Released: 2017, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
On first listen, I have to admit I didn't much care for this album. Maybe it was the track order when I put it on shuffle, maybe I just wasn't in the mood. But now, while I still don't love it, after multiple listens I've found a lot more to appreciate on Fear Those Who Fear Him.
I'd heard of Vallenfyre previously as basically a death metal spin-off of some members of Paradise Lost. Death metal this definitely is, but with some hefty doses of death-doom and, perhaps less predictably, punk. This album wears its crush punk influences on its sleeve; most of the songs here are short and pack a lot of punch into their runtime, and plenty would sound right at home on a Discharge or Stormtroopers of Death album, albeit somewhat more extreme. The handful of songs that go beyond the four-minute mark shift gear into more of a death-doom vein similar to Paradise Lost's earliest works or perhaps Asphyx.
The most striking thing about the album, and I think the thing that sold me on it eventually, is the truly dark, rancid atmosphere. Right from the creepy opening of "Born to Decay" it's there: a thick, putrid miasma, a sound that oozes pus and bile like an open wound, a dirty feeling so immersive you can smell the rot and feel the need to shower afterwards (though the incessant headbanging some songs induce might also have something to do with that).
The album as a whole also packs in a good deal of pacing and variety. "Born to Decay" sets up the foul atmosphere; "Messiah" shows off the aggressive chops; "Degeneration" gives something a bit more catchy, kicking right off with an almost industrial kind of beat, then ramping up a bit later; "An Apathetic Grave", one of the three genuinely long songs on the album, moves into straight-up death-doom territory, at times even bringing in a very Paradise Lost-y melody, though still maintains that polluted air; "Nihilist" feels like a particularly extreme hardcore track. The entire experience nicely balances the oppressiveness of doom, brutality of death metal and raw attitude of crust punk, coming out with a very natural, organic mixture. It's all tied together by that over-arching atmosphere, so none of the styles on show ever feel out of place.
At first glance Fear Those Who Fear Him can seem like another dime-a-dozen punky death metal album, but there's more there. It has a greater attention to detail and songcraft than you'd get from less experienced band members. What they're doing is certainly forceful and straightforward, but these guys know that even simple intent can be skilfully put together. It's a good sign that the different kinds and lengths of songs continue to work well, they can pull off short explosions of violence just as well as longer, sustained trawls through the mire. Whether 1 minute or 6, the songs never feel overly stretched or cut down. I have to give it props for being such a well-crafted experience, even if you do really need to be in the right mood for something so unrelentingly grim.