By Dr. Abner Mality

EMPLOYED TO SERVE is a quirky name for a band. Employed to serve whom? Paid in what coin? Is the title an honor or a curse? I couldn’t tell you…

What I can tell you is that if you like modern groove metal, you could do plenty worse than this enigmatic British outfit. OK, the term “groove metal” will have the more underground among you reaching for garlic and holy water and I can understand that, but when done well, this style of metal can be entertaining and headbangable. “Conquering” has its share of modern metal cliches, but guess what? War metal has cliches, doom metal has cliches, tech-death has cliches, etc., etc. Why should those be given a pass and bands like EMPLOYED TO SERVE get walloped?

One thing I appreciated with this album is the sincere attempt to give every track its own feel and vibe. Many modern metal bands suffer from soundalike songs. On “Conquering”, it’s easy to tell these tracks apart. The syrupy, down-tuned thug riffs of “Sun Up to Sun Down” are markedly different from the violent thrash chug of “The Mistake” just as that latter song is nothing like the metalcore-ish “Twist The Blade” with its poppy clean vocals. The record traverses a fair amount of ground, from almost NYHC sounding hardcore to LAMB OF GOD groove to dissonant thrash to chunky nu-metal. Heaviness is maintained throughout and the energy level is very high.

There are moments that make me kind of roll my eyes with typical groove/modern metal stuff, which is gonna happen with a record of this type, but overall EMPLOYED TO SERVE resist the urge to make things super commercial or radio friendly. The female vocalist Justine Jones has a sore throat kind of angry shout that is generally devoid of melody while male vocalist Sammy Urwin veers between pleasant radio rock clean vocals and knuckle-dragging death grunts. Kudos also to Casey the drummer, who attacks the kit ferociously and avoids having an overly digital sound.

Despite its flaws, this is the kind of stuff to get your head banging on a beer soaked Saturday night. I’m guessing this band really kills it live.