played the most. Released in a time where most of their contemporaries still hadn’t really recovered from thrash metal being more or less swept under the rug throughout the 90s and early 2000s, Tempo of the Damned shows Exodus to be some of the most stellar players in the game.
Standout Tracks: “War Is My Shepherd”, “Scar Spangled Banner”, “Forward March”
Sepultura – Roots (1996)
Roots isn’t my favourite Sepultura record, but it has undeniably influenced a handful of riffs I’ve written on Conquering and on previous Employed to Serve records too. People have occasionally said that Employed to Serve have “djent” elements, but I think what they’re hearing is the influence of Roots-era Sepultura, Soulfly and, of course, Will Haven. I think this album gets a bad rap, and is sometimes labled as “the record when Sepultura sold out”, and I think that’s unfair. I don’t know if they were the first band to do it but, as far as I was aware, they were the first band to include tribal and traditionally non-metal instruments in their music, thus creating a sound unmistakably their own and also paving they way for more bands keen to break traditional metal norms.
Standout tracks: “Attitude”, “Ratamahatta”, “Straighthate”.
Crowbar – Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form (2001)
Crowbar are one of my favourite bands, and this particular record came back on constant rotation for me when we were writing Conquering. The lyrics really match the weight of the riffs on this record. The general narrative on this album (and a recurring theme for Crowbar in general) is about being your own worst enemy. This is a theme that we talk about a lot too, and Sonic Excess was definitely very influential for me in that aspect. After jamming this album loads I wrote a Crowbar inspired riff which I ended up speeding up and writing the song “Set In Stone” around.
Standout tracks: “To Build a Mountain”, “Through the Ashes”, “Repulsive in its Splendid Beauty”.
Corrosion of Conformity – Deliverance (1994)
Like with every album we do, we’re always looking for new ways to switch it up, and there’s definitely a fair few moments on this album that sees us venturing into to new territory – sort of like Corrosion of Conformity departing from their hardcore punk beginnings and pushing things in a more rock orientated direction on records like Blind (1991) and Deliverance. Our new record hosts some of our most straight up rock sounding moments, and Deliverance was a huge influence on that side of the song writing. I kind of feel like Metallica wished Load (1996) and ReLoad (1997) sounded as cool as records like this one (although I’m sure the financial returns of Load and it’s follow up made them happy enough).
Standout tracks: “Albatross”, “Clean My Wounds”, “Senor Limpio”.
Conquering comes out September 17, through Spinefarm records.