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INTERVIEW: Gregor Mackintosh – Vallenfyre

Although they never intended to be more than just a side project for PARADISE LOST guitarst Gregor MackintoshVALLENFYRE have grown a solid reputation and have evolved into a beast that can stand firmly on it’s own two feet. Over the course of a seven year career, the band has built a solid live reputation and received warm responses for their studio output. 2017 sees the arrival of album number three, Fear Those Who Fear Him (read our review here). Earlier this month we had the pleasure of sitting and chatting with the multifaceted Gregor Mackintosh of VALLENFYRE to discuss Fear Those Who Fear Him, and everything in between.

So this Friday you guys are finally releasing your third full-length album Fear Those Who Fear Him (Century Media 2017), how’re you feeling about that?

Gregor: Well it’s been a long time coming! We finished recording it in January, so it’s been a while. I guess, anticipation a little bit, because I don’t know what everyone’s gonna think of it really. I’ve only seen I think, four or five reviews so far and they’ve all been really positive. We’ve released two songs early and have just released a third today and yeah, it all seems pretty good! Time will tell, I guess.

And of course, with the exception of the somewhat teasingly short The Last of our Kind (2015), we’ve not heard anything from VALLENFYRE since Splinters (2014). How would you compare the two albums? Is there anything you’ve done differently with Fear Those Who Fear Him?

Gregor: Definitely! It’s more stripped down, it’s a live sounding record I suppose. There’s nothing I would change about Splinters’ production – I think it works really well, but when we were touring the states on the Decibel Magazine Tour, we really loved how it sounded live. It sounded more chaotic, more stripped-down and over the top in a sense. So when Kurt Ballou the guitarist for CONVERGE was on the tour with us (who also produced this record) we said to him, “look, we need to do a much more live sounding record.” So yeah, I’d say it’s more simplistic and nastier than Splinters!

Fear Those Who Fear Him is a thought provoking name for an album. Who is ‘him’, is there anyone you’re particularly referencing with it?

Gregor: Initially it was a line in one of the songs. Cursed from the Womb, which is on the record, has a line that says “do not fear Satan, fear those who fear him” so that’s where the idea for it first came from. In the end it’s not about the deity, or the belief system, it’s about the people who follow such things and what they’re capable of. Interestingly though, that was around the time the world started turning to shit, as I was writing these lyrics. So it kind of became more of a blanket term for ignorance, in a way. You know, people fearing their fellow man for no apparent reason. I suppose it has taken a broader perspective.

Speaking of which, songs like Kill all your Masters connote an almost political hatred, whereas Messiah and Soldier of Christ seem quite religiously motivated. What themes would you say the album explores?

Gregor: Much broader subject matter than ever before, for us. When I started VALLENFYRE it was very much about one thing, it was about grief. And then because I ended up continuing the project I didn’t want to stick to my theme of grief because I felt it would have cheapened the initial concept. So as we went on I wanted broader subject matter. I mean, it does dip its toes in grief from time to time but it’s mostly broader subjects like religion, injustice and everything else going on in the world. Because you can’t ignore it, it’s affecting everyone. So yeah, there’s lots of different themes on there. There’s the track that we’ve released today, Nihilist. It very much deals with terrorism, in a way. That was actually done after the Bataclan incident, but now it’s even more relevant due to the Manchester attacks. So yeah, there’s a lot of things dealt with on there. Cursed from the Womb is to do with depression, The Merciless Tide skirts around grief but is mainly to do with the passage of time and how you can’t fight it, Apathetic Grave is about a guy reaching the end of his life and just reflecting on it and the futility of it all. So, I mean, there’s not really any positivity on this record haha! It’s very miserable indeed but at least we release this anger with music and not by blowing ourselves up or anything.

This is true! Despite being so different in lyrical content to Splinters though, this is still very much a VALLENFYRE album. You guys have your signature sound. But would you say your sound has evolved at all since Splinters?

Gregor: I’d say we’ve continued on from Splinters but the sound has evolved. Before Splinters we barely ever played live, then of course after its release we were playing live shows all around the world! I think that’s really changed our sound and honed it. I’d say that’s what you’re hearing on the new record; it’s a culmination of us playing the Splinters record live so much and it really did shape the sound of the band. When we went in the studio to record Fear Those Who Fear Him we basically just tried to capture what we sound like live. If anyone’s seen us live, then when they’ll hear this record they’ll understand how it came about.

I can imagine that translating fabulously into a live performance. Can we expect any VALLENFYRE tours in the near future?

Gregor: Luckily we have a handful of festivals over the summer! It’s normally quite hard to tour in summer because of all the festivals about these days. In September we’re looking at doing a short European tour for about three weeks! So it’s going to start in the UK – I already know there’s a Manchester date and a London date. Then it’s going to go through Holland, Germany, up through Scandinavia, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and back down to the Baltic states. Then in October/November/December I’ll be busy touring with PARADISE LOST. In the new year we’ll look at getting VALLENFYRE to America and maybe some countries we haven’t played before!

One of your more recent larger performances was Bloodstock Festival last year, how was that?

Gregor: It was interesting because I really didn’t relish the thought of playing in the bright sunshine with VALLENFYRE; I didn’t know how our performance would end up going down. And yet, it was kind of great, in a way? I didn’t expect it to be that good, the crowd really helped us along with it! We ended up going all out and played the way we do with the mentality of “if you don’t like it you can fuck off, basically” haha. Fortunately, it worked in our favour!

Ahh, that slow pit was fantastic!

Gregor: Oh, the slow pit haha! None of that was planned, you know! We never plan anything for a gig, it’s always just off the cuff. It just so happens that popped into my head in the moment, I thought “if there’s gonna be a mosh pit, let’s see how slow we can get it!” but people really took to it! The whole thing has really stuck with me. We might end up doing it again, but at the time it was just a special one off. Yeah, the crowd were fantastic that day, I remember one crowd surfing Darth Vader in particular who was awesome!

Last question, where would you like to see VALLENFYRE in the near –and perhaps not so near- future?

Gregor: VALLENFYRE‘s always been the type of band where nothing’s really planned at all. We never expected to release one record, never mind three! So, if you ask me right at this moment, which you are, I don’t see us doing any more recordings after this album, personally. But I see a hell of a lot of shows coming up so. Again, it’s a very spontaneous band so it’s very much a “never say never” situation. At this moment, however, I see this as our last record… but I want to be playing shows for this record for as long as I’m living and breathing haha!

Fear Those Who Fear Him is out now via Century Media Records.

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