ALBUM REVIEW: Employed To Serve – Conquering
Photo Credit: Andy Ford
The question we have to ask ourselves here, and forgive the puns for there will be many, is have Woking’s Employed To Serve served up another album of technically impressive, frequently anthemic songwriting and continued their incredibly impressive streak of records to date? Lots of bands can write one or two beloved records in a row, but four is an ask of any band. Does Conquering continue the band’s consistent campaign of musical conquest of the current metal scene, and if so, in what style? With multiple new members on board the good ship ETS since 2019’s Eternal Forward Motion, how do they fit in around the creative nucleus of Justine Jones and Sammy Urwin?
Universal Chokehold, not only an excellent name for a song but an excellent name for a global MMA brand, puts the listener into their own chokehold of hard, focused riffing, and Jones’ gripping shouts. Its intro, employing subtle use of a cello (an instrument this reviewer never gets tired of being employed to serve the song by bands. Pun intended). Urwin and his ridiculous lead breaks make their entrance here, and trust us when we say they are glorious every single time they appear throughout the record. It’s absolutely furious, and when Jones crashes the riff party with the energy of a rent-deprived landlord, its absolutely thrilling. Despite openly stating this album is a more metal-influenced affair, they don’t walk away entirely from hardcore. Following that, Exist, with its highly relatable lyrics about how hard just living can be but absolutely not giving in, will hopefully empower fans to carry on through hard times. Jones and Urwin’s trading off vocal dynamic smashes through the speakers at you. The guitar solo is exquisite, as is the turn of pace that proceeds it, recalling the likes of Machine Head and Trivium.
The twisting and twirling Twist The Blade is a big highlight. Its hyper technical, yet very memorable, riff spins you out like the banana peel in Mario Kart, before giving way to a chunky mid-paced verse. The vocal trade off towards the ending is the sound of a stupendously confident band. Whilst the mostly mid-paced Sun Up To Sun Down crushes you under its big riff boot in the most delightful way and The Mistake is anything but, thrashing better than most thrash bands and even throwing in excellent and tasteful death metal and some hard as nails chug. The lyrics are in the Hatebreed territory of conquering inner demons and self-empowerment throughout, so if you are looking for an album to help you get that charge to conquer your demons, be that in the literal sense or the demon that is the weekly Tesco visit, stick around.
Swinging along like a boulder suspended on a bungee chord, We Don’t Need You is the best song Lamb Of God never wrote. They should be kicking themselves for not writing this beast. There’s a bit during the song that is eerily similar to the bit at the end of Blacken The Cursed Sun that is a most excellent homage. Somewhere in Virginia, five gentleman in a popular metal band smile proudly at their influence.
The hits just do not stop coming, as the record then enters its strongest overall section with Mark Of The Grave. It deserves not only to be in the live set from now to the end of the band’s career, but also the biggest and most popular song they have. Bouncier than any commercially available trampoline and with a glorious guitar break that should put a big smile all over your face, followed by a pummelling bridge, World Ender lives up to its name. Metallica and Gojira would be proud to have written the absolute stompathon that this song is. Urwin and David Porter pile on the riffs and are augmented by Casey McHale’s simple but highly efficient and powerful beating of the drumkit, to create a song that will soundtrack many angry walks to and from that job you hate. Their upcoming tour with Gojira makes so much sense.
The title track has a break that recalls the likes of Trivium and Lamb Of God and then we have the magnificent Stand Alone to finish this delicious, metallic musical salad. It closes with a stupendously heavy riff, up there with the band’s very best slow crushers – like the main riff of I Spend My Days from The Warmth Of A Dying Sun. That riff will cause the movement of tectonic plates in the live environment should they choose to pop it in the setlist, and the whole band comes together so well on it.
Conquering was produced for the second time in a row by British producer Lewis Johns, who does an absolutely excellent job once again, coaxing killer performances and helping the band get killer tones throughout. Johns has been quietly shaping killer records in the last few years, and his name on a record is an almost guaranteed seal of quality these days.
Jones and Urwin trade vocals off each other excellently throughout, a trend taken further from its appearances on the last record. The new line-up more than earns their place in the band, with thumping and convincing performances from the moment you press play. If this line-up stays together, we can only hope the sky’s the limit and that the band remains employed to serve us more riffs than we know what to do with. If you’ve been on the Employed To Serve train (other modes of transport are equally valid) since debut album Greyer Than You Remember and even the debut EP before that, the journey from mathy, lyrically introspective upstarts to the fire-breathing, self-empowering metal titans we see today is quite special indeed. British metal has lot of wonderful bands who are not dinosaurs, bands who are hungry to succeed and create excellent music. At this time, Employed To Serve might just be conquering them all.
Standout Tracks: Mark Of The Grave, The Mistake, Stand Alone, We Don’t Need You
For Fans Of: Lamb Of God, Machine Head, Trivium, Hatebreed
Written by: Louis Tsangarides