The Plague – Within Death Review

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve been spinning Black Breath‘s Sentenced to Life a lot recently. Maybe it was the epic face-kicking that I received from the recent Enforced release, but something made me seek out even more crossover bludgeonry by which to flagellate myself. Sentenced to Life saw the Seattle band blending crossover thrash with the rumbling HM-2 Swedish death metal of Entombed and Dismember, and the results were pretty glorious, earning the coveted 5.0 from my predecessor in unbridled optimism, Happy Metal Guy himself.1 Well, between this preparation and my recent Entombed kick following the passing of L.G. Petrov, I was primed to reach for the next buzzsaw promo I found. It sounds distasteful to say at a time like this, but bring on The Plague! With a promo promising to please fans of Entombed, Dismember, and LIK, I couldn’t help but expose myself to this pathogen. But is it sick?

The Plague hail from Sydney, Australia and there must be something in the water down under, because they rumble with HM-2 glory like their Earth Rot brethren from the opposite coast. Thick, thick riffs are on display for almost all 33 minutes of the band’s debut, making Within Death an easily repeatable beatdown. The Plague hang close to the Entombed end of the Entombed/Dismember Swedeath Spectrum™ and they steer towards that Black Breath sound thanks to some immense crossover grooves and the hardcore shouts of Mike Ryan. He gives an absolutely virulent performance throughout Within Death, staying in the lower register the majority of time, but also including demented shrieks like those found at the end of the embedded track, “Hand of Greed.” The track is relentless and makes me feel like I’m getting caught between two colliding wrecking balls, and I like it.

The buzzsaw Swedeath sound may be well worn, but it’s hard to beat that HM-2 tone when it’s played with passion and incorporated into great songs. Opener “Mind Eraser” begins with a creepy key intro and hits a gnarly groove at 2:13 — the exact moment I knew that The Plague wasn’t here to mess around. The track begins a salvo of seven sub-four-minute songs that never lets up, proving that this band understands that less is generally more. “Effigy of the Rotten” is a buzzsaw bulldozer that runs at every speed from crushingly slow to blisteringly fast. “Drones” is a methodically punishing hardcore glacier, “Spawn of Monstrosity” is a minute-and-a-half death metal dive bomb, and “Slaves to Addiction” effectively shows that Swedeath and hardcore were always meant to be together.

The momentum drops on the final three tracks, but not by much. This is mostly due to two of them (“Dismal Solitude” and “Festering in Sickness”) breaching the 4-minute mark that the rest of the album avoids, and probably could have been mitigated by adjusting the track list a bit. Both songs are good, but the inclusion of more emotive guitar leads on both makes it feel like the album’s close is a bit disconnected from the nearly uniform brutality of what came before it. Those of you who can’t stand hardcore vocals may have a hard time with The Plague, but I found Ryan’s performance to be one of the band’s primary strengths. The master on Within Death is quite loud, and it’s especially noticeable when spinning the record immediately after listening to the full dynamic range version of Left Hand Path like I did, nearly blowing my eardrums and speakers in the process. If you like this style, you’ll like just about every track here, but I highly recommend “Effigy of the Rotten,” “Hand of Greed,” and “Drones.”

To answer the question I posed in the intro, The Plague is, indeed, sick. These guys understand the art of the groove, and their simple-but-effective hybrid Swedeath/hardcore product makes Within Death an easy record to recommend to folks in need of a walloping.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Bitter Loss Records
Websites: theplague-au.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/theplaguesydney
Releases Worldwide: April 30th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. R.I.M.P. – Steel Butcher
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