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Vallenfyre

support Implore
author AP date 20/09/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Despite boasting a line-up comprising three notable musicians in Paradise Lost’s Gregor Mackintosh and Waltteri Väyrynen, as well as Hamish Glencross, formerly of My Dying Bride, Vallenfyre has not risen to any kind of prominence over the seven years that they have existed. Only with the release of their third studio album earlier this year in the shape of “Fear Those Who Fear Him” did the band’s take on Swedish-style death metal begin to arouse more interest, and no wonder — the record is their finest effort yet. That album is the reason that we have made our way to Pumpehuset tonight, eager to find out how its suffocating grimness might translate in the live setting, and we are joined in this endeavour by a surprisingly decent-sized crowd of mainly extreme metal connoisseurs.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Implore

In charge of rattling the midweek weariness out of us is the multinational grindcore outfit Implore, who at the time of writing, are on the verge of releasing their sophomore album, “Subjugate”. And despite the limited space afforded to them by Vallenfyre’s backline, the Argentinian-Italian-German quartet manages to make a good case for being dubbed one of the genre’s brightest prospects by Mackintosh; their delivery is so intense at times that one needs to turn away in order breathe and regain one’s composure. The brunt of Implore’s music is brutal even by grindcore’s usual standards, a cacophony of hyper-speed drumming and drop-tuned shredding that threatens to push the four musicians off their hinge. Indeed, it is difficult to fathom how the band is able to maintain the focus needed to deliver such sharp renditions of their material, given how drummer Guido Montanarini seems to be about to fall off his seat most of the time, how wildly guitarist Petro Manel is twitching, stomping and swinging his axe on the right side of the stage, and how vocalist/bassist Gabriel Dubko looks like he might swallow his microphone any second.

Much to my welcome and to the benefit of the show overall, Implore does take measures to temper the onslaught in places by splicing in some tribal drumming, thick grooves and ominous melodies, and even going all-instrumental for a piece resembling the sludgy post-metal of Neurosis halfway. These are vital moments in a set which would otherwise grow monotonous faster than Montanarini can play through a single measure, as when it comes to the crux of Implore’s music (the grind), they do present themselves as a bit of a one-trick pony. But although innovative songwriting may not the band’s forte, the pure ferocity of it all provides sufficient camouflage for their shortfalls and it would be strange if they have not gained a small following in Denmark as a result of their efforts here.

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Vallenfyre

The first thing to notice about Vallenfyre is that in the live setting, the trio is beefed up by two extra musicians: guitarist Sam Kelly-Wallace and bassist Chris Casket, the latter of whom liberates Gregor Mackintosh from the nuisance of carrying an instrument and allows him to dominate the band’s live image. The lighting is dim and the stage blanketed in smoke to such an extent that the remaining musicians appear merely as imposing silhouettes — an aesthetic that complements the grimness of Vallenfyre’s music well. Both “Messiah” and “Degeneration” sound as harsh as they do on record and initially, one fears that the band might end up choking out any chance of enjoying their performance by coming across as too severe. We are in luck though, as Mackintosh is keenly aware of such a risk; in between most of the tracks, he lightens the atmosphere with dryly spoken banter that seems to grow more controversial every time. Whether he’s berating the local curry shop at which he dined earlier, insulting Glencross’ former employer My Dying Bride, musing that ”priests really inspire [him] via [his] tender, underage cock” or introducing the 40-second blast of fury that is “Dead World Breathes” as lasting longer than he did with said priest, one can count on Mackintosh to deliver the laughs needed to make Vallenfyre entertaining, and not just punishing live. With so many extreme metal bands taking their art very seriously, it is quite refreshing to witness Vallenfyre playing it tongue firmly in cheek. Make no mistake: when discharging the likes of “Scabs” and “Nihilist”, both of which rank among the most blistering tracks in the band’s repertoire, there isn’t a hint of humour to be sensed in the performance. When the riffs are churning out, Vallenfyre look as nefarious as they sound, with Mackintosh in particular welcoming the Beast to possess his showmanship. Indeed, were it not for the signature British humour he spews out in the wake of each song, one might find the man to be genuinely terrifying.

Like Implore, this Halifax-born outfit subscribes to a zero bulls**t doctrine, which means that their music is quite austere in terms of the digressions it is allowed to make. One would not prize the Britons for variety, but at the very least the dynamics of the set have been optimised to avoid lapsing into monotony that often. There is a good balance between the groovy, Swedish-style death metal tracks à la “Odious Bliss”, noisy and discordant grinders like “Instinct Slaughter”, searing thrash onslaughts of “Kill All Your Masters”’ nature, and the crushing doom metal heard in the likes of “An Apathetic Grave”, ensuring that at no point during the one hour or so that the concert lasts does one feel the impatient urge to check one’s wristwatch or make unnecessary ventures to the bar. So even though musically, Vallenfyre offers little with a capacity to blow the mind, the band can hold its own in the live setting by virtue of the intensity with which their blasts of extreme metal are delivered.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Born to Decay
  • 02. Messiah
  • 03. Odious Bliss
  • 04. Degeneration
  • 05. Scabs
  • 06. Instinct Slaughter
  • 07. An Apathetic Grave
  • 08. Nihilist
  • 09. Cathedrals of Dread
  • 10. Dead World Breathes
  • 11. Savages Arise
  • 12. The Merciless Tide
  • 13. Kill All Your Masters
  • 14. Desecration
  • 15. Splinters

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