Sometimes, a band will make it easy for you to know what they’re all about. It might be their artwork, an album title, or statements on their merch. The UK’s Allfather do so through the last option, with the reverse print on their Rasputin shirt summing them up pretty perfectly: “Beards. Metal. Fuck you.” Given this, absolutely no one should be surprised that Bless The Earth With Fire is a half hour of riffs upon riffs upon riffs, each one feeling heavier and more powerful than the last. Much like High On Fire, Allfather tap in to that element which sits at the heart of metal – the power of The Riff – resulting in music that is as good as impossible to resist.
Of course, just about any idiot with a basic understanding of power chords and distortion can lay down a few primal riffs that sound fantastic to play, but when put together on record are pretty damn boring. What’s so often missing is a sense of song-writing, and a desire to do more than just write songs for their own sake. Thankfully, Allfather don’t fall in to that trap. Each one of the tracks on Bless The Earth… is an actual song, not a simple collection of riffs held together by the loosest of rhythm sections. There are actual verses, choruses, and song structures that show that work has gone in to these songs, giving them a life and vitality that is undeniable. Additionally, as strong as the riffs are – and they’re almost certainly the first thing you notice about Allfather – there’s also plenty of subtle talent displayed by the rhythm section, and Tom’s largely shouted hardcore-style vocals are a key point to Allfather’s sound and the way songs are structured. He knows when to back off and let the music take the lead, and likewise, there are points when the band ease off considerably – as during parts of “Mouth Of The Beast” – allowing the vocals to come to the fore. It helps create a tension and dynamism that can be lacking in such riff-heavy metal. Too many bands are content to simply bludgeon the listener with riff upon riff upon riff, resulting in a kind of unintentional numbness. That’s not the case with Allfather, who have ensured their songs have plenty of movement and dynamics, keeping them both powerful and interesting. Some skillfully placed (and played!) leads and solos help with this, too.
But god-damn, some of these riffs! They may not be straying too far from the template laid down so many years ago, when bands such as Crowbar and Eyehategod took the classic Black Sabbath sound and twisted it in ways that were even heavier and more aggressive; but by bringing the hardcore-type aggression that always lurked in the background of this style to the fore, Allfather inject their music with real life and anger. It’s a sound as likely to inspire circle-pits as it is raised fists and head-banging. And this is without considering fifth track “Death, And Hell Followed With Him”, an opus over eleven minutes long which doesn’t feel half as long as it actually is.
What I really love about Bless The Earth… though – and I mean really, truly love, in a way that means I’ve been spinning this record a lot since release and probably will do for years and years – is the way the album feels like it makes metal so exciting, so dangerous, so fun. Every ambitious turn, every section and movement, every single riff, seems to have been approached with the question in mind of “is this fun to play and listen to?” It certainly feels as if the band have had a great time writing and recording these songs, putting across a genuine love of metal and heavy music in general. And as for listening to it? Abso-fucking-lutely. If you’re a fan of bands like High On Fire, Crowbar, Mantar, or the heavier end of the hardcore spectrum, then you owe it to yourself to check this album out. Absolutely superb.
Bless The Earth With Fire is available via Bandcamp for streaming, download, and on CD and cassette.