Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy Review

Ohhh, Plague Weaver, I don’t believe he will make it through the night. Had to be done, I have no regrats. Anywho, Canada’s Plague Weaver is the work of a dynamic duo of miserable misers and on their full-length debut Ascendant Blasphemy they seek to blend the nastiest bits of raw black metal, doom, and death into an unpleasant concoction best served with a heavy antibiotic regime. They bill the end product as black metal with doom death influences and that’s an entirely fair description, though what you get is a bit more slimy and ugly than you might expect. I mean this as both a good and bad thing, as I will explain in agonizing detail as we ascend the blasphemy mound together. Onward.

There’s a lot to like about the sound palette Plague Weaver utilizes. The core is composed of raw second wave black metal similar to early Darkthrone. Upon this blackened foundation they layer elements of death and doom metal and coat it all in oily atmo-black moods. Creepy, crawly opener “Nothing is Sacred” bubbles to life slowly, with minimalist riffing creating a very Panzerfaust-like cloud of dark menace. When things finally erupt into life the band pairs moments of blackened fury with something verging on death metal meatheadness. The vocals are almost always double tracked, with screeching and gurgling combining in various unpleasant ways to form a wall of disgusting, rotten noise terror. It works at first due to the shock and awe factor, but quickly grows old and eventually segues into annoying with extended exposure. “Lay Fire” opts for more ass kicking and less atmospherics initially, but by the half-way point the song shifts downward, getting all sorts of sullen and atmospheric. “Seek to Betray” introduces a more epic, battle-ready sound with riffs that flirt with Amon Amarth, though a very blackened one, before falling into a more subdued, post-black simmer.

This is a pattern that reveals itself as the album unspools – Plague Weaver tries to keep listeners on their toes with shifts in tempo and/or mood and this in admirable if not always effective. Things go deep into blackened atmo-doom territory on “Of Quivering Doves,” and it’s a nice shift from what comes before even if it’s a bit too long in the fang with too little going on. “Deicidal Usurper” (my new alias on the internetz) comes out blasting and pounding, with vocals set to horrify, and after the doom slog preceding it the effect is quite impressive. But the song soon shifts into the same kind of passive, atmo-black naval gazing heard earlier, killing much of its energy and momentum. Ditto for slow moving closer “In Exitium Caeli” which simmers and broods richly without any particular payoff. And that brings us to the crux of the issue with Ascendant Blasphemy. The duo clearly has talent and some good ideas, but the songcraft isn’t as effective as it could be and there’s a tendency to slot too much of the album’s 38 minutes into pre-boil mode which ultimately makes things grow tedious. The moods are certainly dark and ominous but the music isn’t always compelling apart from the manic, two-monsters-one-mic schtick.

Long time readers know we live by the mantra of “less is more” around these parts, and this is a piece of advice Plague Weaver should have taken to heart when it came time to track the vocals. Handled by JC, they are certainly nasty and insane, but the constant double tracked screaming/roaring wears thin early on, and its presence way up in front of the mix makes it feel suffocating and inescapable. This drowns out and distracts from the guitar work from RM (who also handles bass and keyboards), which is often quite interesting. He composes a nice collection of old timey blackened riffs that reek of Darkthrone, but his playing has enough modern sensibilities to feel relevant.

Ascendant Blasphemy is a mixed bag of demons. There’s some raw nasty stuff here which is sure to appeal to some, and the duo’s efforts to cover a spectrum of influences is laudable. It’s just a bit ham-fisted at times and the writing isn’t quite up the level of the ambition. Plague weaving isn’t all sunshine and rainbows you know.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2021

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