Written by Ellis Heasley
Employed To Serve – Conquering
Groove metal from Woking, UK
Releases September 17, 2021 via Spinefarm Records
Employed To Serve have gone from strength to strength for the better part of a decade now. First turning heads with the manic metallic hardcore of 2015’s Greyer Than You Remember, the British five-piece have scarcely looked back since. Three records later, their fourth full-length Conquering finds them operating as a full-blown metal juggernaut. It’s quite the evolution from the band they were in 2015, but one that can still be clearly traced through the two equally excellent records which have arrived in between. Crucially, this album puts them at four for four, and adds weight to an ever stronger case that they’re the finest metal band in the UK today.
Picking up where 2019’s Eternal Forward Motion left off, Conquering is surely Employed To Serve’s most accessible record to date. A lot of this is down to the hulking, riff-heavy groove that runs throughout the entire album – something which helps it get stuck in listeners’ heads far quicker than the band’s more frantic early output. Of course, ETS are no strangers to massive riffs (see “I Spend My Days” or “Owed Zero” from their previous two records, for example), but tracks like “Sun Up To Sun Down”, “We Don’t Need You” and “Mark Of The Grave” all show that they’ve seriously kicked things up a notch this time around. Standing taller perhaps than any of these though is the album’s ninth track “World Ender”. A towering highlight which more than lives up to its name, this one even recalls the mighty Gojira in its monstrous groove, which is arguably one of the finest compliments you could pay a band like this at the moment.
Groove isn’t the only tool Employed To Serve use to draw listeners in on Conquering. Anyone who heard the aforementioned “Mark Of The Grave” – released as a second single last month – might have been surprised to hear guitarist and co-founder Sammy Urwin’s clean vocals take centre stage. These appear a few more times throughout the record, including notably on the nu-metal-esque third track “Twist The Blade” where they provide one of the album’s most anthemic sing-alongs. Even without the cleans, there are plenty of hooks to be found here, including in the guttural gang vocal cries of “This is Hell” in lead single “Exist”, and the repeated mantra of “The blood that’s in my veins” on the stand out title track.
If you’re reading all this thinking Employed To Serve have abandoned the savagery which made them so captivating in the first place, then you’ve definitely got the wrong end of the stick. There are still hints of the band’s hardcore roots here, not least in frontwoman Justine Jones’ raging bark, and there’s also a heavy dose of thrash in the mix, proven perhaps most obviously by the blistering back-to-back run of “The Mistake” and “We Don’t Need You”. The latter of these provides one the album’s most violent moments of all, as Urwin’s guttural vocals lead us into a disgustingly crushing final breakdown.
From the soaring leads of opener “Universal Chokehold”, to the world-ending riff that rounds out final track “Stand Alone”, Conquering is an absolutely massive record. As ever, producer Lewis Johns has done a great job of capturing Employed To Serve as the metallic freight train that they are, with the record’s crisp, clear production never obscuring their most vicious edges. It’s an album that maintains the staggering upward trajectory the band have been on ever since their debut, and one that could well start putting them in conversations of some of metal’s all-time greats.