Sydney Australia’s The Plague showed great promise with their first offering, 2017’s EP “Mass Genocide,” an uncomplicated and honest batch of HM-2 driven old school Death Metal. Their debut long player “Death Within” is set to be released on the 30th of April – does it reach the next level of deliciousness that will bring the band a wider global audience?
This one is really going to hit the spot for a certain sector of the Death Metal world. It definitely pulls no punches in its incredible immediacy: riffs that feel instinctive and physical, pounding drums and super-old-school vocal stylings. “Mind Eraser” gets the show on the road after some faux-horror soundtrack scene setting and it hits damn hard and damn fast. A couple of cracking riffs, some very blues-rock influenced leads and we’re done. No mess. No fuss. Just straight to the guts Death Metal fun.
Similar rocking leads drive insistently into “Torment of the Living,” and it’s this urgent accessibility that is the number one trait of great swathes of this material. A song and a half down and we know what we’re in for here: there’s no pretence or masking it. When the tremolo picked melodies start it is beyond doubt. These are flavours that have whet the palate of metaldom over a great many years and should get stomachs primed for a serious feast here.
This is a very strong album, and in the recently cluttered field of players in the worldwide Swedeath Leagues this is a must just to compete. There has been a real and deserved resurgence in a style that is of particular personal appeal to Your Grouchy Friend – many bands are coming from a similar space in their homage to old school Swedish death metal, specifically the Stockholm bands of the late eighties and early nineties. In terms of recent albums, one can’t help but draw comparison with LIK’s “Misanthropic Breed” (or indeed their earlier works) as arguably the king of the hill. Where LIK succeed in bringing a very distinct flavour to a pre-existing paradigm, The Plague have delivered a very strong album, but one that perhaps doesn’t achieve such a clear and unique voice. There is every chance you’ll disagree so you are urged to jump in and listen for yourself.
That all said, there are some fine tracks on this album: “Spawn of Monstrosity” barrels along with a very well executed and addictively simple riff – great accents bouncing on the first two beats of each passage with plenty of room to breathe despite the rapid fire guitars. It’s supremely effective and the song is short enough so the ride never ceases to thrill. It is easy to see why this was selected as one of three lead singles – quick and painful fun. “Youuuuurrrr fucked.”
“Effigy of the Rotten” presents a great example of effective spacing two and a half minutes in as it breaks down to a slower pace. It doesn’t take long for the physical up-tempo to return. Classically Swedish sounding passages abound – four to the floor pounding, with richly distorted chords ringing away, trem-picked middle register melodies, and triplet driven arpeggios. These represent the triumvirate-du-jour of this particular genre and they’re all here in great strength on this track. This style is incredibly refreshing and unpretentious and has always felt like the Punk Rock of Death Metal, understandable when one breaks down the influences of its early protagonists – a study that if you’ve not leaned into, you really should.
“Within Death” closes with great form with three tracks that are well worth the journey: “Dismal Solitude,” “Within Death” and “Festering in Sickness.”
The first of the three, “Dismal Solitude” is among the best tracks on the album and right from the first riff it feels a cut above. Great movement and groove over a well suited and impellent double kick, breaking to more of the wide open chordal slowdown that The Plague evidently love to employ. This is brought back satisfyingly with some nice melodic phrases to close the track with some of the tastiest lead spots on the album, ascending and descending with a lovely blues minor feel over thick and ringing HM-2 chords – ichor of the gods to many. The vocal is also phrased with better spacing in some crucial areas of this song, allowing the groove of the track to shine through more than elsewhere on the album – groove that is essential to this style of Death Metal.
The title track “Within Death” revolves around two of the strongest riffs on the album – there’s a brutal familiarity to them that feels like home in the way only fans of this style will truly recognise. The second of these riffs are a precursor to the vocal hammering in with quarter note heavy lines that revel in sheer aggression rather than dynamic or phrasing – a clear passion pervades the delivery. A grinding, stomping half time feel with a tasty, nasty, simple and grooving riff provides a slight reprieve before launching back into the rapid fire main theme. Another serve of hook laden lead work resolves to the intro riff in such a satisfying way to take us out. Such a feeling of satisfaction is the result of a well composed and arranged piece: Value. Straight up value.
Closing proceedings is “Festering in Sickness,” a slow nodding, cinematic, doom laden introduction serves as the main motif: a melodic theme that conjures feelings of a slow march to finality as it returns to conclude the track and fades out to oblivion. Between those thematic bookends is another vital and aggressively executed piece of Death Metal, and it serves as a fitting end to an impressive album.
In all, The Plague have put together a fine debut album that is emblematic of both a resurging sub-genre in Death Metal, and an Australian scene that continues to pump out some top of the food chain fare.
“Within Death” will be released on the 30th of April 2021 through Bitter Loss Records
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