Vallenfyre - SplintersThe word ‘supergroup’ is an often misleading term, as it rarely fits the output that much feted members of other bands produce for these side projects. Luckily, Vallenfyre are different, very different indeed. Born out of tragedy and loss, the group of assembled icons from punk and metal (Gregor Mackintosh of Paradise Lost, Hamish Glencross of My Dying Bride, Scoot from Doom and Adrian Erlandsson from Paradise Lost/At The Gates/The Haunted plus many more) produced one of the 2011’s best releases with “The Fragile King”. Now, once again, they have taken time out from their usual bands to return with a second helping – could it possibly live up to such a landmark debut?

The album opens with ‘Scabs’. This was the lead track that had been posted online in the lead-up to the release and it leaves you in no uncertain terms that this release will be every bit as bleak and as brutal as the previous effort. An intro that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Paradise Lost album soon gives way to some full on distorted crust punk, a combination that was evident on their last album.

Within the first three songs this beast of an album lurches from scene to scene covering most forms of music that could be termed as extreme. After ‘Scabs’ comes ‘Bereft’, which may well be the heaviest thing I have heard all year; a monstrous seven-minute doom-laden epic swamped in distortion (the whole album is but this track uses it to its maximum effect). After this slow, measured assault comes the ninety-second grind of ‘Instinct Slaughter’, giving way to the mid-tempo ‘Odious Bliss’. This collection of musicians can really turn their hand to anything noisy, and as their day jobs are some of the finest acts of their ilk, that really doesn’t come as a surprise.

‘Aghast’ and closing track ‘Splinters’ are other highlights (although if I am honest, their isn’t one bad song on here), the latter being accompanied by a disturbing black-and-white video that perfectly fits the mood of this fine album. The production from Converge frontman Kurt Ballou – whose name on anything is almost a certainty of a quality product these days – has managed to blur the lines between punk, death metal, doom and grind into one vicious, relentless package.

All in all, one of the best albums you will hear this year (and beyond). Vallenfyre have already released one of the finest debut albums of recent times and, on this sophomore effort, may have surpassed it. They have set impossibly high standards for the any future albums, but this fills you with confidence that they might just go and better this one next time round. All we need now is a headline tour; having witnessed them live, it would be great to see them with a full set, especially with two amazing albums worth of material to choose from.

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