Medico Peste – ב :The Black Bile Review

Medico Peste and I are perfect foils. I haven’t reviewed anything in a while; they haven’t released any music in a while. Following 2012’s promising debut release of א: Tremendum et Fascinatio, one might have thought the Polish outfit was sure to be a tendril in the growing reach of their homeland’s brand of black metal. One would have been very fucking wrong. In fact, given Medico Peste‘s lone full-length came out a solid eight years ago and their only activity in the interim was a 2017 EP, one might feel justified in calling their progress “non-existent.” But perhaps they were just picking their moment. Lo and behold, in the midst of the worst viral outbreak in our lifetimes, the plague doctors have returned. Let’s hope ב :The Black Bile is the cure for what ails you.

Though a few members played live with fellow countrymen and black metal standard-bearers Mgła, Medico Peste don’t exude that same perma-pissed off energy. They opt instead for something a whole lot stranger, a would-be loony bin full of theatrics by means of atmospherics. Rather than beating you senseless in the wilderness, Medico Peste put on a night circus in those haunted woods. The psychopathic Lazarus (formerly Silencer) stands at the center, the sometimes ringleader’s tortured cries hosting this blackened parade. The riffs of opener “God Knows Why” rightly evoke only stock adjectives—can I offer anyone a “solid?” An “unmemorable,” perhaps?—and while their quality is indicative of the rest of the album’s riffcraft, their tenor is not. Often times, tracks like “Numinous Catastrophy” and “Skin” ply off-kilter riffs as an aspect of their overall ethos. The former bounces to its own creeping lilt, while the latter seems ready to bust into a black-metal jazz quartet if only Lazarus would quit howling. Point being: if you’re here for an ass-kicking, you best walk on home.

That’s both good and bad. The individual elements themselves are interesting on their face, and more importantly, the album feels cohesive, which is never a problem, but it also feels short of reach. I can skip around “Skin” and wind up listening to one of two drum beats. “All Too Human” spins two memorable riffs—two—across eight and one-half minutes. Like with everything else on The Black Bile, Medico Peste approach the hallowed pair with a commensurate level of creativity, but with two minutes of ambiance in the middle and not a ton else going on, it’s still two frigging riffs. Every song suffers this issue without fail. “Holy Opium” is one riff of smoked-out occult black metal. “The Black Bile” drives to a really compelling finish (of one riff with Lazarus going HAM over the top, but still), but that’s only after an utterly forgettable first half. Further, if you compare Medico Peste‘s stranger aspects to truly bizarre stuff like Igorrr or eclectic stuff like Ruins of Beverast, they also come up short. There’s too much potential and not enough execution here.

It’s not like these guys are unseasoned either. Medico Peste has been around the block, and this album is a long time in the making. Worse, they have good ideas—or at least interesting ones. Black metal definitely has room for the odd-duck atmosphere they’re aiming for, and it’s not as if their riffs are bad either, simply left on an island to fend for themselves1. So as good as the individual performances may or may not be, the record won’t improve without a stronger writing effort. Even Lazarus, whose performance I admired on Medico Peste‘s last EP, has less of an impact than I expected. When he does pop his head out of his hidey-hole, Lazarus is on his game; he just doesn’t do it often enough.

Trimming The Black Bile‘s 50 minutes would alleviate some of the downward pressure on the record, but not all of it. The monotony hegemony easing up would help too—one riff sort of worked for Transilvanian Hunger, it didn’t work for the latest Primordial record, it barely works here. It’s hard to say if the finished product is exactly what Medico Peste intended and I’m just missing the point, or if they simply whiffed on a Sinmara blend of mystical and mean. Either way, the result is the same: boring. Medico Peste have some more work to do to get their point across, because when it comes down to it, this record is all bark and no bile.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 1411 kbps wav
Label: Season of Mist Underground Activists
Website: medicopeste.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/medicopesteband
Releases Worldwide: March 20th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Socially distancing themselves is a noble effort. – Steel
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