If I am sufficiently informed, Vallenfyre was founded by Greg Mackintosh, best known as Paradise Lost guitarist, as a vehicle to help him cope with the death of his father. Without detracting from that emotional message, that band was only half-successful in my eyes. Whereas I was still pretty charmed by the first 7″ EP, ‘Desecration’ (2011, Imperium Productions), the full-length albums were downright disappointing. It all sounded a bit too neat to me and actually offered little counterweight in the violence of all the other (Old School) Death Metal bands of the time. After three albums, Greg laid his creation to rest thinking he had got everything out of it. My humble opinion was, with all due respect, that there was already not very much in it to begin with.
Immediately after Vallenfyre’s burial, Greg started a new project, which became Strigoi. This time he teamed up with Chris Casket, who previously played guitar with Extreme Noise Terror for a short time. The first album was released in 2019 by Nuclear Blast Records. For the second album, a new home was found with Season Of Mist Records.
Strigoi, in old Romanian mythology, are tormented ghosts or spirits that can shapeshift into the form of animals and feed themselves on blood from other living creatures. Someone who was particularly mesmerised by this story was Bram Stoker, who partly based his vampiric creation Dracula on it. Keeping this story in the back of my mind while listening to this new album, I can imagine something of those tormented spirits, possibly Greg himself being one of those tormented spirits. In any case, the music is anything but cheerful. In several ways, really.
For a start, the evoked atmosphere is one of all-encompassing discomfort. The grim and gritty guitar sound clearly serves that purpose. But it is also clear (again) that Greg is not a great singer and the days when he wrote one brilliant riff after the other also seem to be long gone. Both in Paradise Lost and later in Vallenfyre, he has repeatedly proven unable to really get anything impressive out of his fingers anymore. A shame, because his early work for Paradise Lost is still of undisputed greatness. Here he brings a wistful mix of gnarly riffs, slow drums and deathly vocals. But the whole thing doesn’t take wings anywhere, sounds very jaded and uninspired as a whole and, to sum it all up, it’s just at no point able to really impress. In fact, this is just downright boring and these 45 minutes are a gruelling ride. In any case, the whole concept of tormented spirits is more interesting than its musical elaboration. Just like the idea of bringing (very) slow Doom, Death Metal and Grindcore together can also make for an exciting musical mix on paper, but for its elaboration, Strigoi gets a wide fail and I don’t see any added value in this band’s existence. Needless to say, I have no problem with Greg giving himself a musical vehicle to express certain emotions or unleash other creative ideas in it. However, the question is whether humanity is really waiting for this.