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  • PLAGUE BRINGER
    "Life Songs in a Land of Death" CD

    HWC019
    Release Date: 1/29/08
    Track Listing:

    1. Digital Weathering
    2. Focused Regression
    3. The Severed Breath
    4. Suffering In Reverse
    5. A Sentient Being
    6. Do No Harm
    7. Shadows of Black Habit
    8. Wide Eyes Towards the Sky
    "Mix the over-the-top sounds of Pig Destroyer, Brutal Truth, and Ministry in an industrial strength-sized blender, and you'd come up with Plague Bringer. Few bands on the scene during the early 21st century can match the intensity of Plague Bringer, and the proof can be heard throughout their 2008 release, Life Songs in a Land of Death. And while some of the songs sound like a gang of mad gorillas beating on a trash can pretty much from beginning to end ("The Severed Breath," "Do No Harm," etc.), there are other points where Plague Bringer goes the Tool route and throw in a surprise detour (such as on the otherwise breakneck "Focused Regression"). And then just when you think you may have the Plague Bringer formula all figured out, they throw in a track like "A Sentient Being," which burns along at a steady medium pace for over seven minutes. If you like your extreme metal both ugly and intense, you may soon find yourself putting Life Songs in a Land of Death into heavy rotation."
    All Music

    "With their second full-length and follow-up to their 2005 debut, As the Ghosts Collect, The Corpses Rest, mechanized destroyers Plague Bringer swoop in on a cruel gust from the Windy City, dominating the constructs of extreme grind with what amounts to their own personal codex necro. On Life Songs, guitarist/programmer Greg Ratajczak and vocalist Josh Rosenthal owe as much to English black-industrial annihilators Anaal Nathrakh as they do Virginian grind acrobats Pig Destroyer (the members of whom they thank individually in the CD booklet), unleashing the proverbial beast in a hail of torrential power grooves, a broiling sea of blastbeats and a blizzard of savage "vokills". The only real bummers occur when Rosenthal drops his demonic yowl and sounds like the dude from Filter on a crying jag. Luckily, our man keeps the moaning to a minimum and mostly lets detah come ripping"
    Alternative Press

    "When it comes to music like this, it solely comes down to whether or not you’re into it. I, myself, like to hear three or more people jamming out in unison with their instruments in hand and all depending on one another for the music to come together. But I can still appreciate Plague Bringer for what they are. They are a couple of guys who got together, probably couldn’t find a drummer, said “Fuck it, we’ll do it ourselves,” and proceeded to rock as hard as possible. While their previous album, As The Ghost Collect, The Corpses Rest, seemed a bit more natural sounding with an uninhibited degree of heaviness, Life Songs In A Land Of Death comes across as more of a Ministry-on-speed induced vibe. Plague Bringer have even worked in more industrial and electronic elements than in the past that are easily heard looming throughout this record. A fuzzed distortion effect placed on the final mix gives it that extra sense of artificiality, working in their favor as it seems to be what they are going for, considering the band plays along to a drum machine programmed by guitarist Greg Ratajczak. Keeping it interesting on the six-string with riffs quite varied in everything from death metal to noise to melodic scale work, no territory is left uncharted. Josh Rosenthal’s vocals ultimately stay at his highest pitch and when coupled with the rest of the music and lyrics of a dark personal perspective, “Shadows Of Black Habit” are complemented well, as opposed to his occasional lows and gurgles. The bottom line on this record is that if you’re into the whole industrial metal drummachine thing, then Plague Bringer is your band to push you into the next realm of heaviness that comes from this type of music. As for me, I’m not too into, but like I said, I have no problem giving credit where credit is due."
    Aquarian Weekly

    "I recall in reviewing "As the Ghosts Collect the Corpses Rest", the debut album from Chicago's PLAGUE BRINGER that Greg Ratajczak (guitars/drum programming), and Josh Rosenthal (vocals) were really onto something. The "Seventh Rule" EP offered an intriguing concoction of MINISTRY-esque industrial drivers and PIG DESTROYER grindcore insanity. It is also a case of an album where real drums aren't missed and the drum machine adds that cold, mechanized feel. With "Life Songs in a Land of Death" PLAGUE BRINGER has come into its own, creating an album that is even better than its predecessor and improving the songwriting without losing any of the aggression. One might even say it is a more aggressive album on several levels. The general appeal of the album (an EP really, but a long one) lies in its 1984-ish glow and machine-over-man dominance (both attributes that defined much of GODFLESH's career). Specifically, for every lightning speed, industrialized grind explosion (which by itself is satisfying enough) there are clever breakdowns and an array of effects that work wonders. For example, the assaulting way that "Focused Regression" makes its impact would make Al Jourgensen proud. Then a sprawling, neoclassical guitar solo by William Taylor leaps out of the mix and brings a certain beauty to the beastliness of the track. In other words, the album sounds as though the band really thought about getting the most out of every track. Rosenthal's distorted screams are the stuff of nightmares and one reason why the band attracts some PIG DESTROYER comparisons, yet he changes it up from time to time, whether injecting a growl or a spoken part into the mix. The same goes for the arrangements themselves; the aggression is always there and nothing ever occurs that softens the dangerously sharp edges, but the duo finds different ways of getting the message across outside of full-on blasting (though that occurs too). Additional splashes of color are found in the inclusion of cello by Alison Chesley on several racks and the Hammered Dulcimer of Thomas Schmidt. Finally, the lyrics are also an album strongpoint; even if you're not a "lyric person" you'll want to at least peruse these. Rosenthal's tales of a world gone wrong and personal crises are written with grit and contempt filtered through a kind of isolationist prose or the poetry of anomie. Yes indeed, PLAGUE BRINGER is a band that you can no longer ignore. Yet another act and album that helps define Chicago's fertile extreme music underground."
    Blabbermouth

    "If the recent big trend in heavy music was crossover US black metal, the next one might be a return to the punk-inspired death-grind of Brutal Truth, Napalm Death, et al. Plague Bringer, along with Disfear, is leading the charge, tossing in the relentless throttle of an industrial drum machine for extra ear-splitting measure. Life Songs is the heady—in musical execution and lyrical aspirations—sophomore effort from Chicago duo Greg Ratajczak (guitar/drum machine) and Josh Rosenthal (vocals), the former of whom somewhat bizarrely honed his engineering chops on Modest Mouse's The Moon And Antarctica. Apart from near-silent opening track "Digital Weathering" (a tricky calm before the storm, reminiscent of how Metallica's bludgeoning "Dyers Eve" duped listeners with moments of short-lived tranquility 20 years ago), Life's eight tracks are all grindcore dynamics, feedback-driven death-metal vocals (think A.C. vocalist Seth Putnam if he fronted a less ridiculous band) and Ratajcazk's battering-ram drum-programming, which leans toward the Adrenaline Junkies' hardcore techno-thrash in its precise assault. If eight tracks seems like something of a terse affair—particularly when they fidget between seven-minute monsters and under-two-minute micro-blasts—the album's relative brevity is its smartest asset, no surprise from a studio wiz like Ratajczak. Truth be told, there's only so much pummeling a person can endure, but more to the point, with such a limited framework of instruments, Life would have expired long before the final moments were it even two or three tracks longer. But as a determinedly single-minded macro-EP of invigorating, real-deal metal, this is a modern headbanger classic."
    CMJ

    "The term “melodic death metal” was arguably the most ironic descriptor in the music lexicon, at least until Plague Bringer came along. After listening to the Chicago duo’s second album, Life Songs in a Land of Death, only one term comes to mind: melodic grindcore. Make no mistake, these guys aren’t going to show up on “TRL” anytime soon. But Plague Bringer has managed to take the raw aggression of Pig Destroyer and early Napalm Death and infuse it with enough hooks and grooves to make a grindcore album that could be palatable for fans of Opeth or Meshuggah. Vocalist Josh Rosenthal’s heavily processed screaming meshes seamlessly with guitarist/drum programmer Greg Ratajczak’s thrashy riffing and mechanized, metallic beats. The use of a drum machine gives the album a cold, industrial feel, not unlike early Godflesh or Psalm 69-era Ministry. There are moments of pure chaos, such as the ferocious “Focused Regression” and “Do No Harm,” that should appease grindcore purists. But it’s the more epic songs, like “A Sentient Being” or the eight-plus minute closer “Wide Eyes Towards The Sky” with their tempo shifts and (believe it or not) piano interludes, that could earn Plague Bringer the title of “the thinking man’s grindcore band."
    College Times

    "A couple years back, our band had the good fortune of playing with Plague Bringer. Beyond being really nice guys, their band was literally the tightest thing I've seen this side of Assuck, which, if you've seen Assuck, is saying a lot. I picked up their first cd, "As The Ghosts Collect The Corpses Rest" and was totally blown away by it. I still bust it out at least once a month, which is pretty unusual given my scorched earth policy of music consumption. Needless to say, I've been waiting for the follow up with baited breath as soon as they announced they were working on it. Put succinctly: even through a delay or two (unusual for a HWC release), it was worth the wait. First, the specifics: Plague Bringer are two guys and a drum machine. One guy plays guitars and does the Cookie Monster vocals. The other guy flails around and does the rest of the vocals. Given that, they kind of sound what you'd expect a band called Plague Bringer that has two guys and a drum machine would sound like. There's some grind, death metal and hardcore influences. The second track, "Focused Regression," even has a sweet galloping viking metal solo/breakdown. Where Plague Bringer differentiate themselves is the execution. Every single second of Life Songs In A Land Of Death seems to be optimized for maximum brutality. Or, at the very least, to be physically unsettling. The vocals manage to be varied but never get lame; Plague Bringer don't have time to fuck around so you won't hear any shitty singing or vocal goofiness on this record. Also, a lot of times with metal, bands sacrifice the song to show off how technically proficient they are. Plague Bringer deftly manage to avoid this trap. Despite the relentless precision inherent in playing to a drum machine (and make no mistake, it's an italicized relentless), the music never gets overly technical for technical's sake. Safari is telling me that "technical's" isn't a word, but fuck it. You get the point. Also: it fucking shreds. From beginning to end, the record never stops shredding. It's seriously ridiculous. Here's the part where I talk about the stuff I don't like, and I'd be remiss if I didn't touch on these. The single biggest problem with Life Songs In A Land Of Death is the same problem that the vast majority of drum machine bands have: the drum machine itself. It sounds chintzy. For the blast parts it's not so much an issue; those sections rely more on a precise attack, which the drum machine delivers. But the slower parts are done a disservice by how thin it sounds in comparison to how fucking huge everything else is. A little fattening up of the drum machine sound and/or a set with a better decay would go a long way to making the slow parts even heavier than they already are. Sort of relatedly, you can tell that there isn't a real drummer in the band by how loud the guitars are. It isn't even that the guitars are particularly loud, it's just that the drums are pretty quiet in comparison. Don't get me wrong, the guitars sound awesome (a byproduct of the guitar player also being the engineer), but the drum programming is AMAZING and it would have been nice to have it stand out a little more. Despite these minor quibbles (and they're not limited to just Plague Bringer, so take them with a grain of salt), Life Songs In A Land Of Death is likely to be the best record of its kind you'll hear all year. I'll actually qualify that with an extremely bold statement: Plague Bringer is the best straight-up metal band I've personally heard that are operating today. They seriously make me feel bad for the entirety of the Relapse Records roster. On Life Songs In A Land Of Death, Plague Bringer gets it right on all fronts: the fast parts are fucking fast and brutal, the slow parts are gut-churningly heavy and brutal, the riffs are sweet and the vocals are awesome. The record itself is even the perfect length (8 songs, 30 minutes); it quits while it's ahead and leaves you wanting more. In the end, probably the single nicest thing I can say about Life Songs In A Land Of Death is that it's the musical equivalent of getting your tie caught in a paper shredder. Every single second is terrifying and horrifically violent and it's likely to leave a gory mess of blood and bone splinters by the time it grinds to a screeching halt."
    I'm the Most Important Fucking Person in the World

    "After pulverizing debut As the Ghosts Collect, the Corpses Rest, Chicago duo Plague Bringer return with more drum machine death/grind. They sound like if Scott Hull mixed up Pig Destroyer and Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and threw in some Godflesh riffs. The buzz for Life Songs in a Land of Death (Hewhocorrupts, 2008) has been huge, and it's mostly justified. It's tough to play against a drum machine; one has to excise the humanity from one's performance. However, Plague Bringer have mastered the art. Riffwise on a scale of 1 to 10, they consistently bang out 7's and 8's when most bands hover around 5's with occasional spikes. "Suffering in Reverse" pairs Suffocation-esque tremolo picking with scathing vocals that strangely recall Grace Perry of Landmine Marathon. "Shadows of Black Habit" has rather blatant Slayer riffage. Two seven minute-plus tracks delve into slow tempi, with surprising melodic touches from cello and hammered dulcimer; digital doom outfit Hyatari comes to mind. Strong as these riffs are, they suffer from production that's ragged and slightly thin (bass guitar is absent, I think). The sound does have a certain hairy appeal, though (anyone remember '90s industrial cavemen Bile?). I don't understand why the beautiful digipak is covered by such a blah slipcase. The smoky textures on the digipak are stunning (Man Ray and Dali come to mind), stretching across three panels with raised ink. I prefer the explosive debut album, but this one is more of a complete package."
    Invisible Oranges

    "On their second full-length, Chicago-based duo Plague Bringer continue to ply a drum machine-fuelled death/grind/industrial amalgamation that's far more compelling in theory than in execution. Although artists such as Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Xasthur have successfully managed to incorporate canned beats into the realm of extreme music, these artists should be seen as the exception rather than the rule, and unfortunately Life Songs in a Land of Death doesn't do much to dispel the notion that this is the sort of thing best left to seasoned professionals. Plague Bringers's attack over the course of thirty-two minutes is a diverse one, ranging from the ambient intro "Digital Weathering" to the filthy 'n' furious assaults of tracks like "Focused Regression" and "Do No Harm" to the slow-burning "A Sentient Being," but diversity doesn't necessarily mean quality, or for that matter memorability. The album quickly slips past without having much of an impact upon the listener, due to a rather lackluster songwriting approach that makes it difficult to pick out many strengths within the band's sound. In fact, the album's greatest weakness is that the songs themselves aren't particularly engaging, mostly coming off like a less sophisticated Godflesh or Ministry with elements of death metal added in for good measure. The rudimentary programmed drumbeats leave much to be desired and the performances put in by the band's non-computerized members aren't a heck of a lot better. Guitarist Greg Ratajczak's riffs are uninventive and repetitive to the point of redundancy and Josh Rosenthal's distorted vocals have a tendency to dominate the mix in a manner that's downright annoying. In spite of a mastering job by Scott Hull, the recording sounds like it was done on a low-end Macintosh, effectively robbing the album of any hope of attaining the levels of suffocating mechanical heaviness bands like Red Harvest and Havoc Unit have long since mastered. For a band that relies on programming to supply its rhythmic backbone, Plague Bringer's command of technology isn't particularly impressive, especially when compared to the bands currently leading the genre. Bottom Line: Unfortunately, Life Songs in a Land of Death sounds more like a glorified demo by a band struggling to find a live drummer than an official full-length release. In the future, Plague Bringer might consider filling out their sound with a few more human members and placing a little less misguided reliance on technology."
    Lambgoat

    "Alright, today marks a transition in my curriculum for Extreme Metal 101, that most patronizing of all courses that consists mostly of drinking Newcastle and shouting at my unwitting pupils, "You've never heard of KATATONIA!?!?" See, whenever I'm trying to explain a particular metal sub-genre to a buddy of mine (in an attempt to wean him off of Taproot), there are certain epitomizing artists that I force upon him. For example, when asked about post-metal, I spin him my copy of Red Sparrowes' "Every Red Heart Shines Toward the Red Sun"; for stoner rock, Blue Cheer or Electric Wizard is usually the order of the day, and the power metal nod typically goes to Children of Bodom. When we get to the subject of grindcore, my go-to has heretofore been the ultra-violent and beautifully unappealing "Prowler in the Yard." Not only does it feature flawless technical execution and superbly conceived depravity, but you can't get a much more grind-ish name than "Pig Destroyer." Tell me I'm wrong. Well, I've updated that particular lesson plan to include Plague Bringer's sophomore release, "Life Songs in a Land of Death." They should get a big friggin' smiley face stamped on their blistered little throats and fingers just for being able to usurp PD's sheer amount of blunt force trauma with only half (or two-thirds, depending on the lineup) the personnel, but the talents of this Chicago duo, spearheaded by guitarist/programmer Greg Ratajczak and supplemented by vocalist Josh Rosenthal, go far beyond mere decibel level and distortion. The album's centerpiece, "A Sentient Being," starts off with a crash of dissonant chords that gets about as fuzzy as possible without descending into pure white noise. From there, we get a bit of sludgy slow-down, some groove riffs, and a smattering of digital acoustics straight out of the Finnish scene. This, by the way, is all about halfway into the song, which has, by the end, deteriorated into a blackened vortex of blackness, sorrow, and despair. I think I'm in love. You simply don't see anything coming. Rosenthal's vocals on the Portal-esque "Do No Harm" venture into the realm of a digitized Satan, and just when you think you've gotten a little metalgaze reprieve a few minutes into "Wide Eyes Towards the Sky," the faux-ambient rug is yanked right out from under you — though the funeral doom swell in the background should have been sufficient warning. The whole of "Life Songs" is like a death-grind equivalent to "Janie's Got a Gun" — brimming with hooks, savagery, and even (beneath the filth and industrial murk) a touch of redemption. Total auditory immersion is essential; there'll be a quiz later, and if you fail, you get locked in a room for three days with Puddle of Mudd piping in. Don't try me."
    Metro Spirit

    "A band name like PLAGUE BRINGER more or less tells you what sort of experience you're in for - ominous, frightening, potentially devastating. And with Life Songs In A Land Of Death, that's exactly what you're getting. PLAGUE BRINGER are a two man and one machine team offering up a robotic, industrial/grind-flecked assault of metal that is worthy of Skynet. Luckily, no one portion of the music overwhelms the other and never allows the band to be dragged down into a mire of blast beats and cacophony throughout the course of Life Songs.... Instead, the riffs are actually memorable and moments of clarity arise in the form of Scandinavian-styled solos or alternate instrumention and serve to cleanse the aural palate. The guys in PLAGUE BRINGER know how to construct an interesting song that employs various textures and moods, lending the band's music a cinematic quality (the band DO list Hitchcock, David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, and Paul Thomas Anderson as influences). Unfortunately — and this could be the limitation of employing a drum machine — the songs on the album tend to sound the same after a while, which detracts from the entire experience. Yet, on the whole, Life Songs In A Land Of Death is a very cool album that indicates a ton of potential and serves as an excellent starting point for a great band."
    Pastepunk

    "When a band gets rubber stamped by Pig Destroyer, you know you’re in for abject brutality as well as an experience you have to understand to fully appreciate. Plague Bringer, whose new record was mastered by Pig Destroyer’s tech wizard Scott Hull, isn’t for those who wish to chill with some metal over videogame playing or imbibing. And God forbid if you want to kick back to some slow jams. If you plan to wail a punching bag until you bleed, or you have some jackhammering to do, then “Life Songs” may be just what you need to keep your adrenaline at a furious high (though in a legal, steroid-free sense). Electronic drum thunder pulsates behind these grindcorerich numbers as Bringers Greg Ratajczak and Josh Rosenthal serve you Slayerrific riffing on “Focused Regression,” which also features some well-placed cello by Alison Chesley; shrieked vocals and speed metal blasts on “Suffering in Reverse”; slower, more plodding torture on super heavy “Sentient Being”; and angry thrash and ominous piano on lengthy disc closer “Wide Eyes Toward the Sky.”"
    Pittsburgh Daily News

    "Despite singer Josh Rosenthal's Pig Destroying acid-yowl, two-man Chicago grindcore tag team Plague Bringer mostly play their drum-machine/machine-gun skuzzpummel, like Agoraphobic Nosebleed with all the pointy edges filed down: a little slower, a little cleaner, a little bit of industrial sleekness. We'll stick with the grittier original."
    Revolver
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