Greg Mackintosh from PARADISE LOST was obviously shaken to the core by the loss of his father. Mackintosh dedicated the first album of his brutal side project, VALLENFYRE, "A Fragile King", to his dad. Now Mackintosh conjures up "Splinters", a harsh, depressing and noisome affair designed for bloodletting and the release of continued pent-up grief. Having consulted a bereavement counselor who urged Mackintosh to write out his feelings, the summation of those tortured emotions were carried into VALLENFYRE. Black, death and doom metal modes are pushed to their maximum on "Splinters", and word of warning, to listen to this album is to subject yourself to expressive desolation, no matter how kickass the material may get.
The opening guitar screeches of "Scabs" are guaranteed to puncture ear canals and any intention of Greg Mackintosh's relief pursuit is well-met before the song rages into a clubbing, gory thrasher. "Scabs" is mostly fast, vicious, static-choked and filled with tons of squealing feedback nips that gouge all receptors. The forlorn melody introduced on "Scabs" gets reprised toward the end, and in just one song, the listener has been raped senseless.
The sluggish tone of "Bereft" following more distortion shrieks is dragged kicking and screaming with malevolent fret plunges and a somber fugue guitar line in the background, emitting more of a chamber violin tenor. Greg Mackintosh growls nearly as slow as the miserable sounds around him and his guitar solos secrete painful empathy amidst the buzzing miasma. For certain, Mackintosh takes his prescribed advice and dumps his bitter sentiments into this despondent cut. This is one of the heaviest songs in metal (in more than one connotation) you'll ever hear. The caveat has been issued.
"Instinct Slaughter" zooms right back into speed mode with grinding blasts and forthright thrash patterns. It's all over before you get settled into it as "Odious Bliss" again changes direction on the heels a searing black metal march. Once more, Mackintosh alters his course in the middle of "Odious Bliss" by whipping it into a meaty mosh for a spell and yet again transitioning to a slower grind where he lets his guitar play shrieking havoc overtop the mincing riffs. The song resumes its original sequence to the finish, exhibiting a well-designed songwriting script here.
"Savages Arise" is probably the loudest track on "Splinters" as the instinct to clap hands over ears from the excessive peals can be alleviated by the quick shift into thrash and mosh tempo tradeoffs. Again, "Savages Arise" is finished in a hurry before the black-doom noise bomb "Aghast" takes over. Starting with a twisted crawl, "Aghast" gains steam for a spell as Greg Mackintosh spills searing solo shots overtop the chugging strums.
Mackintosh's emotive solo amidst the mid-tempo drone on "The Wolves of Sin" is one of the most poignant on the album and it's abbreviated, making it even more impactful. Afterwards, "Cattle" is the fastest and most reckless cut of the album, blitzing like hurricane-speed fire out of Hades, this after subjugating the listener to his knees with more boisterous fret squelches.
It's the puncturing feedback pleats on "Splinters" that really do a number on the listener and their purposeful exclamation of the wielder's pain is to deeply involve anyone daring to come to VALLENFYRE. This is a hellish album that will transmit the scars Greg Mackintosh apparently wears himself. The variances of "Splinters" is appreciable since the listener needs something to hold onto through such purported agony. This album as a whole may serve as a cleansing for the principal artist, but the listener in-turn becomes the one who bears his burdens. Those with weak constitution are best to take a far hike.