A Fragile King

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Vallenfyre were literally born of death, when Paradise Lost guitarist Gregor Mackintosh lost his father to cancer and found himself coping with the grieving process by writing songs utilizing the formative death, doom, and crust metal building blocks that inspired him as a youth -- and which his father always supported. Mackintosh's next move was asking old friends like My Dying Bride's Hamish Glencross, Paradise Lost's own Adrian Erlandsson, Extinction of Mankind's Scoot, and some cat named "Mully" to help out with the recording of these tracks, and thus 2011's A Fragile King album emerged. Given the aforementioned influences, it should go without saying that very little here resembles the Paradise Lost of recent years; in fact, one would have to go back to said band's first album and preceding demos to encounter anything like these grime-encrusted riffs and high-speed double kick drums, never mind Mackintosh's viciously guttural growl. These ingredients are combined with devastatingly brutal, intentionally low-rent results for the likes of "Ravenous Whore," "Humanity Wept," and "As the World Collapses," but the dark clouds part ever so slightly during melodious solos sprinkled throughout (and particularly across tracks like "Desecration," "Seeds," "The Divine Have Fled," etc.). Still, this is hardly the domain of sonic sophistication or educated wordplay, and one has to sift through the muddy riffs and distorted melodies (as if heard through a cracked and filthy windowpane) of deliberately paced cuts like "A Thousand Martyrs," "My Black Siberia," and "The Grim Irony" to find clues of Mackintosh and friends' more famous bands. However, the bottom line is that A Fragile King fulfills its stated goals -- both as a personal therapeutic exercise for Mackintosh and entertaining throwback to more innocent times.

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