Tech Death Thursday: Plaguebringer and Antlion
You like tech? How about prog? This week, we’ve got both! We’re getting cerebral with Plaguebringer and Antlion.
- Replacire has a song and interview over at Popmatters. Do Not Deviate is shaping up to be a hell of an album; look for it on March 17th.
- Hideous Divinity has a new album on the way for April 28th via Unique Leader. No new songs are up yet, but you can check out the art and track list for Adveniens right here.
- I missed the new Torturous Inception release on this last Toilet Tuesday, but I highly recommend it. Headfirst Into the Void absolutely lives up to its awesome title; give it a shot if you’re in the mood for some monstrous brutal death.
- Arkaik posted a quick video of drum tracking for their new album, featuring Gabe Seeber of The Kennedy Veil. You get a small taste of some of the new material, and unsurprisingly, it sounds massive. I’m very much looking forward to this one.
- Virulent Depravity has a teaser up for their upcoming debut album, Fruit of the Poisoned Tree. It’s out on April 7th via The Artisan Era; don’t skip this one if you’re into the crazier parts of tech death.
If you were to take The Black Dahlia Murder by way of First Fragment, you’d end up at Plaguebringer. It’s a very ubiquitous style of tech death, one that everyone who’s delved into the genre has heard before, but Plaguebringer’s resemblance to the aforementioned bands is particularly striking. Diaro Irvine’s high scream could easily be mistaken for Trevor Strnad’s visceral shrieks, the bouncing harmonic minor riffs might have been lost tracks from Nocturnal or Deflorate, and the neoclassical shredding would be right at home on Dasein. It’s the sort of sound that, when you hear the phrase “tech death,” your mind almost certainly goes to first.
The challenge for this sort of band lies in setting themselves apart from the others so as not to be purely derivative. Plaguebringer pulls this off in the best way; their core sound stays true to the framework laid by their predecessors, but they take enough risks to distinguish themselves without sounding too unfamiliar. Hallowed’s intro song (which is actually worth listening to, a feat noteworthy in and of itself) leads into the title track, opening with a barrage of tremolo-picked arpeggios over abyssal chugged chords. It moves into a harmonic minor riff in the previously mentioned style, and this is where fans of the genre will start to pick up on the differences. Whereas most of their contemporaries keep to the middle and high end of their instruments, Plaguebringer lurks in the darker recesses of the low end. As faster passages tend to get muddy at these frequencies, the band also knows when to slow down and focus on an interesting rhythm over a melody.
This theme is perpetual throughout Hallowed. “The Ventriloquist” relies heavily on these low, breakdowny parts to make room for some excellent lead work, including a beast of a guitar solo from Christian Münzner. “Nevermore” does this as well, though it mixes things up by throwing a spidery ascending line at the end of some of the phrases and periodically exploring the midrange for some variety. “March of the Corrupted” comes out of left field with a creeping doom feel, and “Blood & Gold” bookends the album much the way it started.
While Plaguebringer does a lot of things we’re familiar with and will undoubtedly hear many times over in the future, they put their own spin on the style that makes it feel new. While all these mentions of similarity might come off as strikes against the band, they do a lot of things that I’d like to encourage other bands that play this particular subset of tech death to do. They recognize that it’s something that’s been done before, so they go out of their way to approach their core sound from different angles. The changes are substantial enough to set them apart from their peers, but subtle enough to keep fans of the style interested. They own their sound, and Hallowed is all the better for it.
Next up is an excellent prog release from 2015 that I had been extremely hyped for, and then somehow forgot about by the time it released. I aim to make up for that, though, since Antlion is a band that deserves the attention of every prog metal fan out there. They’re a band that acknowledges the past while looking to the future, taking ideas that older bands may have briefly toyed with and presenting them in new, fully fleshed-out forms. They pull influences from across the spectrum of metal and blend it together into something unique.
The Prescient starts off softly but discordantly, and it doesn’t waste any time getting heavy. The first distorted riff is big and menacing, and you’ll notice the vocals carry a distinct death metal flavor. You’ll also notice that the song doesn’t linger on any one idea for too long, but the band does a good job of maintaining coherency and flow while moving through numerous weird time signature changes and chord progressions. “Hubris” speeds things up a bit with some arpeggiated guitar lines and complex yet tasteful drumming, the bass supporting both with intricate counterpoints. This song in particular has a bit of a Son of Aurelius vibe, but there are traces of Intronaut and even Haken interspersed throughout as well. No two songs feel overly similar, but it’s never scatterbrained, either.
Antlion’s sound is expansive and their performance tight. Few prog bands have such a sense of direction on a debut, but these guys sound like seasoned veterans. I hope that they continue to grow and explore their ideas further, but they’ve unfortunately been very quiet on social media for the past year. I hope that The Prescient isn’t the end of their output, as they’re one of the most interesting new prog bands to emerge in recent years.
You can follow Plaguebringer and Antlion at their respective Facebook pages. Hallowed and The Prescient are both available on Bandcamp at the links above at little to no cost, and Plaguebringer has a new EP coming on March 18th. That’s all for now, and until next week,
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