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I’m going to be blunt with you right now, straight out; Plaguewielder sucks ass. Well, at least the majority of this album does. It seriously sounds like nothing more than half assed Satyricon without the folk and medieval influences in the music or even like Dimmu Borgir without the keyboards. This is the shit that modern, new wave “black metal” bands are made of. Before I even gave a listen to this album, I heard many complaints about it, even from the most die-hard Darkthrone fans. I heard that “it isn’t raw” or “it doesn’t sound like the traditional, old-school black metal that Darkthrone usually play”. My first thoughts were “Wow, I have to check this out. Can Darkthrone really sound that bad without their usual raw production? People need to quit whining just because a band experiments a little”.
Well okay, so there is a far more decent, yet horribly average production job on this album, but that isn’t the real issue here, at least not for me. The REAL problem is the song-writing that’s used for this record, for where there are areas of decency on the album, the majority of the song writing just lacks. The production itself isn’t exactly slick and clear, but when compared to what Darkthrone has released before, there is indeed an overall “clearer” sound to the album. The song structures themselves are far less minimal and even a bit more complexed at times. The riffs can all be deciphered, yet, there are moments on the album where Darkthrone attempts to be their traditional selves again. It’s like they couldn’t decide what the fuck they wanted to release. Were they going for another Total Death/Ravishing Grimness type record or for another Soulside Journey sounding release? Seriously, if they’re going to make an attempt at technicality and clear production, then they should just use the best of their skills by going full-out with their ideas and releasing another Soulside Journey album or at least some kind of technical, Death Metal release, because the shit on this album sounds like nothing more than average, sub-par modern “black metal” without the usual faggoth elements that bands like Dimmu and Cradle of Filth add to their music.
There are only two or three decent tracks on this album, yet even by Darkthrone standards, those songs are merely nothing short of decent Black Metal with serious potential that lacks in all aspects of the music. I won’t bother wasting my time on elaborate descriptions of the songs. This time around, they’re going to be a bit more brief and to the point, because while this album isn’t horrible, it isn’t good either, meaning that I pretty much pointed out all of the bad aspects of the music already. In other words, I can’t complain much more about it nor can I praise it. It’s just a boring, sub-par album from a great band; plain and simple.
1. Weakling Avenger - For such a cool song title, this song ranks as being one of the worst on the album. It begins with some eerie, raspy croaks, sounding as if someone or something was dying in the studio during the time this song was being recorded. The song itself is nothing but a half-assed rehash of Darkthrone’s older material played at a mid-paced, very similar to Ravishing Grimness, yet overall more mediocre in sound. It seems like Nocturno Culto is attempting to make interesting riffs that vary, yet fails. Fenriz attempts his usual rapid blast beats done with a slicker production job, meaning that the outcome is going to be really shitty and mediocre. Why is this? Because his drumming used to be one of the important elements in Darkthrone’s raw, minimal sound. Mixing it in perfectly with the rest of the instruments was really a bad idea.
2. Raining Murder - Aside from the few rather interesting, yet slightly mediocre riffs during the middle of this track, the remainder of it is even shittier than the opening song. Same fucking problems, same damn structural technnique in the both the riffs and the drum work. By now, the album already almost bored to death.
3. Sin Origin - Here’s one of the two or three decent songs on this album. Of all the tracks on here, this one is the most “old-school” sounding, coming off as another thrashy/punk-ish Black Metal tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on Ravishing Grimness. With that being said, even if it were to be placed on that album instead, it would still be a filler track because it sounds so damn average and mediocre. But on here…it’s one of the album’s best tracks.
4. Command - I honestly don’t know what to think of this song. Part of it thrashes pretty fucking well, while in other segments, I feel like I’m going to die of boredom from listening to something so uninspired. It’s like…half kick ass Black Metal in the old Darkthrone vein and half shit that consists of rapid blast beats and shitty, sub-par riffs that so many nowadays “black metal” bands use. Hey, I guess this song could be worse, but I can still care less for it.
5. I, Voidhanger - This really has to be the best song on the album. While it contains its crappy parts as well, there enough classic Darkthrone elements to be found here. In think that this beats most shit on Ravishing Grimness, by the way. Now why the fuck couldn’t the rest of the album be like this? This is more of a reminisce of Panzerfaust without the Celtic Frost-esque riffing. In other words, the guitar strings aren’t played as openly here as on most other Darkthrone material. Instead, they have a certain thickness and heaviness to them that goes really well with the production of this album. Sadly, that means that this record had much potential, as I stated earlier above. The band just chose not to use that potential.
6. Wreak - The last track on the album is WAY too damn long for its own good. It’s the second longest Darkthrone song ever composed next to Kathaarian Life Code off A Blaze In The Northern Sky. At least Kathaarian Life Code is nothing short of amazing. This song, however, is not. It’s nothing bad, but it just isn’t Darkthrone quality material. I’d probably rank this as one of the better tracks off the album if it wasn’t so damn long! It just isn’t that good to span over 9 minutes without me growing tired of it towards the end. Musically, this is everything that one would expect from Darkthrone. It’s one of the rawest tracks on here next to Sin Origin, but needless to say, it still isn’t that great. Sure, it has the traditional Darkthrone rawness, thrashing, coldness, aggression and trademark tremolo picking, but it ceases to be the aggressive, epic masterpiece that Kathaarian Life Code Is. This song is enjoyed much better if it’s listened to individually without hearing the rest of the album. You won’t grow bored of it so quickly that way.
While not COMPETELY horrible, Plaguewielder stands a major disappointment when one considers what Darkthrone are really capable of. Oh, and I forgot to talk about the album cover. For once, Darkthrone has added COLOR to their artwork! And when I say color, I really mean color. The album’s art work comes off as some sort of abstract painting. It’s very different in the sense that this is Darkthrone, but it looks pretty damn cool either way, especially the band’s blood-red logo. Now, if only the album itself was as good as its cover art, then this would definitely have been a good release. By the way, the best art work on a Darkthrone album goes to Total Death!