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mommy this sucks - 28%

Noktorn, May 19th, 2011

'Higher Moral Ground' was released in 2005, but honestly it sounds like it should have come out a decade earlier. Awkward, rhythmic, kind of stilted death metal like this was really the name of the game back then- maybe that sat on this material too long. It sounds dated without even being from the date it appears to be throwing back to- moreover, I'm not sure why anyone would want to write or play music from death metal's metaphorical dark age. Predictably, Plague don't function a whole lot better than anyone else did at the time when this was popular- 'Higher Moral Ground' is just as awkward and lame as the majority of death metal albums from that period in the genre's history, and is equally deserving of... well, not SCORN, but...

The weirdest part of this album is just how much modern hardcore is in the band's sound. Frankly, they sound closer to hardcore than death metal much of the time, and it's not just in the gruff, shouting vocals that permeate the disc (and are of course not executed particularly well). It's also in the riffs- technical, but in a post-hardcore fashion rather than a death metal one, with constantly popping, shifting rhythms that never allow a steady stream of tremolo or power chords to settle into any sort of groove. In many places, this sounds closer to to a hyper-modern, more technical Pro-Pain than death metal proper. I guess it's the drums that are the really incongruous part with their perpetual double bass and overtly metallic style. It's an uncomfortable mixture of elements at work, and I don't really get what the band was going for.

Of course, this being a hardcore album wouldn't hurt it if it wasn't a bad hardcore album, which it certainly is. It's goofy (the entirety of 'Better to Burn') and lacks flow and cohesion (the entire album), making no real effort to connect with the listener and instead indulging in weird, discordant riff after weird, discordant riff. The melodies are pretty obnoxious and hard to get into, all squealing pinch harmonics and riffs that often sound like throwbacks to Mordred's awful thrash/funk fusion. I'd be hard pressed to name a riff on this album I'd categorize as pure death metal- even the best get sort of poisoned by the myriad of extraneous influences the band brought in to... what, exactly? I don't get the point of constructing music like this, so staunchly avoiding anything pleasing to the ear. It's not catchy, it's not entertaining, and it's not weird enough to be a bid at high art, so I'm comfortable just dismissing it as awful.

This is pretty mediocre, boring music, but it's made especially bad by the sheer lack of coherence to be found anywhere on the album. At no point do you feel like you're really grasping what Plague is getting at, and frankly, I don't think they do either. It's pretty clear that the band is just stringing together songs they wrote with no particular thematic or musical cohesion, and the result is an album just as lackluster and scattershot as that would suggest. Save your money.