Employed to Serve – The Warmth of a Dying Sun (Holy Roar Records, 19 May 2017)
The last time I wrote about this ‘post-hardcore/powerviolence’ band from Woking, England (in Surrey County, just outside London), I explained how I had first discovered them when they emailed me about their 2012 EP Long Time Dead. I was absolutely infatuated by that release (and still am!) but for a variety of reasons never quite managed to write anything about it until just last year.
When I heard Holy Roar was releasing a brand-new EtS album (and some of the early press seemed to be hinting at an AOTY contender) I knew I needed to get my hands on it — and also that I wouldn’t let another four years pass before writing about it! So here, I present you with The Warmth of a Dying Sun. Enjoy!
In the years since the band’s first release, they’ve had several singles/splits/EPs/albums come out (some of which you can download for free, some available in physical formats, all of which you can listen to on their Bandcamp page and none of them are likely to disappoint!), and the group’s roster has ballooned from two to five members. With that much time passing, and such a significant line-up shift, there’s always some concern that perhaps a band’s sound might also have been drastically altered. And to be honest, when the first song (“Void Ambition”) kicked off this new record with wall-to-wall aggression, and actually throughout the first few songs with some nearly-slam-dance-worthy breakdowns, and plently of whiplash-inducing rhythmic variations, I could hardly recognize Employed to Serve. At first it felt like they had transitioned into a purely hardcore/grindcore entity. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, of course, but it was the unique blending of other (sometimes polar opposite) styles that attracted me to the group in the first place.
Well, midway through “Platform 89” they start to pepper in some darker, down-tempo bits; and then the first half of (the aptly-named) “Lethargy” is much slower, more melancholy, with some harmonized clean singing and shoegazey guitars — of course, it then explodes into violent outbursts of ferocity, featuring that famous throat-shredding shrieking, and by this time I was completely reassured. On the subject of polar opposites, had I started listening to the record in reverse order, I might have found myself concerned about the band shifting too far to the other extreme: “Apple Tree” interpolates some tastefully slow and doomy moments within a mostly subdued and mellow vibe to close things out. But of course, as I’ve said before, it’s this juxtaposition that really shouldn’t work but totally does.
The one part of the album that best exemplifies everything that’s great about this band would have to be the title track: the ultra-harsh screaming vocals, constant unexpected direction shifts, a fascinating mix of overwhelmingly super-heavy riffs with lighter moments (relatively speaking) of post-metal, almost-blackgaze, or even old-school alternative-rock-inspired tones. Although I will admit, while “The Warmth of a Dying Sun” is a great title for a song and an album, my favorite one here (especially for a band whose name derives from the drudgery of menial life) would have to be “I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away).” #sorelatable.
Get your very own copy of The Warmth of a Dying Sun right here.
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