DIVINE HERESY burst onto the scene back in 2007 with “Bleed The Fifth”, a massive debut, a return to the riff throne by Dino Cazares, and perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the year. Honestly, it was one of those albums where the follow up was going to have issues trying to match the quality of release. So when it was announced that DIVINE HERESY’s sophomore effort, “Bringer Of Plagues” was slated for release in summer of 2009 I anxiously awaited the minute I was able to listen to it.
Unfortunately, I was right in my previous assumption that the follow up would pale in comparison to the debut. “Bringer Of Plagues” just isn’t the second album I wanted from the band and there are many reasons for such (that I will be getting to in a minute). This album is still a solid release and one that wets the whistles of those missing the older days of FEAR FACTORY by once again combining the massive rhythm combinations of right handed extraordinaire Dino and drumming god Tim Yeung (you may have heard of him in bands like HATE ETERNAL) into a poly rhythmatic Modern tour de force.
Let’s start with the great aspects of “Bringer Of Plagues”. As I mentioned above, DIVINE HERESY are one of the most rhythmatically ferocious and ambitious bands that have entered the Metal community. Seriously, the combination of Dino on guitar, Yeung on drums, and Payne on bass is a hurricane force to be reckoned with when it comes to intertwining rapid fire rhythms. This stop and go rhythm changes and barrages are where DIVINE HERESY truly is brilliant and shines at their brightest. Throw in new vocalist Travis Neal with his barking style (at times pretty reminiscent of Speed Strid of SOILWORK) and this band is stocked full of face battering beats. The song writing does reflect this focus of attack and it works out quite well for the band as they vary the rhythms and add in melodies (very few) where it will be most impactful. On this front, “Bringer Of Plagues” is a magnificent album.
On the opposite side of the equator, are the parts that didn’t work so well, which happens to be most of the melodic sections. What made “Bleed The Fifth” such a memorable and volatile release was its almost perfect combinations of melody and rhythms as Dino flexed his lead and soloing wings and used a vocalist that could give us a great range of singing and screaming. Almost all of that has been taken back for this release. Many Metalheads might find this as a relief, but I for one missed it immensely. Where are those catchy vocal hooks? Sometimes they show up like on the opening “Facebreaker” or “Redefine” but new vocalist Neal works best at his guttural work rather than his overly layered singing. He does have a solid moment on the album ballad “Darkness Embedded” but even then I wasn’t overly impressed. He does a fine job but it’s rather unmemorable in the long run of the album. So with less vocal melody, comes the lack of guitar melody too. The solos are almost completely cut from the record (and the one that I can remember off hand on “The Battle Of J. Casey” is not as awesome as one would have hoped) and the leads themselves are pulled back and barely carry any of the missing weight. Occasionally, there is a lead that really works like on “Facebreaker” or “Letter To Mother” but I found myself wanting to hear Dino really flex those fret fingers a bit more.
Despite some of these flaws, “Bringer Of Plagues” is still quite enjoyable. On first listen, I felt quite a bit of disappointment with the album, but it did quickly grow on me with its more subtle approach to its writing. It’s not the sophomore effort I could have dreamed of, but it’s not a complete failure and it actually succeeds on many levels too. I could have done with a little more melodic mixtures, but once I accustomed myself to this approach I found I enjoyed the album quite a bit still.
Songs to check out: “Facebreaker”, “Bringer Of Plagues”, “The Battle Of J. Casey”.
(Online July 31, 2009)