Gregor Mackintosh, Paradise Lost’s guitarist and primary musical director since 1988, seems to have a deep, visceral need to get down and dirty with some creepy, crusty, old- school death/doom. For most of the last decade, that hunger was fulfilled by the veritable crust-doom/death-grind supergroup Vallenfyre, who delivered three enjoyable albums before grinding to a halt in 2018. Greg didn’t miss a beat. He formed Strigoi that same year. The debut, Abandon All Faith, explored much the same punked-up deathly sludge terrain, but with a wider creative scope, less devotion to old-school rulebooks and a greater focus on atmospheres of queasy unease.
This MO has been confirmed and extended on second album Viscera, whose overall effect is neatly betokened by the monochrome cover photo of pallid ghouls swathed in black robes, quaffing goblets of gore. It’s a savvy visual signifier for the album’s enigmatic blend of arty elegance and sinister repugnance. Sonically, Viscera packs the mightiest wallop of anything Greg has done outside PL. Jaime Gomez Arellano (Ghost, Paradise Lost, Oranssi Pazuzu) brings a boiler-room intensity to the production, subtly layering various feverish edge- of-hearing noises guaranteed to incite confusion and paranoia when heard in the dark through headphones.
Unusually, the songs that perhaps best showcase Strigoi’s greatest strengths are the last two: Redeemer’s two and a half minutes of furiously primitive caveman grind, and monolithic eight-minute closer Iron Lung, self-described by Greg as “a song that feels that you can’t breathe”. It’s an oppressive creepy-crawl back to the fetid contamination area of PL’s Rotting Misery. As attested by the track Napalm Frost, Viscera is not above a bit of arch revelry in much-loved teenage influences, But where Vallenfyre records were predominantly a bit of fun, Strigoi have far darker priorities.