Brexit, Jerry Cantrell, and the Tower of London: A Track-by-Track Look at Allfather’s Fiery New Album
Heavy fucking metal and hard-hitting political lyrics collide on Allfather’s latest LP.
Heavy fucking metal and hard-hitting political lyrics collide on Allfather’s latest LP.
With today’s digitalised music industry, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer velocity of music available. At times, it may feel like we’re blessed with an endless list of both forward-thinking artists taking metal into exciting new spaces and classic metallers flying the flag for a more straightforward but often still very much effective approach. So, when an artist comes along who can do both, it’s actually rather refreshing. Kent’s Allfather have been sludging their way along for several years now, but their upcoming full-length, And All Will Be Desolation, is undoubtedly their best and most vital work to date.
With a sound that reflects their politics by learning from the past – the band openly praise the influence of Cantrell, Cavalera, Hanneman and Pike – but approaching metal with a forward-thinking ideology, Allfather’s fiendishly adept melding of extreme metal subgenres makes for a fist of righteous fury aimed directly at the UK’s long-list of injustices. The influences of the aforementioned Riff Gods are indeed present here, from the thrashy speeds of opener ‘Black Triangle’ to the sludgy lamentations of closer ‘Lampedusa’, but there’s also a willingness to progress. Where 2016’s Bless The Earth With Fire was a potent blend of metallic hardcore and sludge, And All Will Be Desolation dials up the death metal intensity, the punky adrenaline and the politically-engaged passion to deliver something entirely more volatile.
Anxious to uncover the themes beneath the riffs, we spoke to the band to get a track-by-track guide to the new album. From Brexit, Trump’s border policies and the hypocrisy of UK immigration policy to the Tower of London ravens and honouring your heroes, this is And All Will Be Desolation.
Al (lead guitar): This was actually the first demo I ever started working on after I joined the band. Andrew [bass] sent it over and I started working on it in autumn 2015. Somehow it got pushed aside and ended up being the last full song we wrote together for the album. It freakishly turned out to be the Allfathershowcase; it’s got so many aspects of metal thrown into one song.
Somehow I managed to pull off melding my love of surf guitar into a thrash, doom, prog song. I say prog because if you listen to that last section, chucking a 4/4 beat over a 6/8 time signature isn’t a straightforward metal move. It was a track I was super excited to make so I’m glad it turned out the way it did! The middle doomier section never ceases to amaze me with how heavy it is.
Tom (vocals): Generally, either Andrew [bass] or I write our lyrics. Usually one of us draft the majority of them and then we edit together. It’s then my job to sort out phrasing, melody etc. Andrew wrote the majority of lyrics to this one with me adding on the lyrics on the very last section (with a slight nod to the title of our previous album). The song is partly inspired by the Nazi T4 program, where disabled people were removed from their families and killed, and what happens when we collectively fail to oppose fascism.
It felt pretty damn relevant over a year ago when they were written, but seems to have become more so since the week in which the track streamed for the first time, news was breaking of the children being separated from their parents at the US/Mexico border. In the UK we continue to see stories of people being held without charge in Yarlswood. Only this week [at the time of the interview], details were emerging of the Tories’ “hostile environment” approach to non-UK residents and how hidden border-type checks are being carried out in hospitals, schools and other public services.
Al: Ah, this monster. I go through stages of this being my favourite or ‘Triangle’. This is the thrashiest track we’ve written and by far the most fun to play and write. I grew up playing thrash songs so that verse picking part just makes me grin every time we strike up that track. The main song came together over a couple of writing sessions with the solo taking an age during recording sessions at home, and the tribal drums being a studio inspiration. I always had that tribal sound in my head, Kieron (our former drummer) was more than happy to give it a go… I knew the rest of the guys would love it.
This had a working title of ‘High On Seps’ for a reason. Taking inspiration from our favourite bands and making them our own is what we love to do. I wanted to say thank you to Sepultura for giving the world ‘Propaganda’ so I worked really hard to make our nod to that the best it could be, that bass/drum break at the end is one of my favourite ever Allfather recorded moments. That solo is my best Andreas Kisser impression, going over hours and hours of takes at home to make it sit right.
Tom: Lyrically this song is about the state of the UK following the Brexit vote to leave the EU, about how those in power continue to stoke the fear of the public for their own political and financial gain and how we seem more and more obsessed with an old empirical version of Britain that never really existed. The first chorus was inspired by a section from Mark Thomas’s book: As Used On the Famous Nelson Mandela. It’s based on the legend that if the ravens at the Tower of London leave then the Kingdom will fall. In the book an anarchist friend of Mark’s suggests “Release the ravens….the rest will follow.” Although lyrically it’s quite serious, actually singing it is a riot, there’s a couple of mosh-type calls, a big “UURRGGHHH” and some cracking swearing at the end.
Al: Still feels weird calling that song by its official title as we wrote and started playing that track around two years ago under the working title ‘Jeff Magnetic’; I loved it from the second Andrew sent the demo over. It’s a weird one for us that starts with some odd chords and shouldn’t really work as an Allfather track but our naturally heavy take on things forces it to sound like us. Starting off with a solo is always a risky move so that took some perfecting to not sound weird. Yeah, it’s a three-minute ripper that has one of those endings where live, every fucking head in the place is banging. It just builds and builds. Great fun!
Tom: Andrew wrote this one and just told me it needed to sound “well emosh”. It was based on Nick Cave losing his son and how a tragedy that huge can shake your faith in everything. Vocally it’s one of my favourite tracks to do live, there are some proper long screams in it that usually end up being longer than on the record and the end is always a highlight of our live set.
Al: This track took an age to create. Joe [guitar] wasn’t keen on it at all to begin with, he said it was too dark; then we made it darker. It originally had an even slower, almost glacial palm-muted mid-section. In a rehearsal space it sounded great, it reverberated and literally shook the doors and ceiling, however… live. Well, that was a different story. The smiles and approving nods in the rehearsal space turned into “fuck, we’ve got another two minutes of this” the first time we played it live. It was a total atmosphere killer, the crowd didn’t know what to do. We gave it another shot at another show but then knew it needed changing badly!
By this time we’d spent so long working on it that it had one last chance or it was binned forever. A random Andrew moment when the other three went for lunch created the total Sabbath-worship mid-section that we hear today. He and myself stayed behind while the others trundled off for food. What they returned to is the section we hear today; the Iommi-style cheesy solo just naturally crowned the section. Job done. A really cool track and Joe’s immense closing riff is a perfect way for us to finish our shows at the moment.
Tom: This is the song that we as an entire band contributed to pretty much equally. Writing the lyrics to this was fairly straightforward but the phrasing during the opening section took so long for me to work out. I ended up having to write down the times of each riff change and the amount of times it was played and slot the words in around that. It was worth it though as I love the screaming parts in the first section. Lyrically, it is kind of the sequel to ‘Death, And Hell Followed With Him’ from the previous album. It’s about choosing the path of least resistance and succumbing to the temptations of murder and chaos rather than trying to fight it and redeem yourself. I love how heavy the riff is at the end of this, utterly disgusting.
Al: Easy. Andrew sent the demo over. We turned it into a song. Job done. Came together very very quickly. I just tweaked the break in the middle so it was extra Slayer and that’s it. Then what does a Slayer section need? A Slayer solo! Haha! It’s basically a punk song with a metal bit in the middle. The hardest thing about recording this was getting the strings to rise from a totally slammed tremolo cleanly and in time.
Tom: Nice little punk metal song about standing together when the world is crashing down around you. WE SHALL NOT FALL.
Al: If anyone has followed the band they’ll recognise this song as it was recorded in 2016 already. It was always intended to be on our second album, we were just really keen to get something recorded at Jason’s (Frye) new studio and to also not allow 2016 to be a nothing year. We haven’t really done much to it arrangement-wise this time around, just re-recorded it and beefed it up with some slightly different chords and guitar tones. We could’ve been lazy and just slotted in the old session but it would’ve sounded odd so the whole thing is new. It’s way heavier!
Tom: This is about continued war in the Middle East, and how the West’s involvement in it for decades has led to destabilisation and the ongoing refugee crisis and kind of serves as an introduction, thematically, to the final song.
Al: A track that, in part, had been written before I even joined the band in 2015. If anyone’s ever tried writing a “long-song” you know these things take time. How do you start it? How do you move from one section to another? How the fuck do you end it? So, it took a while. This was a project between me and Andrew throwing ideas back and forth over many many months of home-recordings. Eventually, we ended up with where we are today. I’d written the acoustic intro about a year before we laid down the final demo. It was something most of the band hadn’t heard yet but I knew it needed to be there to introduce the whole thing and… THAT bass tone at the beginning. Fucking hell, that bass tone brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. It’s like a feral Pete Steele on steroids. I love it.
‘Lampedusa’ has a nod to my hero Jerry Cantrell in there, there’s Down riffs, there’s a bass solo and Tom’s greatest vocal studio performance so far! It’s got everything and yet, I feel it just flows naturally. No one that’s heard it has said, “fucking hell that was loooong!” Not even my Wife and she’s super impatient! I’m hoping one day we’re gonna play that fucker live, it certainly deserves to spread its wings every once in a while.
Tom: The first part of this song is a few years old, as were the lyrics. In fact, the opening vocal parts are what I’d been using to warm up with before shows pretty much since we started playing, so you might have heard me bellowing them in some venue toilet or around the back of a pub before we go on stage. It’s probably the most melodic thing I’ve ever done vocally and was actually really pleased that it didn’t take too many takes in the studio. A lot of this was down to Andrew’s amazing lyrics and, when singing (kinda singing anyway) them, how emotional and vivid they are.
It starts with a lament to those that have been forced to leave their homes and travel across the Mediterranean Sea and have not made it and how decisions made by European nations to scale down rescue missions have made these journeys even more perilous. ‘Lampedusa’ carries on to look at the hypocrisy of European nations that took Africans from their homes as slaves and stole whole African and Asian territories to add to their empires. We’re quite happy to displace people and disrupt other nations when it benefits us, but we won’t accept migrants making the opposite journey when they look for safety and/or opportunity in Europe. Until the West reckons with that legacy and that double standard we’re all screwed.
And All Will Be Desolation is out 7th September. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr