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Recommended for Hellhammer and Celtic Frost fans - 75%

Maximum Metal, May 28th, 2014

Paradise Lost members Greg Mackintosh and Adrian Erlandsson make up the core of this UK powerhouse. "Splinters" is the band's sophomore effort after the critically acclaimed debut, "A Fragile King", in 2011. Vallenfyre was formed by Mackintosh after his father's death and served as a therapeutic purgation. The response was overwhelming and led to the "project" becoming a band. Along with Mackintosh (guitars, vocals) and Erlandsson (drums) is bassist Scoot (Extinction of Mankind) and new guitarist Hamish Glencross (My Dying Bride).

"Splinters" is conceptually the same approach as the group's debut albeit enhanced due to the superior production by Kurt Ballou (Skeletonwitch, Converge). The band felt the most efficacious way of creating a primitive sound was to use Ballou and GodCity Studios. His uncanny ability to delve into harsher realms elevates this sophomore effort and expands upon the band's dreary delivery. While it is a remarkable piece of art, the album is angular and finds many different avenues along its course.

From the opening chords of "Scabs" you can immediately hear Mackintosh's signature guitar sound. Those opening riffs harvest the same bleak authority that Paradise Lost possessed in the early 90s ("Gothic", "Shades of God"). Like "Scabs" the album is stocked with faster starts and stops that descend into sweeping doom passages. The seven minute "Bereft" is built on mournful melodies that build to a crescendo at the four minute mark. Other cuts like "Instinct Slaughter" and "Savages Arise" clock in at less than three minutes and recall the early Swedish death movement. The production standards place enough fuzziness on the strings to recall early Dismember and Nihilist complete with Mackintosh's scathing guttural voice.

This extreme genre's finest exhibits can be found in the late 80s to early 90s by titans like Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Napalm Death. It is in that company that I feel this English band belongs. Vallenfyre have created one of the year's best albums. "Splinters" is an uncompromising display of aggressive music with enough hook-laden grooves and soulful melodies to make it dynamic and purposeful.

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