I’m sorry to say I was not really aware of Vallenfyre and their debut “A Fragile King” until shortly before I received the promo. Normally a death metal super-group would generate enough buzz that I would hear about it and anticipate it months in advance. Somehow this one flew under my radar. I saw the album on a list of releases that were coming out the following week and Googled it to see how it sounded. To my surprise and delight I found that it was a project that included Gregor Mackintosh (Paradise Lost) on vocals and lead guitar, Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates, Cradle of Filth, Paradise Lost, The Haunted and a host of others) on drums and Hamish Glencross (My Dying Bride) also on guitar. I was instantly ready to devour the album and only had a week to wait; I cackled in anticipation of grim rewards to come. Little did I know that I would only have to wait two more days before the promo arrived in my inbox. Excellent!
“A Fragile King” turned out to be quite the happy surprise. Vallenfyre is billed as a death metal band, but I feel there is a heavy doom influence at work here as well (not surprising giving the band members.) This is by no means typical death metal. First of all the music, while often fast, also has moments where it really slows down into low gear and the low end just rumbles. Hell, the low end rumbles when they are playing faster too. The tone of the guitars is heavy and distorted but also muted in a way; it doesn’t have that sizzling white noise kind of distortion, more like distortion with smooth edges if that makes any sense. I’ve heard similar tone surfing through guitar effect boards, but have trouble describing it. Anyway, this tone along with the bass lends itself to being extremely heavy while remaining tight enough to not sound sloppy or muddy. Gregor’s vocals are harsh and deep but very enunciated making it possible to easily straddle the line between death and doom. Everything together makes me think of what it would sound like if Frost Giants formed a metal band: larger than life and totally crushing.
I read that the album was inspired by the passing of Gregor’s father. As part of his grief therapy he was told to write things down, and being the musician he is, these writings turned into lyrics. The lyrics became songs and he gathered friends to form a band to record the songs. What an incredible, and dare I say, heart wrenching, story. It certainly gives a bit of insight into the poignant album title “A Fragile King.” Catharsis makes for great music.
The album isn’t incredibly long at only 42 minutes, but I enjoyed every one of those minutes. I was about to say I hope this isn’t just a one-off project, but while looking to see if there were any tour dates (coming in 2012) I saw on the Century Media website that this will not be a one-off, so that is great news. I expect next time around I won’t be taken unawares when they get ready to release new material. Oh yes, I’ll be waiting. Check this album out, and turn up the bass until the floor rumbles!