Bryan Eckermann – Plague Bringers Review

Bryan Eckermann, of such acts as Scars of the Flesh and Wings of Abaddon, is something of a multi-instrumentalist. In the aforementioned bands, for example, he covers guitars, bass, and drumming, which is already more than a lot of musicians can say for themselves. Since 2014, however, he has also stood at the helm of his own solo project, for which he does, well, everything. Vocals? Eckermann. Keys? Drums? All Eckermann. Mixing? Mastering? Recording? Still Eckermann. So when you first spin Plague Bringers, it’s cool to keep in mind that, apart from three guest spots on the album, absolutely everything you hear is the result of one guy’s vision and skill. As you listen to this album, a fusion of symphonic and black metal and the second part of a two-part concept, it’s hard not to have huge respect for Bryan Eckermann as a musician knowing all of this. This would even be the case if the music itself wasn’t good, but I’m happy to say that it is.

The promotional copy for Plague Bringers suggests it may be enjoyed by fans of Arch EnemyMors Principium Est, and King Diamond, and these feel like fair points of comparison. Certainly, the synth elements on the album remind of Dawn of the 5th Era (Mors Principium Est), and the album’s energy feels as though it looks up to Arch Enemy in a lot of places. Bryan Eckermann has created a dense, closely-woven soundscape that brings together inventive, at times pummeling riffs with thick synths, programmed strings, and similarly “modern” flourishes. Immediately, “Ice Queen” sets the tone for the albums with slick riffs, a surprisingly catchy chorus, and enough different riffs to tell you that Plague Bringers doesn’t mess around. The distorted electronica that opens the album sets the atmosphere nicely, and the album only kicks off from there.

Plague Bringers works off of a pretty solid formula for success, in that its atmospheric and symphonic elements act as elegant complements for Eckermann‘s growls, rasps, and riffs. “Astral Realms” builds an atmosphere reminiscent of its title with clean guitars, drumming that draws you in before the riffs take a bite out of you for good measure. “Moonlight and Frostbite” is another great example, one of the heavier tracks on the album with a catchy chorus courtesy complemented by guest singing from Stu Block (Into Eternity). The title track is one of few on the album to ease up on the symphonic elements and lean into thrash metal influence. On the other side of the spectrum, “Sands of the Hourglass” takes time to slow down and let emotion do the talking. In this sense, Plague Bringers feels like a story being told; there are many sides to Bryan Eckermann, and this album takes the time to explore them in detail.

At its core, Plague Bringers offers a lot to work with, but there’s also a lot to the album itself, and I feel this holds it back somewhat. Twelve tracks over sixty-seven minutes is a lot of music, and the album doesn’t quite feel dynamic enough to justify its runtime. With the ever-present synths and also-ever-present compression on the master, the songs begin to blur together a little in the latter half of the album. “An Oath of Scrying Souls” has a great emotional peak that almost makes it feel like the album’s winding down a bit, but at that point there are still five songs representing over half an hour to go. I don’t mean to make it sound as though getting through the album is a chore, but it is a lot, and as much as the songs are well-written, I don’t feel like they’re presented well enough to justify the sheer length of the whole.

The amount of work that went into this release is staggering to contemplate, and I admire Bryan Eckermann for creating, essentially by himself, such a robust record as Plague Bringers. There’s a lot to like here for fans of black metal, and in particular, those who appreciate the presence of the almighty keyboard. Plague Bringers fuses the two nicely, offering music that’s heavy, detailed, and just emotional enough for this reviewer. I haven’t followed Eckermann’s career path too closely before now, but I may just have to change that and be sure to keep an eye out for his next release too. There’s a lot of good going on here.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 5th, 2021

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