Not content with being an original member and driving force behind both bona-fide legendary acts Paradise Lost and newer-but-no-less-impressive Vallenfyre, Gregor Mackintosh returns with his post-Vallenfyre outfit, Strigoi. Accompanying him here is the fellow Vallen-fellow, Chris Casket (currently also of Extreme Noise Terror and excellent Black Metallers Eastern Front), and (on record only) Paradise Lost’s Walterri.
Following on from the grimy, d-beat nastiness of Vallenfyre, you’d wonder what Strigoi could offer that they couldn’t. Named after some kind of Romanian gravely spirit, “Abandon All Faith” is a less streamlined and more diverse listen than anything the precursor band had to offer. From full on hoarse-throated deeply dark death metal, through to splashes of grindcore, punk and black metal, Strigoi don’t really care what ingredients they put into the pot, as long as they make you feel uneasy. While the first few tracks on the album may sound like somewhat familiar fare – such as “Phantoms”, with its grinding guitar riff-led death metal attack, by the time tracks like “Throne of Disgrace” come around, with a driving beat that could have been ripped from crust bands of the mid-eighties, and weird, discordant black metal riffs, it’s clear that there’s a whole lot to take in. Likewise, “Carved into Skin” sounds simultaneously like something you’ve heard before, and in some ways more like an inversion of your memories of what a band can be. In this case, it’s a doomed-down track, with almost upside down versions of those haunting melodies that Greg produces for Paradise Lost, and while the tempo of the track matches the Halifax heavyweights, the somewhat more muscular and buzzsaw-sound laden sound makes this a much more oppressive and aggressive listen.
While it is true to say that I am a huge fan of Greg’s work, it really sounds as if “Strigoi” is an outfit where he has been able to showcase a broader range of his influences than either of his other two main bands. On “Parasite”, a lumbering, feedback-powered track, the band somehow manages to produce something that sounds like an unholy mix of Ministry, the driving simplicity of Nailbomb and the catchy riffing of Morbid Tales era Celtic Frost. If that eclectic mix of influences doesn’t have your appetite whetted, chances are that you’re reading the wrong website. Just as you think you’ve got a handle of the track and where it might be headed, it manages to wriggle out of your grasp and slip into Napalm Death territory, before settling down into another chunky rhythm. Such is the way in which this album plays out; full of glimpses of influences, but not being content to settle into mere tribute, but blending them altogether in unexpected and surprising ways.
This is, again, a rather gritty production though, with vocals that could strip wood bare at 200 yards, a bass sound so gnarled it makes a concrete mixer sound like Celine Dion, and the kind of guitar tone that says “AAAAARGH”. Frankly, you’re not going to be listening to this in the expectation of having any kind of easy-listening experience. It’s a dense, and pretty oppressive listen, with loads of dread and teeth-gritted aggression waiting for you. At twelve tracks, it’s just about the right length too, with some absolute minute and a half ragers, through to absolutely swaggering deathly-doom epics weighing in at well over the six and a half minute range.
If you liked Vallenfyre, but thought that they could be, in parts, a bit one dimensional, then this is definitely for you. If you just like your music very heavy indeed – well, again, this is for you. A cracker.
(8.5/10 Chris Davison)