Bearer Of The Darkest Plagues
posted on 6/2010 By:
As I often do before reviewing an album -- in this case, Blasphemous’s Bearer of the Darkest Plagues -- I directed my browser to the band’s Myspace page. What I found there only served to increase my pre-existing apprehension about American black metal. Firstly, judging from the band photos, most of the members appear a little too well-fed. True black metal is made by individuals so consumed by their hate for Christianity that even the most scrumptious vittles are but ashes in their mouths. Thus, black metal made by anyone over 150 lbs. (68 kg) is suspect. Secondly, next to pseudonyms like Nocturno Culto, Necrobutcher and Orlok, the aliases A-bomb, Unknown and R.K. (Your initials buddy? Jesus Christ, did you even try? At least throw a “Lord” or a “Count” in the front.) come across as rather half-assed. So, with much trepidation, I gave Bearer of the Darkest Plagues a listen…and proceeded to feel like a complete asshole. Blasphemous might not be the second coming of Deathspell Omega, but they make some pretty damn good non-standard black metal.
While Blasphemous spends about half of the album operating within traditional Norse black metal parameters, the album's appeal comes largely from the moments when the band breaks the mold and throws in elements from other genres. I don’t know about you, but I need to hear another album full of Transylvanian Hunger riffs like I need another hole in my dick. The album’s opener, “When Dark Storms Surround," is a good example of Blasphemous getting it right. The song begins with a typical droning black metal riff but switches to some crunchier death metal styled riffs in the verses, augmented by some extra thunder from the bass drums. Then, halfway through the track, the band introduces a melodic interlude with a stately yet sinister riff so exquisitely evil that words fail me. After returning to the intro riff, Blasphemous closes out the track with an angular passage that would not sound out of place on an early Death album. This varied approach to songwriting serves the band well throughout most of the album. From the certifiably face-melting solo on “Entering Oblivion” and the Iron Maiden harmonies on “Among the Wolves” to the Black Sabbath-esque intro to “Path to Our Demise” and the mid-paced thrashing on “Unending Misery”, there always seems to be something interesting cropping up to keep the listener engaged.
It is not all moonlight and pentagrams with Bearer of the Darkest Plagues. The album does drag in the latter half with some longer songs that stick a little too close to the typical black metal sound. From a performance standpoint, the band executes more than adequately, but R.K.’s vocals are the weak link. His black metal rasp is underpowered and monotonous, depriving the album of any sort of vocal hook.
The production on Bearer of the Darkest Plagues is well above par by black metal standards, but far from polished. To some extent the slightly murky sound contributes positively to the atmosphere, but in the album’s more visceral moments, the guitars and drums would benefit from a little more punch.
With its death metal riffs and guitar solos, Blasphemous’s sound is unlikely to appeal to black metal purists. At the same time, the band’s songs are probably too meat-and-potatoes to appeal to fans of the genre’s more progressive bands. But if you are a casual black metal fan not averse to a little low-end and some riffs you can actually bang your head to, Bearer of the Darkest Plagues will suit you fine.
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