On this blistering record, which layers hardcore-infused thrash with a deadweight swing, Woking’s Employed to Serve deliver music well suited to apocalyptic times.
Formed in 2014 and inspired by the likes of Converge, Meshuggah and Rolo Tomassi – alongside a welter of more obscure hardcore and metal – the band was initially conceived by vocalist Justine Jones and guitarist/vocalist Sammy Urwin as a two-piece grindcore project. Quickly expanding to a full band for their 2015 debut LP, Greyer Than You Remember was a ferociously untethered affair, while their last album (2019’s Eternal Forward Motion) carried more overt nu-metal influences and upped the sense of groove. Conquering is, arguably, heavier still: more overtly metal, a bigger production, and powered as ever by the extraordinary vocal ability of Jones, who screams with remarkable pitch control and belting power while often trading lines with Urwin.
Universal Chokehold starts with an imperious trad metal vibe that quickly gives way to shredding and ludicrously propulsive blastbeats, while Exist’s stomping riff evokes late 90s groove metal. We Don’t Need You is a slab of stop-start hardcore metal with a riff that calls to mind Helmet at their most obtuse, while Mark of the Grave hits the only duff note, leaning too heavily toward garish nu-metal histrionics. Most compelling is the animalistic title track – squealing atonal leads buffering against dampened arpeggios.
Indeed, the more extreme end of metal so often stands or falls on the ability of a band to inject the requisite rhythmic and atmospheric dynamism amid the face-melting aggression. Here Employed to Serve prove past masters – Conquering is a gut-churning thrill ride of an album, mercilessly designed for maximal sonic motion sickness.