This is the only word that can truly, accurately sum up the sheer Heavy Metal killing power of 'Splinters', the second album from UK crust-death behemoths Vallenfyre.
From the quickfire anger of opening track 'Scabs' through the calamitous, gloom-laden (and so suitably titled) 'Bereft' to the closing title track, Gregor Mackintosh and his company of downcast souls will squeeze the living breath from your lungs with sheer, unrelenting, adamantine volume and brutality.
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Whilst 'Scabs' comes rushing from the traps like a crusty greyhound, it's 'Bereft' that first gives an inkling of just how dangerous a band Vallenfyre have become. Sounding almost (but not quite exactly) like something off the first couple of Paradise Lost albums – but infinitesimally heavier, if that's possible - 'Bereft' is the sound of misery and loss in recorded form.
But whereas PL would have carried on in the same vein for the next half hour, Vallenfyre – profiting from the roving 'solo project' air that still hangs around the project, dart immediately back into the fast stuff, with the sub-minute-and-a-half grind madness of 'Instinct Slaughter' wrecking your ears in an insanely heavy bout of instrument abuse;
It's almost as if the band is hell bent on retelling the story of UK extreme Metal song-by-song, but then things take a distinctly celtic turn (can you see where we're going here?) with the rampant death Metal heroism of 'Odious Bliss', a ravening beast of a track that without a word of a lie wouldn't have sounded out of place on Morbid Tales. Fast, furious, filthy - '...Bliss' is all of these things, old school enough to appeal to the purist yet wrapped in a supremely brutal modern production that really does give you the best of both worlds.
'Savages Arise' carries on in much the same vein, although it doesn't have quite the same appeal as 'Odious Bliss', but at two minutes forty in length it doesn't overstay it's welcome before giving way to the more substantial Aghast, which in turn runs seamlessly into the desolate 'The Wolves of Sin'.
Whether uptempo or down, there's no rest from the relentless barrage of riffage (Mackintosh and six string partner Hamish Hamilton Glencross are simply crushing throughout, the unrelenting drum barrage (courtesy of Adrian Erlandsson) or Mackintosh's guttural howling. All three elements fuse together with devastating effect on 'Cattle', before 'Dragged To Gehenna' picks up the pace again for some more morbidly melancholic mayhem.
The slow-slow-quick-quick-slow chug of the axes works particularly well here, and for the first time the subsonic rumble of bassist Scoot really comes into it's own.
Penultimate track 'Thirst For Extinction' is perhaps the weakest track on show – in relative terms, that is… the bugger still crushes – but the title track 'Splinters' closes the show in best crushing, doom-laden early PL/My Dying Bride style. It's a splendid song, full of woe and sorrow, and a fitting end to one of the most supremely heavy, consuming albums you'll hear all year. Titanic stuff.