Praise the Plague – The Obsidian Gate Review

For as generally tired and played out the genre has become as of late, black metal pairs exceptionally well with a cornucopia of disparate genres. Sure, we all know that it goes together with death metal, like a harmonious, spiked-gauntleted, and dog-food-promoting Reese’s peanut butter cup. Doom, however, seems like a stranger chocolate for our humbled corpse-painted nut butter of dubious origins. Something about not only the speed involved, but also the “hurry up and get to the fucking point, already” aspect of doom that would, on the surface at least, seem contradictory to the icy, tremolo-infested sound that birthed many a hooded sweatshirt-clad frost-dweller. Thankfully, we have German quintet Praise the Plague, who have only one album, an EP, and a live album under their bullet belts prior to unleashing The Obsidian Gate, and they’re hoping to prove us wrong that these two sounds can, and do, get along just fine.

Within several seconds of opener “The Descent,” I’m hit with a pummeling bass-and-drum combo that’s eerily reminiscent of prime Godflesh, an atmosphere that would rival the most daunting of both Cult of Luna sounds and atmo-black headspaces, and a build-up that recalls the biggest of black metal influences… Russian Circles? Yes, the biggest thread tying both The Obsidian Gate and Praise the Plague together lies in their observance of America’s favorite instrumental trio, and how they handle both song structure as well as building compelling soundscapes with the fewest tools possible. The result is a harrowing, frigid number that, when it finally steers to blacker waters, feels like a natural build rather than something that was tacked on for shits and giggles. Oh, and it’s eviscerating as fuck as well, as the song’s second half will more than guarantee a sprained neck or twelve.

It’s this carefully crafted blend of wide-sweeping influences that shouldn’t ever work (but it does oh so well) that makes The Obsidian Gate such a remarkable journey from start to finish. “Great Collapse,” the album’s most atmospheric track, makes good use of its nine minutes, as it swerves from blackened onslaught, to moody atmospheric doom, to post-metal build-up territories, and back and forth at every twist and turn. Elsewhere, “Beyond” starts off somber and beautiful, but quickly reveals its ugly, deformed nature as it rises out of the mire, grotesque and broken in spirit and structure. As The Obsidian Gate lurches towards its final destination, it drags the listener through the muck with it, covering you in filth and grime with every agonizing step taken.

The production plays a significant role in how successful The Obsidian Gate manages to suffocate the listener. Sure, it’s loud as fuck, and often makes you feel claustrophobic as all get-out when there’s double bass and tremolo riffs flying at you, but it fits the album’s feel perfectly. The drums feel cold and calculating with every hit of the snare, and the guitars swarm like a ravenous locust swarm, hellbent on eviscerating everything in their path. But while the album sounds great as a whole, it could use some editing. The self-titled instrumental could have shaved off a couple minutes and left a greater impact, as could “Beyond” and closer “The Ascent.” That said, though, I’ve been playing (and replaying) The Obsidian Gate continuously since I first heard it over a week ago, and could easily see this ending up on my year-end list months down the line.

And just like that, black metal runs right up to doom, shakes its hand, and fuses together to form a gelatinous, hulking beast of a sound, and Praise the Plague unleashed that monster on an unsuspecting horde of eager listeners. Much like countrymates Ancst before them, Praise the Plague prove that you can take black metal to uglier, murkier waters, and not only have that formula succeed, but also cast all eyes on them further down the road. This is one Gate that you don’t want to bypass under any circumstances.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lifeforce Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 30th, 2021

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