30 Nov 2014
Luxembourg is not known for its wealth of metal bands. As a matter of fact, Metal Archives states that the small European country has had as little as 76 metal bands, under half of which are currently active. I don't remember ever having heard of a metal band from Luxembourg, and yet here we are, talking about Plaguewielder, a band formed by Discordant System members Maxime Weber and Nicholas O'Connell.
Crushing guitars and a varied take on drumming, plus a sharp and heavy production are mainstays with the sound of doom aswel as with Plaguewielder. Their take on the genre through their debut self-released EP of the same name casts light on how to alleviate the insufficiencies of many other upcoming bands within the genre. Keyboards, organs and choirs aren't at all new to the genre, but Plaguewielder's keyboardist utilizes his instrument to its fullest when adding atmosphere to the tracks. Lurking in the background with the synths are the painfully whispered screams that are the vocals, while drums and guitars take the helm. A classic approach, some may argue. Some do it better than others. Mostly I'd say Plaguewielder barely resembles any metal band. Their music swirls around post rock elements, and the most metal song on the EP is arguably The Funeral March.
There are many great doom bands out their that master the art of atmosphere, and Plaguewielder's music is indeed just that - Atmospheric. Their music features some interesting use of eerie synth, but with long stretches of tedious melodies and meandering riffs their music often borders on becoming generally uninteresting in nature. The flow found in the songwriting on Plaguewielder's debut isn't always up to par, and as such the EP feels very ambivalent. On the opening track, Drowning, one minute we're listening to a crushing tune that fades into a passage of thinly veiled synths, and the next thing you know a bland guitar chimes in with a whiney melody. Where exactly are they going with this? I get song progression is key, especially in songs of extreme length like with Plaguewielder's take on atmospheric funeralesque doom metal, but the whole latter half of Drowned is barely even rock music as much as it is just a 6-minute wank fest of arpeggiated "solo" pieces set to a seemingly unrelated drum track with a few screamed vocals joining the keyboards in the background once in a while.
Luckily the remaining two tracks are of superior quality. Though very different from each other, they present the band from its best sides. Casket of Dying Flesh shows their capacity for drive, passion and zest with its use of pumping 70's organ-keyboards and catchy melody. The Funeral March is a testament to the great old ones of the genre, a true set-piece of doom, and portrays savage intensity, eerie piano passages and maddening screams.
Plaguewielder's debut album/EP/whatever is a lengthy one. At times it serves best merely as background music, but once in a while they take a step forward and force their way into your consciousness. But these moments are a bit too far between. Realistically this is what will separate the bands of tomorrow. But the band from Luxembourg has definite potential hidden away within their music. More force, less tip-toeing around. 6/10 guitars.
2. Casket of Dying Flesh
3. The Funeral March
Plaguewielder on Facebook
Plaguewielder on Bandcamp
10 Nov 2014
Something is stirring in Finland, disturbing the peace. Apart from the vast horde of great black metal bands, in the later years Finland has been home to several thrashing, rocking speed metal groups such as Speedtrap and the almighty Ranger. Another band, which at the time of writing remains on the demo stage with just one small release, joining them is Black Rock from Hyvinkää.
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say they're pretty fond of Hellhammer and crust punk. Black Rock's simplistic blackened speed metal riffs coupled with a raw, shouting-styled vocal brings to mind other similar bands, and the bridge parts in The Forbidden Portal and Into the Dungeon even bears strong resemblance to newer Darkthrone material, albeit in a very crude way. One could easily imagine Nocturno Culto or Tom Warrior groaning these occult lyrics to the sounds of Black Rock's prominent guitar and drums.
The band itself is a duo consisting of Vehmaa behind the drumkit and Willberg shredding the guitars and screaming the vocals. On the demo they were joined for a brief period by Kuusisto on bass. People familiar with Hellhammer's history will know that this almost sounds like the early incarnations of that classic band. Black Rock's music is obviously more punk-inspired than that of the other bands mentioned, and where the real resemblance comes in is in the structures of the songs.
To be honest, the brute directness of the music takes some getting used to. Darkthrone have great production and Hellhammer were just incredibly brutal for their time. Seen in the light (or darkness) of metal today Black Rock positions themselves dangerously close to sounding dated and sloppy. One must not forget that the reason late 80's production sounds so gritty was the absence of the possibility to sound any better. Nowadays everybody and their grandma can conjure up something that sounds pretty good soundwise. The gritty production in this case is a matter of reverence for the bands of yore.
Taking in Black Rock and fully appreciate their beastly compositions took quite a few listens. If the demo EP hadn't been so short, I doubt I would've given it the benefit of the doubt and listened to it as much as I ended up doing. It falls just short of fourteen minutes with four tracks, and that results in a much more easily digestible piece of metal. Don't expect too much in regards to advanced songwriting or anything, and just sit back with a beer or six and enjoy the oddly beseeching choruses, bridges and elementary riffs. 7/10 guitars.
Final sidenote: The cover isn't necro enough.
1. Black Rock
2. The Forbidden Portal
3. The Phantom Sailor
4. Into the Dungeon
Black Rock on Facebook
Black Rock on Bandcamp