WARFATHER made themselves known in the death metal underground with a debut record in 2014 as the new band from ex-MORBID ANGEL frontman Steve Tucker, who lent his destructive vocal chords to a trio of mostly killer MORBID ANGEL records in the late 90s and early 2000s before the return of David Vincent. Ultimately, the presence of Tucker was the only noteworthy thing about Orchestrating the Apocalypse, an album of serviceable but entirely unremarkable death metal marred by a lack of interesting ideas and production thinner than skimmed milk. WARFATHER seemed to be written off as just that, an average band who would never have gotten publicity if it wasn’t for one member’s previous fame and credentials.
The circumstances surrounding this follow-up however entitled The Grey Eminence are unexpectedly very different. Following a confusing series of events last year when not even David Vincent seemed to know what band he was in, Steve Tucker is once again at centre stage for MORBID ANGEL. This brings both plusses and minuses for the relevancy of WARFATHER, the question arising of why exactly WARFATHER even exists as Tucker now has a far greater vehicle to scratch his OSDM itch. Equally however the quality of these records is of greater interest now that an army of MORBID ANGEL fans left disgruntled and even outraged after the widely-perceived disaster that was that band’s final album with Vincent at the helm may turn to Tucker as the man to help bring that classic band back to former glory.
It’s encouraging then that the very first riff greeting your ears on The Grey Eminence is instantly more savage and gratifying than anything on the debut. The Grey Eminence is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor, making massive progress on quashing all of the issues that plagued Orchestrating the Apocalypse. Opener Orders of the Horde is indeed scorching, the kind of song that when used to open live sets is bound to instantly snap heads into gear as Tucker presides over crushing turns of pace. Throughout the songwriting is tighter and catchier. There’s still room for some editing, many of these songs breaching five and six minutes when they could easily have said the same thing in three, but speeding behemoths like For Glory and Infamy and the gut-churning slower grooves of Judgement, The Hammer are both capably pummelling, helped by the fact that the production mercifully actually has weight and depth this time and allows these songs to shine.
Of course MORBID ANGEL is a comparison point, but WARFATHER do not come across as mere clones. Tucker lacks the instantaneous recognisability of some of his peers like Martin van Drunen or George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher but undoubtedly has brutal charm, a man entirely in charge of his abilities at this stage in his career if lacking a few more killer vocal hooks to inject these songs with more replay value. The Grey Eminence is indeed a pleasant surprise though, an album that fans of those late 90s MORBID ANGEL releases will find plenty to like about and a promising hint that when Tucker is once again backed by the creative might of Trey Azagthoth, he’s going to do a damn fine job.
Grey Eminence is out now via Greyhaze Records.
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