Released on: 2019-11-22
When PARADISE LOST guitarist Greg Mackintosh put to rest his VALLENFYRE side project in 2018, he closed a difficult, but an ultimately cathartic period in his life. Created as a tribute to his father John, who passed away in 2009, VALLENFYRE originally served as a sounding board for Greg’s grief, but then delved into his nihilistic take on the world. VALLENFYRE’s brief existence was intentional — the band always knew they could go no further than the three studio albums that bore their name. A mere few days after VALLENFYRE played its last live show in September 2018, Mackintosh announced the formation of a brand-new band, STRIGOI.
Named after the troubled spirits in Romanian mythology who could rise from the grave and assume an entirely different form, STRIGOI’s lineup is rounded out by former EXTREME NOISE TERROR and VALLENFYRE bass player Chris Casket. (PARADISE LOST drummer Waltteri Väyrynen provided studio drums but will not be a full-time member.) Recorded at his Black Planet studio between January and March 2019, the resultant 12-song »Abandon All Faith« debut finds Mackintosh culling from his love of old-school death metal, grindcore and punk for a visceral, but cinematic offering of extreme metal. Whereas VALLENFYRE was down-and-dirty, crusty and often “in the gutter,” STRIGOI conjures feelings of both dread and hostility, laced with Mackintosh’s trademark lead guitar lines and biting death metal roar.
“With VALLENFYRE, we went down this path where it got more and more crusty,” he says. “I thought we couldn’t take it any further, so I needed to put in some new elements. With STRIGOI, there’s a bit of spookiness, even some subtle elements of industrial and even black metal. The goal was to switch it up a bit. I was perfectly content with what I was doing in VALLENFYRE, but for STRIGOI to stand on its own, I wanted to try new things to separate ourselves from the pack.”
»Abandon All Faith« boasts a wide dichotomy of tracks, from less-than-two-minute d-beat grinders (‘Nocturnal Vermin’, ‘Throne of Disgrace’), disharmonic death metal heaves (‘Phantoms’, ‘Parasite’) to its arguable standout numbers, ‘Carved into the Skin’ and the title track. Both cuts incorporate oppressive melodies, and in the case of the closing title track, minor strokes of orchestration. ‘Carved into the Skin’ was the first song Mackintosh wrote for STRIGOI, providing him with an early signpost of where to take the project.
“Chris and I didn’t have it worked out what we’re going to do when we started STRIGOI,” he says. “Initially, it was going to be a full-on doom project, but as I always get with things, too much of one thing gets to be a little too much. ‘Carved into the Skin’ was exactly what I wanted it to be, but I thought another four or even three songs like that was going to be too much. It weighs on you that heavily. With the melody thing, I was trying to put something melodic in, but make it the opposite of PARADISE LOST. Our melodies in PARADISE LOST are beautifully woven. In STRIGOI, they almost make you feel uneasy.”
Mackintosh says the album’s shorter songs were written with the idea of the complete album listening experience in mind. In turn, they complement ‘Carved into the Skin’ and the title track, all the while giving the listener instant blasts of extremity.
“It’s no-frills stuff,” says Mackintosh. “It’s the idea of ‘Don’t overegg the omelet.’ There was no BS back then when I was getting into crust punk. You were hitting people with a hammer and standing back and watching. I still love a lot of that stuff. I always find albums more interesting if you got songs that are bookended — you have ‘Carved into the Skin’ and the title track, then have these early grindcore, punk kind of songs. I like the contrast. Then you know where your mid-ground is and what you can explore.”
Except for the Mackintosh-penned ‘Carved into the Skin’, Casket assumed primary lyric writing duties for STRIGOI. Mackintosh gave him simple thematic guidelines: Attack organized religion, sparingly discuss grief and dive into the countless horrible things humanity continues to do itself. Casket provided Mackintosh with pages of lyrics, which were then narrowed down and fitted to each song.
“Chris really came through with the lyrics,” says Mackintosh. “If you look at the title track, it’s self-explanatory, but it’s a nice balance between what the lyrics and music are doing. The chorus is almost anthemic, in a way. The song as a whole puts you on edge, but the chorus has a hymn-feel to it which goes against what the lyrics are about but emphasizes it at the same time."
“I like words that have a subtle power to them,” he continues. “I don’t want to use expletives. I want lyrics that show how pissed-off we are, but in a roundabout way.”
STRIGOI is currently assembling a complete band for live assaults next year. Like in VALLENFYRE, Mackintosh will be assuming the role of frontman, providing him with the aggressive and old-school counterpart to PARADISE LOST.
“With VALLENFYRE, it was like ‘Fuck you.’ We didn’t care and we made sure that everyone knew we didn’t care,” he says. “With STRIGOI, the presentation is going to be different. It will probably be more refined and theatrical. It’s what suits the music.”