Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Vallenfyre - A Fragile King (2011)

Members of Paradise Lost, At the Gates and My Dying Bride come together on this release - a personal one for Greg Mackintosh as it's inspiration stems from his father's diagnosis and death from prostate cancer.  In other words, we have a super-group coming together to release an album of mourning.

While such a bleak and personal subject matter isn't really out of keeping for members who have been pioneers of the doom scene, we have little here that can be described in any way as 'doom'.  What this obviously, very intimate recording assaults us with is largely an old school, crusty death metal which harks back to the 'Swedish' sound - namely Wolverine Blues-era Entombed.

There are elements of a more doomy and at times gothic sound, yet these are rather minimal compared with what you might expect.  The track Majesty Dethroned has a mid-section that could be on almost any early doom release - save for more modern production while some of the more less prevalent leads throughout the disc increase the doomy elements.  However, this is not a doom release; it is undoubtedly and (thankfully) unashamedly death metal.

Perhaps less thankfully though is the fact that it does absolutely nothing original.  It's something that you'll listen to a few times, love but then only ever put on as background music while you're having a beer.  For the most part you'll be fine, but with tracks like The Grim Irony don't expect it all to be light-hearted.  

The fact remains that what it does it does very well.  I just wish there was something a little more there.  Seriously, if I didn't know any better and someone threw this on, I'd be sat there desperately trying to figure out which Entombed album I was listening to and why it didn't sound that familiar.  The overall sound is bang on and that's before we get to Mackintosh's vocals which are a dead ringer for a certain Mr Petrov.

I must admit though, I was expecting to hate this album:  When I fist put it on, I listened to it through a pair of monitors and was disgusted by the guitar tone.  It was just fucking horrible.  Listening to it on a shitter stereo or a pair of headphones and it's a different story.  Yes the guitars are buzzy and have that old-school middle-yet-buzzy thing going on, but it fits the music perfectly.  And when it rips in to the higher octane leads . . . yes, this album fucking rocks.

The disappointment is that it's pretty much going to be instantly forgettable.  It fails to have it's own personality, instead borrowing that of a band who've been among my favourites for years.  Which, considering the subject matter, is pretty fucking odd.

Apparently this was never intended for general release.  And I can pretty much see why.  It's a shame that when the decision was made to actually put it out, a little more thought and a few flares or originality weren't injected into A Fragile King.  Still; it's a solid album and if like me you like that sort've thing, you won't hate this.  But I doubt you'll particularly remember it either.

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