So, I've been listening to Vallenfyre's album quite a bit lately (finally got around to buying it from a record store about a week ago), and it's steadily been growing on me, moving up from "pretty cool" status to being one of the best recent death metal releases. A side effect of listening to this album has been my renewed interest in the Paradise Lost back catalog, specifically their first two albums. I recall reading that these albums were an influence on the earlier Burzum efforts, which made me think of this sentence from the Sadistic Metal Reviews write up:
The riffs are reasonable, and while sparse in the longer song constructions, the band's habit of treating them as phrases and thus giving them multiple endpoints creates a sombre and contemplative atmosphere.
The development of this whole phrase-based thing (versus the complete focus on riff-stacking of bands like Massacra) was one of the major turning points in metal's development as a genre. The earliest example of this kind of thing that I can think of would probably be something off of one of the early Slayer albums (specifically, songs like "Necrophiliac"). Paradise Lost are probably one of the first, if not the
first metal band to pretty much completely base their songwriting around the idea of "phrases" with "multiple endpoints" in order to engender a "sombre and contemplative atmosphere." They have songs that seem simple on the outside, with a lot less in the way of the riff-to-riff stacking complexity normally associated with "complex" metal, but when you pay attention to how the phrases unfold over the course of the song, it reveals something much more subtle and "mature," if that makes any sense. More like classical music, I guess.
The whole idea of a composition appearing to be rather stripped-down on the outside, but very interesting and contemplative when examined is pretty much a defining trait of the second wave black metal movement, and I can't help but think that Paradise Lost may have had a larger hand in that than they are given credit for. They also were a pretty big influence on the tail end of the Swedish death metal sound, with bands like Gorement being some of the last legitimately interesting work done in that style. Paradise Lost are also notable for being one of the first metal bands to rely heavily on layering of phrases, particularly on the Gothic
album, where various themes developed over the course of a song simultaneously explode forth in their fully flowered forms in a mock-orchestral style at the song's climax (the opening title track is probably the best example of this). Again, this has its roots in early Slayer (think of the intertwining melodies of the mid-section "Necrophiliac"), but Paradise Lost do it all the time
as opposed to just dabbling in it.
Anyway, it's great that Gregor Mackintosh is back writing good music again. The Vallenfyre full-length is dedicated to his recently deceased father, and a lot of the lyrics on the album seem to hint that as well (I think that the titular "king" is
his father). Someone on here (I think it was Conservationist) stated that Burzum's early stuff was Varg's way of dealing with his parents' divorce. Vallenfyre seems to be the outlet for Mackintosh's emotions surrounding his father's death. I'm thinking that traumatic events can help put a lot of things in perspective, and maybe this specific event, along with stresses resulting from the impending onset of middle age pushed Mackintosh away from what had become fairly vapid pop music towards the eternal death metal of his youth. Hopefully, he'll continue to channel this newfound energy into more Vallenfyre releases, but the descriptions of the upcoming Paradise Lost material as being a continuation of their post-Draconian Times
pop music leave me a bit skeptical. At least for now, we have a really good death metal band around to keep the whelps and upstarts in line.
Basically, check out Vallenfyre if you haven't already, and revisit Paradise Lost's early catalog while you're at it.