Throw a stone into any blackened corner of the world and chances are before you hit dirt you’ll hit a hardcore band. Standing out from the crowd of people down-tuning their guitars and barking their rage through riff and breakdown is getting harder and harder, and in a genre where the vocals/lyrics are actually discernable you need to be even more on your game. Mixing doom, sludge, and a healthy dose of good old fashioned heavy metal into their sound, UK’s Allfather have slowly been distinguishing themselves from the rest of the herd, but on new album And All Will Be Desolation they take a gigantic leap forward to deliver a bruising, vital record that firmly leaves their brethren behind.
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone who picked up 2016’s Bless the Earth With Fire. There the band really began to sharpen their bite from the previous EPs and singles to demonstrate a clarity of sound and songwriting that matched the ferocity of their lyrical content and anger at a world gone wrong. Tracks like “Raskolnikov” and the gargantuan “Death, and Hell Followed With Him” showed the band equally adept at concise riff attacks and cavernous stoner doom and, even better, the ability to fit both extremes on an album yet remain cohesive. This attention to dynamics, to cutting bludgeoning riffs with sharp licks and a rhythmic lock with the drums was further solidified with single “Inherit the Dust,” taking cues from the best of High on Fire and Crowbar, to name just some of the influences audible between the blasts of rock. All of which just goes to further cement the fact Allfather was already on a forward path to standing out as a band to be on the lookout for whenever something new was announced.
The surprise is that even with that anticipation and evidence already on display, I wasn’t prepared for how much better And All Will Be Desolation is. Without taking anything away from the band’s previous output, this is on another level. And it doesn’t take long to present its evidence: right from the get-go opening track “Black Triangle” rings with a drama and sharpness surpassing everything that came before. A lone guitar occupies the full spectrum, mournfully churns out a melodic theme. As the final chord rings out the first riff hits you hard left. By the time the bass, drums and vocals kick in with Tom Ballard’s snapping bark spitting “Now they are coming for you!” whatever preconceptions one could have about the band have been obliterated. Everything has a space and crispness to it that makes each song hit like a bullet. The guitars have an icy tone that occupies a huge portion of the mid and high end, leaving the bass to stand out with a fearsome rumble that when isolated leaves you in a cold sweat. The drums are everywhere at once, yet never in danger of losing the groove of each song.
And that’s an ENORMOUS factor when it comes to And All Will Be Desolation: Allfather never forget for a moment the music can’t just sit stagnant, yelling at you from a chained position. The whole album moves; there’s a furious momentum to tracks like “Lord Betrayer” and “Jackal’s Night” and even on massive closer “Lampedusa” with its twists and turns on tempo and tone the band remembers to keep everything propelling forward. Far from being a dirge, there’s a meaty aggression that keeps the song from ever losing steam in its 11+ minute length. “Inherit the Dust” gets a sonic upgrade from its earlier incarnation that reveals even more how on track the band was in honing its sound, and if you’re wondering why there’s not more said about single “Citadels” it’s because the fury and fight is best just experienced, sans any words a reviewer can provide.
And while the music alone would be enough to give a full-throated recommendation to And All Will Be Desolation the urgent perspective brought forth in the lyrics makes the album even more essential. Never content to play with cliche and generalities, Allfather instead turns its attentions to very specific targets, whether its the increasing visibility of the alt-right and racist presence in communities using history like the Nazi T4 program as a launching pad or the current refugee crisis. Ballard’s cries, screams, and wails echo the rage, frustration, and weariness that comes from always standing up, and never giving in to the wells of hate that constantly push against us. Note though that the weariness never signifies despair, but rather a steadfastness to continue pushing back despite the pain.
This perseverance has been a badge of honor for Allfather since their inception, but on And All Will Be Desolation it has never sounded so ferocious, so committed, and so damn heavy.