Against the Plagues – Purified Through Devastation (US, 2015)

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Catchy death metal riffs, check.  Furious, fleet-limbed drumming, check.  Beastly but dynamic vocals, check.  Exciting guitar solos, check.  All systems go?  Mostly.

Against the Plagues has all the makings of a great blackened death metal band.  My first exposure to them through Purified Through Devastation was certainly promising.  They aren’t vastly unique, in this age where every major subgenre of metal (including blackened, synth-infused death metal) is just a few clicks away, but they pull it off with the aplomb of a veteran band that isn’t just following a trend.  There isn’t much melodic death or black going on here – just no-nonsense aggressive metal.  Even so, songs like “Theokratia” or the awkwardly-titled “All Flesh Had Corrupted” caught me on first listen with a dash of memorable riffs, changes, and some unconventional synth sounds, while the album as a whole was quite solid and had enough ups and downs to stave off fatigue from the onslaught of heaviness.

The one flaw that continually rears its head on this album is that the band seems to believe in their material a little too much, resulting in stretched-out songs that repeat motifs until every drop of whatever impact they initially had is squeezed out.  Intros take twice as long as expected, relatively simplistic verse riffs are spent before the vocals actually join them for the verse proper, played-out ideas make tired returns when you would expect a twist or an ending, large portions of songs sit on the same rhythmic contours even when there is variation in what the instruments are playing… you begin to feel like you get the point of the song, long before it is over (much like this sentence).

It’s my one gripe, and though it’s a big one, I still found it an enjoyable listen nonetheless, which speaks to the quality of the individual band members’ performances.  The guitars and bass play through some interesting riff progressions when they actually bother, the drums thunder through quick parts with flair, and the vocalist utilizes a range of menacing growls and screams.  Even the synths are well done, adding a little something to the music at choice moments without being cloying.  The guitar solos are among this album’s weaker points, but they still serve as some welcome variation.

All things considered, Against the Plagues’s third full-length demonstrates that they are a strong band that just needs some refining (or *gasp*… a producer).  Despite being a bit bloated, Purified Through Devastation will do the job nicely if you’re looking for a fix of blackened death metal wrapped in a clean, modern production.

Tracklist:
1. Man’s Modern World
2. All Flesh Had Corrupted
3. Praetorian Icon
4. Theokratia
5. TerrorForm
6. Extermination Event
7. Falling Further
8. Enblightened
9. Enemy Herein

Label: Non Serviam Records
Websites: Facebook |Bandcamp
Release Date: 18th December 2015
Reviewed by Justin

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