Even in a year when new releases are expected from the likes of Deftones, Mastodon and Rammstein, as well as new music from TOOL for the first time in 13 years, it’s looking increasingly unlikely any returning metal stalwart will rival either the ferocity or the ingenuity of a relatively young five-piece from Woking.
The evidence for this claim is Employed To Serve’s new record, their third (and the follow up to 2017’s much admired ‘The Warmth Of A Dying Sun’). Once again, it recalls the obvious influences of Converge, The Chariot and the Dillinger Escape Plan, but the sense of desperation conveyed throughout the record’s 11 songs is perfectly aligned with the era in which the album arrives. This is music made by the products of a jaded generation, pitched at an audience with fears and worries indistinguishable from the people making it. It’s a record about body dysmorphia, the churn of social media, the swelled death registry of young men gone too soon. It’s a record about the world ending, or at least feeling like it is, as so many of the great metal records are.
The band are led by Justine Jones, who via her day job at Holy Raw Records – consistently one of the UK’s best heavy music labels for well over a decade now – has been at the fulcrum of great bands before, Gallows and Rolo Tomassi to name but two. And, a bit like the aforementioned groups, her band taps into a sense of historical relevance. It helps that she has the vocal range of a haemorrhaging velociraptor, sure, but this wouldn’t matter if the songs her vocals sit atop weren’t impeccably crafted slabs of post-hardcore infused brutality.
The songs ‘Harsh Tooth’, ‘Dull Ache Behind My Eyes’ and ‘Reality Filter’ are arguably the record’s finest, but it’s difficult to separate individual entities from a record that’s best consumed in its entirety. It’s a canvas of bile and misery. And it works better swallowed whole. There’s groove here. There are innovative experiments in atonality. And there’s a record that says as much about the lives of young people in 2019 as any we’ve heard released so far this year.
Sure, we’re excited about a new TOOL album and all. But however good it is, we’re not sure it’ll fulfil the same criteria.