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Some genres just aren't kind to innovation. Whether it be the cultural circumstances of a movement or the music itself simply being lent to a certain degree of invariability, genres like brutal death metal and deathcore seem to me more than content churning out the same vile status quo as always. However, to say any genre is totally devoid of innovation would simply be unfair, and Plague Widow prove this fact by inhabiting and invigorating a number of metal niches.
It should be made immediately clear the Plague Widow boast no friendly aspects to their music. Their violent little debut ep only clocks in at 15 minutes, but it doesn't need any more time to get its point across - you are weak. While holding the aggressive edge of brutal death metal, the band successfully melts grindcore and black metal into their sound, forging a seamless and sharp-as-hell blade of pure violence and darkness.
So what makes an album that's 1/3 filler ambiance so successful? Well, for Plague Widow the key lies in its ability to so efficiently pack a head-spinning amount riffs, pinch harmonics, blast beats, stop-start dynamics, and quarrelsome vocals into the 10 odd minutes of musical onslaught they present. The self-titled opens with your standard minute of ethereal foreboding which eventually morphs into a truly suffocating buzz until it reaches its parabolic tipping point, and that's when things start to get really interesting.
There's no denying that Plague Widow are a talented group of musicians. Despite being rooted in a genre of full on redundancy and gimmicks, the Sacramento-based group of four will have nothing to do with brutal death's cliched status quo. If one were to take the best parts of the most aggressive aspects of extreme metal's ringleaders they'd end up with a rough sketch of this band. Plague Widow hasn't reinvented the wheel here, but they execute what they have to work with so well you'll forget there were brutal metal bands to come before these guys.
The guitar work here is especially notable in the grand scope of things. Basically being the backbone of Plague Widow, the guitar work is nothing short of entertaining. Not only are the riffs themselves more fun than putting your arm in a bucket of salt and razor wire, but the songwriting is top-notch considering no actual song breaks the two minute and thirty second mark. Hal Rotter knows what's up in the riff writing department as every expression of anguish to leave his amp is pure gold. Flying back and forth like a demonic hummingbird between grinding onslaughts, brutal chugging, infectious pinch harmonics, and sinister tremolo'd angst, a fine balance is achieved that prevents any one of these elements from overtaking the dynamics of the album.
However, it is the band's chemistry when playing together that makes this album special. Each instrumental fits into place flawlessly to form a machine-like piece of music. The drumming is frighteningly fast-paced and well-executed. I hate relentless blast beats for the sake of relentless blast beats as much as anyone else, but when they're pulled off with the kind of 300/mph compelling vigor presented here, it just works. The vocals are equally as visceral as they transmute from foreboding gutturals to razor-edged screams in the blink of an eye. All of this combines to form a perfectly balanced recording that gives all these aspects room to breathe and express.
About that "1/3 filler" statement. Its refers to the longer than necessary intro and outro, however more significantly the tracks Abyss I & Abyss II that summarily add to the album's dreamlike animosity. They rest on either side of Void, one of the albums strongest tracks, and feature bone-chilling spoken word passages from none other than H.P. Lovecraft himself:
"A sickened, sensitive shadow writhing in hands that are not hands, and whirled blindly past ghastly midnights of rotting creation, corpses of dead worlds with sores that were cities, charnel winds that brush the pallid stars and make them flicker low."
Note that as I write this, the ep will repeat itself at least four times, but this is nothing to complain about. Plague Widow know what it takes to make a mantle-piece type album, the kind that just doesn't get old. Barring heavy influence from black metal in this regard, Plague Widow took advantage of their raw-as-the-tender-flesh-of-a-newborn production values to add a plenitude of layers and subtle intricacies that are only unlocked after numerous listens, giving fans something rewarding to walk away with every time.
It's rare to see real innovation in the extreme metal world, but it's not extinct. With such a unique sound, capable songwriting, and a flair for straight-up, grinding aggression, Plague Widow will surely be a force to be reckoned with as time goes on, but for now this 15 minute teaser of an ep is all we get to quench our bloodthirst. 2012 was host to a number of awesome extreme metal eps (Inverloch's Dark|Subside, DSO's Drought) and Plague Widow can comfortably rest alongside these accomplished releases, so kick back, relax, and let Plague Widow grind the subatomic particles of your existence into oblivion.
Slathered in suffering and darkness, Plage Widow's self titled debut EP is a powerful conceptual force, because while sounding thoroughly modern and extremely brutal, it is also rich and dense with atmosphere and musical complexity. Spawned from the sunny pits of Sacramento, California(My family is from there, which says something about the cities population...), Plague Widow have given us a small window into the future of Extreme metal with this brilliant, caustic little noise abortion of an EP, one where the lines between modern brutality and old-school intensity are blurred completely.
Plague Widow is at it's heart a very modern sounding, ultra fast deathgrind album with a strong brutal death metal influence. From the moment the blistering drums and deep guttural growls of "Womb" kick in, the Circle of Dead Children and Deeds of Flesh influence becomes apparent. But as Plague Widow progresses, we see an attention to detail and atmosphere grow and become more enveloping. These disparate elements begin to twist and contort, forming a vortex of desolation few acts can match. "Void" blisters with elements of Adversarial and Portal, before ending on a breakdown Suffocation wish they could have written, while "Operating the Segmental Apparatus" is mixes in a heavy dose of atmospheric Black Metal between spouts of deathgrind flame. Smart use of samples and atmospheric noise, like the intro to "Assimilated Subconscious," just adds to the bleak tension and monolithic blackness.
In just over fifteen minutes,Plague Widow delivers more death and Satan than most bands entire discography. One would be hard-pressed to find a more uncompromisingly dark and blasphemous slab of grindcore and death metal than this masterful and dense piece of musical Sadism. Plague Widow have stumbled upon a sound that is as important as it is deadly: one that takes the decayed, evil spirit of the past and infuses it into the powerful, muscular frame of the present. This new creation, this new affront to God and Nature itself, could become unstoppable. For now, this small but bloody atrocity is a more than terrifying harbinger of things to come.
originally posted at http://curseofthegreatwhiteelephant.blogspot.com/
It seems as if there really isn’t a lot of room for innovation when it comes to brutal death metal and personally, I’m okay with that. The reason for that is because I know exactly what I’m going to get 95% of the time and it’s what I enjoy. Unfortunately, every once in a while I find myself wishing for something more from the sub-genre, as I’m sure we all do with our preferred realms of musical taste, and it can be difficult to satisfy that craving. This is where Plague Widow comes in. A group of young brutal death/grind enthusiasts from Sacramento, California, who come bearing to me their brand new and debut self-titled EP, “Plague Widow.”
Blast.Grind.Destroy. This is the mantra that Plague Widow stands by, and boy do they deliver on it. After a thunderous and ambient introduction, you are treated with their brand of discordant and mesmerizing brutal death/grind. Bellowing growls on top of bludgeoning blastbeats and creative fretboard-play is how the meat of the EP is presented to you. It is a non-stop grind attack that not only feels fresh, but is catchy as all hell, too.
Throughout 9 tracks and 15 minutes of pure misanthropic brutal death/grind that sounds like a mixture of the string-bending madness that is Wormed and the dissonant misery of Portal, Plague Widow takes up this style and completely make it their own. Tracks like ‘Womb,’ ‘Mabus Incarnate,’ and ‘Void’ show their more straight-forward brutal death influence, while later tracks such as ‘Assimilated Subconscious’ and ‘Operating The Segmental Apparatus’ seem to take that dissonant misery I described and double-down on it with melodic grind shining through. With that kind of versatility in a brutal death/grind band, it can be paramount in propelling them to the next level.
One of the other things that really took me by surprise was the track titled ‘Abyss II.’ The reason for that is it appears to be an homage to the classic Acid Bath track ‘Ode of the Paegan’ from “Paegan Terrorism Tactics.” With an effect similar to that from the introduction track, one of the members pitch-shifts their voice and what seems like a psychotic manifesto is spoken clearly, giving an ominous atmosphere for the listener. It just felt like a very odd thing to find on an album like this, especially when ‘Ode of the Paegan’ was originally released over 15 years ago, but it just adds to why I’ve enjoyed “Plague Widow” as much as I have. The only thing that bugs me is that a third of the running time is spent on the intro and outro, which are booming ambient tracks with no actual music. I want more music, just because Plague Widow has me hooked in their bombastic style.
In a sub-genre that seems to pride itself on producing the same results over and over again, Plague Widow is an incredible breath of fresh air who bring with them a lot of talent and interesting song-structures. I can see them doing very well in a live setting, and from those I know who have had the chance to witness them, my assumptions have been confirmed multiple times. Plague Widow right now only has three members, and the music on this EP makes it sound as if they have five with how crushing the material is. There is a lot here to get any brutal death/grind enthusiast hooked, and I will definitely be keeping my eye on Plague Widow, and you can get in on this by going to their Facebook page and purchasing the EP for a minimum of $2 (or more if you’re feeling generous). Come on, that is one hell of a bargain you’re getting for skull splitting brutal death/grind.
Blast.Grind.Destroy., Plague Widow. Blast.Grind.Destroy.
Originally written for Metal Blast (http://www.metalblast.net/).