When yet another massive riff, this time during the early stages of track nine ‘World Eater’, hits – you know the sort… the type of riff that makes your face do the same involuntary wince/”oooooo” combo as sucking a lemon straight after brushing your teeth might – the smile can’t help but break out on your face: The Conquering (Spinefarm Records) isn’t just Employed To Serve upping the ante; their fourth album goes deeeep.
As in, all killer no filler deep. As in Mariana Trench deep. As in front to back, (side to side…) high quality deep. As in, the UK metalcore (with more emphasis on the metal than the ‘core this time around) merchants forcing everyone to take notice by delivering their best album to date without a hint of diluting to appease anyone’s taste.
For years, referencing The Black Album in a review was code for a band watering down and $elling out, yet the recently reissued / remastered ‘talli opus serves as a blueprint, not for toning anything down and keeping a grip on the reigns, but for increasing the impact. Indeed, if anything, nothing feels restrained – instead it feels focused. Lean. Dripping in Power. And intent.
From the Alex Bent meets Chris Kontos drum-fill that summons the beast that is opener ‘Universal Chokehold’ onwards, the eyebrow is twitching like The Rock about to dish it out, with the smackdown coming from the thick, venomous chugging riffage that follows, as EtS share the vision – big, hulking guitars, Justine Jones’ acerbic throat maintaining the intensity, while Sammy Urwin adds clean vocals as a counter-balance. It’s a template expanded upon throughout with repeatedly devastating effect.
Whereas on previous albums, the main influences for EtS may have been those slightly off the radar and below the surface of the majority, those slightly more abrasive, this time around their embracing of a more straightforward approach bears fruit – the title track could have had it’s verse riff written by Dimebag Darrell and has a chorus crying out for a Robb Flynn guest (and a middle-eight that I’m not entirely sure wasn’t written by Matt Heafy) adding weight to conviction. Indeed, Trivium, and while we think of it, Slipknot are called to mind during the course of the album’s eleven hits, particularly on the powerful single ‘Mark of the Grave’, while Killswitch and Sepultura are likewise never far from the thoughts when looking for comparators.
‘Sun Up To Sun Down’ adds a cool glitchy elastic hook to proceedings, a looping, slow success that reminds of Korn jamming with Godflesh, while Urwin flits between showing off his love of Death Metal and letting loose with a barrage of palm-muted head-banging rage on ‘The Mistake’, a track held together by a taut thrashing riff. ‘Set In Stone’ doesn’t just not take prisoners but severs limbs in a flailing pit-monster-to-be display of violence, speed and stomp, while ‘Stand Alone’ trades riffs with Overkill before giving way to a pumelling beatdown to end proceedings.
No longer too hardcore for the metal kids, or too metal for the hardcore kids, The Conquering hits that sweet spot that Brainwashed (Search & Destroy), There Is A Hell… (Visible Noise) and Ire (Epitaph) once found…, and that helped catapult their protagonists to the forefront and across the bridge to the promised land, though perhaps with a bit more vitriol in its spit, appealing to both sets of fans. WIth a new rhythm section and second guitarist seamlessly onboarded, The Conquering sees EtS primed, ready, willing and most definitely able to strike.
It is incredibly hard to create Metal this Hard that has hooks that aren’t off-puttingly sweet; that is focused and intense without being impenetrable, that aims to sit in a central space without chasing the dollar, and that retains, indeed oozes, credibility and integrity.
Sometimes bands know when it is their time. Employed To Serve haven’t just stood up to be counted, they’ve set out to conquer. And they have the album to do just that.
Buy the album here: https://linktr.ee/employedtoserve
9 / 10