Plebeian Grandstand - False Highs, True Lows CoverPlebeian Grandstand is a name destined for immortality. Over the course of two albums – 2011’s How Hate is Hard to Define and 2014’s Lowgazers, the Tolousian group have annihilated any doubt as to their supremacy in extremity. How Hate is Hard to Define‘s distillation of noise, black metal and mathcore proved their worth as ‘the angriest band on the planet,’ but the sheer ambition of Lowgazers propelled the group somewhere further; the conspicuous revolver adorning Hate now pointed not at the temple, but away from the body. Pulling away from the hardcore aspects of the debut, Lowgazers was more blackened, brutal and unapproachable, but less volatile as well. False Highs, True Lows departs even further, a continuously difficult album from a continuously mobile band.

“Thrvst,” was a strong opener for Lowgazers, but “Mal Du Siècle,” provides Plebeian Grandstand their first chance to outdo themselves. It’s simplistic but shocking: a monastic air-raid siren crows three times, replaced by a distorted, distant retch on the fourth. “Low Empire,” immediately launches into an excrucuating assault, and it is here in a whirlwind of noise that the band’s latest inventions are unveiled. Drummer Ivo Kaltchev has become even more formidable, tirelessly blasting at the heart of a mass of sound that may well be more rhythmically complex than ever. “Nice Days Are Weak” debuted the band’s hatred for anything resembling meter on the debut, but the impossible-to-parse rhythm of “Low Empire” proves even more extreme. Like a ball of insects scrambling over itself, the band feed off of each other’s pyroclastic performances. Even the most spacious moments of “Tributes and Oblivions”  crackle with energy, as if the amplifiers know they’re not past, but between tortures.

There are other, less welcome developments, though. Most immediately, screamer Adrien Broué has moved away from the distorted and unintelligible screams of the last two releases, now delivering a gutsy rasp that still relies on sound rather than speech for its semitoics. In previous releases, Broué’s delivery was so forceful that, no matter what his lyrics might be, I felt compelled to agree with him. Now the feeling creeps in that his narration might not be so reliable. This comes alongside developments in sound largely driven by the album’s increased technicality; the songs are less memorable because their slippery writing has abolished riffs in favor of torrents of tremolo and scraped-at chords, marked by constant flow. In the moment that “Tributes and Oblivions” erupts into a frantic triplet lead around the minute mark, it’s hard to keep all of the sound in check, but the song’s cascading structure pulls inexorably forward, dragging you behind by the stapes.

But as much as Plebeian Grandstand‘s sound has changed, the intensity of their music remains, powered now by disgust rather than anger. The sludgy introduction of “Volition” burns through a damp pyre of bass feedback, taking cues from Indian and Dodecahedron, and the industrial heartbeat of “Mineral Tears” would never have fit into the angst-riddled math-crust of How Hate is Hard to Define. This album may be dense, but its diversity makes up for the squashed claustrophobia of its heaviest moments, and even the band’s uses of noise – like the sizzle and scrape behind Oculi Lac, or the relatively soothing “Mineral Tears” – are something of an enigma, serving not only as a complement, but on some occasions a respite from the dissonance and distortion of the instruments.

Plebeian Grandstand Band 2016

Much like LowgazersFalse Highs, True Lows sounds enormous, distorted, and dense, and without its myriad of desolate odes to guitar distortion like “Tame The Shapes,” it would be taxing to listen through. This production style loses some punch with the shift in sound as well; when Kaltchev turned to double bass on Lowgazers, the impact was visceral and horrifying. Here the reliance on that same technique weakens the effect. But at the same time, the guitars and bass are among the dirtiest, fullest sounding instruments this side of Sunn O))), and Simon Chaubard’s distinctive style, focused on ringing arpeggios through intense distortion, sounds more intense than ever. The rush that completes “Eros Culture” ends the album with a sickening lump in your throat.

False Highs‘ art is somehow even more rapturously overpowering than that of Lowgazers, and even more suggestive of the album’s yet deeper disgust: lips? vulvae? wounds? Confusion of the three thematically dominates False Highs, True Lows, and its overtly sexual art and overtones seep into a work dominated by pain and disgust, corroding and reshaping it. Whatever your opinion of this album, it’s hard to deny the LP’s thematic unity or this band’s commitment to the provocative. False Highs, True Lows is a truly uncomfortable and difficult album, and Plebeian Grandstand‘s most intense work yet.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Throatruiner Records
Band Websites: facebook.com/plebeiangrandstand | plebeiangrandstand.bandcamp.com | plebeian-grandstand.com
Releases Worldwide: April 29th, 2016

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  • Whiskeyjack

    Finally! some great, new, dissonant blackness! I havent seen anything in this genre, of this high quality since you kindly informed me about the wonderful Ad Nauseam!

  • Qiyamat a tawil

    Yes. This fucking band man. How Hate is Hard to Define and Lowgazers are amazing and this album tops them both in my opinion, the density and intensity of the music are so powerful and the overall atmosphere is just darkening. Hard to digest yet amazing at every turn. Great review, sums up the album perfectly.

    • Westpaceagle

      So hard to put a finger on what exactly makes this so good while other dissonant projects are shit. But yeah, these guys fucking rule

      • Qiyamat a tawil

        I think it’s because they don’t directly copy the grandfather bands, like DsO and co. Instead they add new time signatures and odd melodies, akin to Converge, as well as vocals. Plus this album has some good ol’ drone/post elements in it which was refreshing. I didn’t even realise Tame The Shapes went for approx 6:30 minutes before anything “actually” happened. Still listening everyday and finding myself more puzzled by it.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Just because you like the band, it doesn’t mean they are exempt from a good old-fashioned unicorning.

    • [not a Dr]

      Licorne, en français.
      Unicorning… Licornage? Licornement? Licornation?

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Licornage gets my vote. Sounds brutal.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Help us, Bart the Repairman. You’re our only hope.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Blueberry Balls might take issue with that statement.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          A Unicorning contest is in order, methinks.

          • Bart the Repairman

            Okay then, your move BB;)

          • Name’s Dalton

            Should their not be a unicorn shadow on the wall behind them?

          • Bart the Repairman

            Look again at the original photo.

          • [not a Dr]

            This unicorn is as hard to distinguish as the subjects of the original picture… It needs to undergo the unicorning a second time, which would turn it into a bicorn.

  • Whiskeyjack

    FYI Guys, their entire discography is free on bandcamp….

    • Philip Pledger

      Also FYI, the worldwide release listed refers to the physical versions. The digital version is already out on Bandcamp.

  • Bart the Repairman

    After reading this I was expecting an undeciphered, unaccessible wall of noise, and I am pleasantly surprised. It’s of course frantic and opressive, but without losing the melody factor. Well balanced music, I’d say. Thanks Kronos, I’ve never heard of them before.

  • I dunno, this is good but is it Dodecahedron good? Or even Ad naseum good? Granted, it will probably make the wait for the new Dodeca album even longer because I swear they’re freaking out over every avant garde black metal album and scraping and rewriting the entire thing.

    In the meanwhile, there’s also the Skaphe album. mmmm satan.

  • Whiskeyjack

    Does anyone know if Deathspell Omega are planning on releasing anything this year? or if they are even still exist? they’re so damn secretive!

    • Phasma

      Funny you should mention Deathspell Omega. There are many riffs here that remind me very strongly of them…

  • With noise and mathcore mentioned in the opening statement, I was suspecting the worst. But that was before I pressed play and read on.

    Turns out this vortex sounds kaleidoscopically dissonant in a way that pleases me, with a nice claustrophobic touch that really appeals.

    Also, I thought Skáphe and Imperial Triumphant were both applying for the title ‘angriest band on the planet’…
    EDIT: I might be confusing angry with vile, perverted, depraved and so on, though.

    • André Snyde Lopes

      Anaal Nathrakh, though.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Imperial Tiumphant got really fucking weird on their Inceste EP. And I dig it. Recalls no wave (they are from NYC, after all) and bands like Captain Beefheart, Pyrrhon (naturally), US Maple, etc.

      • Good call. There’s a lot of over the top, or at least touching upon it, in the netherground. Some being too weird/aggressive for me, when sheer brutality seems to be the primary goal.

    • Tom Hardy

      Mr Gorger, I posted a link earlier but it was most probably not accepted by the elders of this website. For angry, do yourself a favor and watch Xibalba’s Cold on the jolly ol YouTube. I listened to the album during my training for Warrior and it worked quite well in kicking some arse on film.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Saw the vinyl on the Bandcamp page. Kind of reminds me of the record from Lords of Salem.

  • Kronos

    For those still puzzling: this is the best album cover of the year.

    • Bart the Repairman

      Oh, come on. Pleiades Dust is on the way.

      • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

        I have to be honest; I actually hate that cover.

        Zbigniew M. Bielak is really incredibly talented, but I see the Gorguts cover of his style without function. He creates a lot of really dense artwork, my favorite of which is actually the Ghost inner booklet work, but Pleiades feels cluttered, lost in it’s own details.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      This would not be best album cover of the year even if it was the onnly album released this year. Or any year.
      Just my opinion.

    • El_Cuervo

      Check out that Messa album Druhm reviewed yesterday. Now I love that artwork.

    • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

      It is powerful

      Best of the year? we’ll have to see, but damn is it striking

  • Tom Hardy

    First off, this is a 5 song album with 3 instrumental fillers, the existence of which is there to raise the price to that of a full length.

    I can handle a song or two on the album by itself but sitting through the whole thing, twice since afternoon, has left me a little bored with the exception of a thing or two. Most songs are similar sounding, aesthetically or kinetically. But, it doesn’t matter cos the band will make money for their hard work and people will lap this up thinking it’s ground breaking or pushing the envelope (neither of the two in reality), so good on the band.

    You know, kids these days want everything yesterday with a sense of urgency or entitlement without having the need to buy something or wait for it to come in the mail. No, the attitude is – I bought this CD but I want the songs delivered in my Inbox right this moment because I can’t wait for the CD to arrive in a week or two weeks. It’s a shame really because there’s no sense of enjoying or appreciating anything or it’s done to a different, lesser degree. As a struggling actor in the beginning, I remember having to trade for cassettes to friends from all over to listen to bands like Immortal or a Children of Bodom or an Intestine Baalism or Burial or bands of old. Those were times we relied on word of mouth and you could hear 30 second snippets of songs that’d work on Real Player. Now, with so much ease, kids take things for granted. I still write letters to fans, so if any of you want me to write to you, send me your address and send one over mates.

    • Kronos

      This is a facile argument on the face of it because the band and their label are literally giving it away for free. Raise the price? Pull the other leg. I was bored the fits couple of spins with it, but then I started trying to count of phrases and dissect it technically and was very pleased with what I found. To each their own.

      • Tom Hardy

        That’s an interesting comment and I commend you for admitting to it being boring the first couple of spins. In your review’s defense, who knows if a couple of months in it may hit me like a pile of bricks and it might be too late to pick up the record at that point in time. But hey, I’m willing to risk it considering the band’s track record with me personally, so much as this review was your personal feel for the album, I have one that carves a different path which makes things interesting does it not, my friend.

        Raise the price you ask, well, would you look at the cost of the physical format and tell me otherwise? I don’t care for digital tracks personally.

    • Philip Pledger

      I’m…kind of confused by that last paragraph. I get what you’re trying to say, just not why you’re saying it here.

      Also, as Kronos noted, the band puts all of their music out with a “name your price” option on Bandcamp. Any comments about the band prioritizing profit should be taken with a grain of salt.

      • Tom Hardy

        I know, it was a little bit of a throwback to something I was thinking of and didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the review. Count em as ramblings of an old fella.

        Re the part about the name your price option, I think I clarified that point in my response to Kronos.

  • Shangsean

    I bought this last night. I’ve only had the chance to listen to it once in the car, but I like what I’m hearing. The first thing that came to mind when listening to it was Krallice’s Ygg Huur. Not vocally, but instrumentally.