Saturday, 13 July 2013

Plague Survivors - Discography tape


I've had serious withdrawal symptoms this last week. I've started a new job and have been focusing on that, so not had much time, but thankfully the weekend has come round just as my craving was at it's highest. Also, this is my reward for getting house chores done this morning. I'm going to try and do a few reviews today and though I'd start with some heavy-ass sludge/doom from Massachusetts band Plague Survivors. This discography tape collects everything they've put out so far and the physical release was handled by sick new Manchester label, Dry Cough Records. I'll still don't know what's in the water over there, but it's clearly spreading it's down tuned, furious fumes across the city.

Plague Survivors themselves formed in 2011 and have been recording and releasing their feedback ridden jams online, via their bandcamp page. This tape is their first physical output.

Tracklist:-

1. Grim Note
2. Foul Voice
3. Low Places
4. Funeral Pyre
5. Witch Crusher
6. Ditch Digger
7. Blue Sky/Black Death
8. Electric Funeral (Black Sabbath cover)

On their Facebook page they describe their music as "Feedback mainly". That's not far from the truth as opening tome Grim Note kicks things off. The ringing jars you before the slow, sludgy riffs kick in. Their grooving riffs seem to flow really well, in between the feedback-filled pauses. The screams are torturous and hover above the instrumentation. Foul Voice seems to take things to another level, in terms of suffocating heaviness. The guitar is low and thick. The drums pound a slow but big beat with dramatic cymbal crashes.  The vocals seem to air towards the kind of blackened hardcore that comes from the mouths of bands like Seven Sisters of Sleep, which is fine in my book!

That blackened hardcore effect takes an even darker turn during Low Places, where the vocals seem to morph into black metal influenced screams. While Plague Survivors are ostensibly a doom/sludge band, if you listen deeper, they become so much more. One minute you're being mesmerised by those bluesy riffs and the next minute you’re being chilled to the bone by wailing feedback and harrowing growls. As Low Places ends there's a short pause, before the first proper long song on the tape. This is in the form of the eleven and a half minute leviathan, Funeral Pyre. This is more of what I was expecting from Plague Survivors to be honest. Slow plucked bass, building feedback and martial noise coming from the guitars. The song is very much instrumental, taking it's cues from bands like Sutekh Hexen, such is the unsettling noise it creates.

The atmosphere takes another twist with the lurching evil of Witch Crusher. The Somewhat off-kilter intro section is pretty raw. It leads into another slow mid-length hymn. The improvised jazz piano and the effects used by Plague Survivors during the song's mid-section, shows an experimental side. The other long-player is Ditch Digger, weighing in at over eight minutes. I actually like the balance that Plague Survivors have found between long pieces and more mid-length four-five minute songs. It keeps things flowing and shows their creative side alongside their more carefree, heavy side. Unlike Funeral Pyre, Ditch Digger isn't an instrumental. It's a claustrophobic slab of intense noise with some really epic vocals, which jump out and grab you by the throat! It ends with more experimental textures and end of up pretty far removed from where it began. Still, it's an epic song all the same.

The final run in begins with Blue Sky/Black Death, which takes you back to the sludgy atmosphere of tape's opener. Here, the live recording of the vocals adds a greater DIY element to their sound and helps you appreciate that Plague Survivors aren't about electronic recording gizmos or triggers, but about good honest heaviness. The tape concludes with Plague Survivors take on the Black Sabbath song Electric Funeral. It's always interesting to hear how heavier bands take on more melodic songs, but I wasn't expecting the clean singing! I guess bands need to keep original elements of covers, so as not to deviate too much from their blueprint but I think they got it right here. They inject enough of their own sound into it to make sure it doesn't sound plagiarised. It's a great, upbeat way to finish the tape.  

I'm glad my ear holes have been opened to these guys. Musically, they're very skilled and they're not afraid to mix things up on the vocal department. Pick this up. You won't regret it!

Get you lugs around it here:-



You can purchase a copy of the tape directly from the bandcamp link above.

Alternatively, you can head to Dry Cough's webstore at http://drycoughrecords.bigcartel.com/product/plague-survivors-discography-tape. People in the US will be able to pick up copies direct from Plague Survivors soon.

Plague Survivors Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/plaguesurvivors
Dry Cough Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/DryCoughRecords

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