Plague Father - Misery Ritual - (9.5/10)
Published on December 30, 2017
Genre:Blackened Death / Progressive Death
Hard work neither pays off nor ultimately fails, but when the results of hard work are plain for all to see, it’s extremely rewarding. After struggling through awkward line-up changes and the tribulations of the much-maligned demo days of a band’s formation, Welsh death metallers Plague Father finally release their debut EP. Rather than make it sound effortless, they go in the opposite direction and make it sound like they’ve conquered an enormous obstacle. 2017’s Misery Ritual therefore upholds a victorious, almost triumphant vibe, which is unusually refreshing for a sub-genre such as this. To list off influences; Plague Father combine a blackened death metal foundation (Behemoth) with a progressive tinge (Gojira), adding hints of deathcore and grindcore here and there (Cattle Decapitation). Season to taste – and voila! BeheGojapitation. Jesting aside, the Welshmen carve their own niche path into the genre, whilst proudly wearing inspirations on their sleeves.
The band essentially act as a duo, despite having live line-ups in the past. Jon Foreman providing vocals and lyrics (yes, all of them, believe it or not!), and Gwynne Taylor handling guitars, drum programming and the majority of songwriting duties. But Misery Ritual also features James O’Donoghue on bass who thankfully gets plenty of limelight due to the stunning production quality. Listen to his sheer virtuosity in the opening of “The Gloom Within” – now that’s Bassthletics! Don’t be disheartened by the use of programmed drums! These guys pull it off more effectively than Anaal Nathrakh – with every fill and gear-change taken immense care of, and the overall timbre being incredibly pleasing. The guitar tone is also suitably beefy, switching between the grim trebles and voluminous chugs with no loss of power. The opening of “Author Of Pain” best exemplifies this – that vicious razor-like riff being punctuated and crushed by four elephantine beats…such fun!
Structurally, this is exactly how an EP should be done. No bullshit rarities or superfluous CD-ROM videos; just five wholesome tracks of awesome fresh material, averaging around six minutes per song. Plague Father seem totally in control of their songwriting style, letting the tracks breathe through gradual progressions, repeating where it is necessary to obtain hooks or memorability. Nothing on this EP is thrown away as fodder. Every strum, every scream, every percussive pound is felt on a primal guttural level – straddling the fence which divides primitivity and elegance. Speaking of which, Jon Foreman’s vocals deserve praise for emulating that exact feeling. His powerful pipes produce all manner of unearthly sounds which may as well have been made by an alien with no lungs. At times, especially during “The Gloom Within”, he manages, amazingly, to resemble the madness of Travis Ryan with some of the fastest vocal patterns ever put to disc. Despite his impressive blackened rasps, the few moments of admirable clean vocals in the title-track provide a welcome contrast (it’s also worth noting that Jon created the band’s fantastic logo).
Misery Ritual may not strike immediately at the core of one’s brain, but repeated listens reveal layers upon layers of intrigue which give this a 100% replayability value. After wrapping your head around some of the gigantic walls of sound, bask in the glory of such death metal hymns as “Alleviate”, with its anthemic refrain of “THIS IS MY! NEW CREATION!” – I guarantee you’ll be roaring along with claws raised. Soon to be followed by the inevitable windmilling as tripleted blast-beats bombard your bonce. Not content with making blackened death metal sound indomitable, Plague Father absolutely nail the art of the deathcore-inspired breakdown. Both “Infinite Devastation” and “Author Of Pain” contain berserk breakdown segments which I absolutely defy you to memorize. Let no one disparage Gwynne’s riff-writing ability, as he perfectly rides the line between technically astounding and simple-but-effective. Considering this is merely a five-track EP, the sheer quantity of quality songwriting on display means I could ramble about this for hours. Let the music do the talking – listen to the embedded full stream of Misery Ritual right here and prepare to have your skull smashed by riffs heavier than a rhino’s scrotum.