Against The Plagues
The Architecture Of Oppression
posted on 8/2008 By:
I generally like symphonic keyboards in my metal about as much as I like watching Everybody Loves Raymond. I’ll leave it to you guess how much that is. There are certainly exceptions to this rule; Emperor is my favorite metal band because the keys accent their sound rather than define it, and I love how bands like Angra and Pagan’s Mind use the versatility of electronic keyboards as ways to elaborate on a theme rather than leaving them as the sole instrument of worth. But there are far too many bands who are content to simply let the ol’ ivories do all the talking to compensate for uninspired performances from the other instruments.
With that out of the way, I’m not even sure why I signed up to review this album. Between the dreadful metalcore-cliché band name and album title, the cheesy logo, and the descriptions of the band I’d heard all falling somewhere along the lines of “symphonic extreme metal,” I admit that I was anticipating giving The Architecture of Oppression a major, ego-glorifying beatdown.
Then I actually listened to it. And I heard…riffs. Good…metal…RIFFS!
With a surprisingly good mixture of majestic, melodic black and fearsome death metal, Against The Plagues have thrown me for a loop. While the brief samples I’d heard before giving this a proper spin had me dreading a Dimmu Borgir-esque display of faux bombast, in truth the core framework for this album is much more extreme. Thrash-influenced neck-snapping and Swedish-influenced melodies are on full display, with the keyboards providing a notable yet undisruptive role, only occasionally taking the primary focus away from the guitars. Factor in a vocal array of aggressive screams and growls and lots of soaring, melodic guitar solos, and we have an album that is way more metal than I expected it to be.
While a good portion of the material falls under the fast and infectious tag (“Renegade Manifesto” being a good example), Against the Plagues show their diversity with songs like the crushing “The Key To Ourselves,” which runs through a montage of ominous chugging passages and pinch harmonics that could almost pass for something by Incantation, if slightly more theatrical. Meanwhile, “War Against the Plagues” is a testament to this band’s ability to write real riffs, opening with a menacing blast segment before transitioning into catchy spiraling leads and marchlike breakdowns. The band only really drops the ball on “Order Of Decay,” which comes off as pretty aimless with some derivative Gothenburg melodies and rather dull brutal passages, drawing definite comparisons to the dreaded Demon Burger. But things pick right back up with the intense closer “In This Venomous World,” full of speedy blastbeats and a decidedly death metal feel, despite the rather annoying spoken word parts (which make appearances in other songs and are far from welcome).
It all comes together as something very tight and professional, yet not quite remarkable. Aside from the mediocre production (marred by a muffled sound and ticky drum sampling), Against The Plagues still lack that certain, unidentifiable spark required to become major underground contenders. Regardless, The Architecture of Oppression is a great album and a fine example of how keyboards can effectively be featured in modern blackened death metal. While some of you may be put off by this always divisive element, the genuine skill this band has at composing good riffs and an entertainingly dark atmosphere make this well worth checking out.
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