Plague – Portraits of Mind [Things You Might Have Missed 2020]

I suppose there’s a certain dark irony to the fact that death metal had one of its best years during a global pandemic. It’s a double irony that in a year fraught with so much outstanding death metal, it’s Plague‘s unsung debut Portraits of Mind that keeps drawing me back as the days (and plague) drag on.1 These Greeks had but a mere single to their name before they unleashed Portraits upon an unsuspecting metalverse, but you’d never know it from the level of music on display. Their throwback OSDM sound borrows a lot from mid-period Death, early Morgoth, and Massacre, finding that elusive sweet spot between technical, accessible, and fun. Influences are worn on the sleeve proudly, yet a unique identity is defined even as the material pelts you with rich, creamy nostalgia from beyond.

From the early moments of top-notch opener “Intersperse” you’ll hear nods to the Spiritual Healing era of Death, and the way Plague deliver the goods is intriguing and shockingly polished. Rough, early 90s death riffs percolate and pummel only to give way to beautiful, flowing guitar passages that call to mind the salad days of James Murphy. There’s a palpable late 80s / early 90s feel to the music that a death metal olde timer like myself can’t help but love, yet the album doesn’t feel hopelessly trapped in the past. While “Portal into Reality” could fit seamlessly onto Spiritual Healing with wild guitar-work that rises and retreats fluidly throughout, the herky-jerky-doomy churn of “Deranged Madness” sounds more modern, with the heaviness counterpointed by soaring melodic solos.

Technophiles will savor the flavors of “Cave of Vectors” with all its twists, turns and double-backs, and “Shattering the Illusion” is a riff-monster sure to please those wanting no nonsense skull smashery. Add in some nasty death croaks, one of the year’s best pieces of cover art, and a short, sweet 36 minute runtime, and you have one helluva enticing package. What else can I do to put you in this Portrait today?

Have I mentioned the excellent guitar-work? Lead axe Apostolis Kiriazis and axe-brother Nikolaos Konstas keep listeners on their toes with a nonstop succession of excellent riffs, but it’s those beautiful, flowing leads that really hang Portraits in a gallery by itself. Sleek, slick, and sometimes almost too flowery to exist amidst the filthy death the band crafts, the solos add an extra-compelling element that ensures you remember your time suffering from Plague. This material would be good without them, but with these next level solos and flourishes it’s something altogether special. I remain bewildered how such a “young” act can craft such killer music, but I know better than to look a gift horse in the horse’s mouth. It may sound like terrible advice considering the times we live in, but get yourself some immediate and prolonged exposure to Plague. You’ll thank me after a lengthy quarantine.

Tracks to Check Out: “Intersperse,” “Portal into Reality,” and “Cave of Vectors”

Show 1 footnote

  1. Triple irony score because it contains a track titled “Pandemic.”
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