July 13, 2012
PLAGUE WIDOW Review + Stream
Written by Metaloath
I’m no good with catchy titles, so I’ll just cut straight to the chase: Plaguewidow is the best stuff I’ve heard for a very long time.
Plaguewidow’s self-titled EP released on Buriedinhell Records in February 2012 is available through plaguewidow.bandcamp.com. It offers death metal brutality beyond belief, and represents, in my opinion, one of the most sincere and hell-bent takes on extreme death metal I have heard in a long fucking time. Hal Rotter (Guitar), Danny Hynes (drums), and Marc Dickson (vocals) are, judged by the music they make, probably spawned by Satan, and sent to this earth in the sole purpose to lay all to waste, eardrum by eardrum, venue by venue.
If this band doesn’t make you seriously considering quit your job to worship death metal 24-7, you’re either unemployed or out of your goddamn mind. Or even worse: Not into metal.
The EP contains five songs and some intermezzo/ambience tracks. It’s all over in just over 15 minutes. By then, your pants are soiled and your mind is long ready to pitifully surrender due to constant death metal siege.
The tracks were recorded late 2011 at Mayhemeness Recording Studio, Sacramento, CA, US, and produced by the band themselves together with Robert Swanson who also did mixing and mastering. The result is a shock and awe experience that death metal potentially holds the power to create at its best.
See, the trick with this musical genre is to find something new within the well-established templates and formats of death metal. I mean, in how many ways can you play fast as fuck and growl your lungs to shreds? Are there any gory details of death and molestation left to verbalize?
As I see it, the death metal genre offers enough traps and mistakes to make 97% of the bands that play this music to loose. The music is built up by well-known tricks and templates, and few bands manages to make themselves visible in the sea of mediocre bands that emulate this type of musical expression. D-beats, blastbets, grinding, chugs and wailing chords. Blood-stained imagery and gloomy descriptions of stuff that is fucked up. You know, the usual suspects.
On the other hand: If you listen to Cannibal Corpse with the latest album, they do succeed somehow without any ‘redefinition’ the genre or musical innovation. With a 20 years track record they can just blast like motherfuckers like they always have done. And there are no complaints here: We bang our heads not only to the Torture album, but also to the institution of Cannibal Corpse, and the fact that they do not offer anything substantially different than the previous albums does not matter in this context. It’s all good, and it becomes meaningful by recognition, not only of the songs and sounds, but also easily recognizing the whole aesthetics of the band. Philosophers of mind would label this as experience through recognition, not construction.
So the question is: Could a new and yet-to-be-established band play standard death metal and summon the chilly feeling of almighty power in the listener that true metal does? Without any track record or momentum in itself? Very seldom – but Plaguewidow do seriously slay ass within the fairly standard formula of death metal. And they do that without the track record.
In plain English: I hail this band on a daily basis for reviving a genre that I personally get ever more pessimistic about as depressing crap-ass bands surface every second of every day and night on the junkyard of information also known as the Internet. The DIY culture is a good thing, but the price we pay is that there are no whatsoever boundaries or filters hindering crap to surface. Therefore I’m stoked about Plaguewidow because they stand out and kick the listener in the nutts/vagina with a truly fierce and proficiently skilled take on death metal. It is as simple as that. DIY means that metal freaks must pay attention to good bands. Consider this article as a wake-up call, in that sense.
The ambient intro-track of the Plaguewidow EP conjures the uneasy feeling of being lured into a trap. I feel like one of these dumbass characters in the opening scenes of a horror-movie. You know, where you have this unknowing idiot stumbling into the hands of a violent maniac. It always ends in violent gore, every time.
Then the first song ‘Womb’ comes flying out of nowhere. It kicks off with a couple of pulsing chasms of compact blast beats and swarming raw distortion, and then the gates of Hell and its neighbourhood opens up wide, and churns the last of light out of this world. In between the odd harmonies, peculiar clean guitar chords that hangs in the air. The vocals are busy with malicious growls coiling in the depths and sometimes it peaks to screams of the undead protesting their premature coffin restraint.
The sound on this EP is compact as fuck, yet not in a digitalized and processed way. They have avoided the clicky and flat sound that techie-death metal often ends up with. No bands mentioned, no feelings hurt or new enemies made. I’d say that production here is a #epic_win in terms of its analogue feel and foggy distortion while maintaining definition and clarity. It is a fantastic combination. The spatial feeling of the EP is very constrained, almost as claustrophobic and as roomy as your future coffin to be. It is dense and compact through being tightly and well played, that my best guess. And I like it. A lot.
The songs are short. Womb ends suddenly after one minute and five seconds, before my neck has auto-severed itself due to lightning fast epilectic headbanging. And the next song ‘Mabus Incarnate’ is let loose before you have caught your breath.
The song structures are quite straightforward at the first listen, but the sheer intensity of the drumming and chugs of the instruments makes the songs grow like weed plants in the garden of Satan, they change from each time you listen, and they open up with details and nuances. The guitar work develops from being repetitive and one-dimensional, and it suddenly sounds carefully construed with tones bending and squirming as a limb with fractured bones. The riffs fluctuate between massive chugs, floating chords, and this painful hellish swarm of insects. Classic formats, beautifully put together to riffs and moods.
One of the true treats of this album is the drumming of Danny Hynes. He seem to have thrown away all the crap and ornamentation, and just reduced the task to fucking demolish the world by means of steady blastbeats only interrupted with concentrated, punctuated fills. No multiple polyrythm jerk-off or cymbals lingering like foreign prostitutes hovering on depressing street corners. No funky beats or tongue-in-cheek beat pattern reversals. And it works! Like a motherfucker! It’s the most positive drum-listening experience since I pounded my dog to death dead with a brick at the age of 10. The plain blastbeats is pure genius in the sense that it really brings out the speed and determination of the songs. The mind-boggling phenomenon here is that the songs create complexity through simplification. By reducing the expression of drumstick jerk-off and ornamentation, the songs become richer and should induce an unprecedented musical hard-on. By being focused, the EP becomes more vivid and powerful. I mean, listen to the latest Gojira album, Enfant Sauvage, where the drummer is all over the place with every trick in the book of drumming stuffed into the songs. A real pro, no doubt. But this is the opposite approach, and I hereby nominate Hynes and Plaguewidow to honorary members of society of sobriety in drumming. Keep it plain and simple, its dead efficient. Just ask my dog.
Lyrically, the EP is somewhat pessimistic on behalf of the Universe as such. Most songs spell out with tricky words and high-end phrasing that we’re all fucked beyond recognition, and only crap remains for all life from here to eternity. Fair enough. There are even some ambience tracks with spoken-word stuff in the same spirit as the song lyrics. I’m no poetry kinda person, but there’s evil stuff going on with sentences like “graveyard of the universe” and “yellow evil faces peeking from behind monuments” and “destruction from space” and even worse forecasts. But its allright, you know, they don’t dwell on this, but dive head first into the next blast-fiesta that is self-evident in its brutality, no matter what the fuck you feel about poetry or the universe being fucked over by a cosmic asshole.
It is interesting to hear the song ‘Operating the Segmental Apparatus’ as it for a moment takes a detour from the power grip of blastbeats + guitar mayhem like in the other songs. A couple of chords into the song, Plaguewidow do this scale ascension/decent riff with mid-tempo drumming that reveals what must be inspirational hails to the second wave of Scandinavian black metal practitioners. Even the drummer is tempted to throw in some out-of-blast rhythms. The sound and feeling in changes from being an uncompromising brutal demolition to a jolly good soundtrack for your favourite Saturday night self-muitlation ritual. The vibe brings on this evil and vivid atmosphere, not that different from stuff like Watain (SE), Mayhem (NO), Nettlecarrier (NO) or Enthral (NO). It certainly brings back the sweet memories of the smell of gasoline and church wood burning while sirens wail from afar in the night. Looking at the ‘curated’ mixtape that Plaguewidow put together for Cvlt Nation, it is not unlikely that these guys are familiar with Arctic Satan / Scandinavian metal stuff.
Well, I’m not gonna go on forever about this EP. As you probably have figured out, I like the EP a lot and do not pretend to give objective advice or anything. It’s good, the best stuff I’ve stumbled upon on Bandcamp so far. If you’re into death metal and brutal shit, check this band out and buy a copy to support these guys. From what I understand, they are currently playing shows and developing material for full-length album. Judging by the stuff they have put out so far, its gonna be a motherfucker of an album, certain to threat world peace and the global climate at once.
Hell, I even recommend this band for deaf people, as the artwork is really really good.