The Grey Eminence
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
To say that Warfather’s 2014 debut, Orchestrating the Apocalypse, was a disappointment would be quite the understatement. With the exception of his vocal duties with Nader Sadek, it had been quite some time since (then) ex-Morbid Angel vocalist Steve Tucker had fronted a band, so naturally there was quite a bit of anticipation around his new project, but the debut’s uneven material and pretty awful production dashed expectations in short order.
Despite its inability to land much in the way of punches, though, there were hints of the highs the band could reach on Orchestrating the Apocalypse and I'm happy to say that with The Grey Eminence (which you would have to assume is a reference to Father Joseph from the late 15th, early16th century, or perhaps Huxley's book about him which bears the same name), Tucker and co. have delivered an album that more than lives up to the expectations many of us had back in 2014.
The Grey Eminence sees Warfather continuing to occupy musical territory somewhere roughly between Morbid Angel's Formulas and Gateways albums (albeit without the unique experimental strangeness that the Azagthothian contributions brought to those releases) and early non-Morbid Angel Floridian death metal, and while I’d guess that Tucker would rather this venture exist outside of the lengthy Morbid Angel shadow, I think it actually stands as the mote in its eye when held up against the last couple of Morbid Angel releases. There’s a certain schadenfreude to be enjoyed here if that’s your thing, but that is far from the best reason to glean enjoyment from it.
Where Orchestrating the Apocalypse was let down by patchy song-writing and an even patchier production, The Grey Eminence stands in contrast with a much stronger collection of songs and a production, courtesy of Erik Rutan (another ex-Morbid Angel member), that is orders of magnitude more impactful. There’s a satisfying depth and midrange presence to the way this album sounds that works wonderfully with the band's frequent utilisation of chugging, palm muted riffing, which is further assisted by the somewhat understated but no less strong performance of newly recruited drummer Bryan Bevar.
As stated, there's a very Floridian death metal influence at work on The Grey Eminence and despite the massive upswing in overall song-writing quality, Warfather isn’t a band that’s trying to reinvent the wheel. What they are doing, however, is playing the kind of dependable death metal that does exactly what's promised on the label.
That the band is content to occupy a comfortable and well patronised musical space necessarily dictates that their ability to stand out lives and dies on the quality of their compositions, and for the most part they've more than claimed a rightful place within said musical space. Sure, not all of the album's nine songs hit with the same amount of force (the album's midsection loses a bit of momentum for me, for example), but there are some truly excellent bangers on here including “Orders of the Horde”, “Headless Men Can No Longer Speak”, and “Carnage of the Pious” whose presence alone are more than worth the price of admission.
The Grey Eminence is the kind of album that serves as a reminder that not everything out there needs to break down genre barriers or challenge preconceptions about what things can sound like. Sometimes the most enjoyable experiences can come from an album that doesn't ask anything more of you than to sit back and enjoy the ride, and this right here is a ride you're going to want to undertake.
More from Warfather
- Orchestrating the Apocalypse [review]