Plaguewielder- “Succumb to the Ash”

Plaguewielder- Succumb to the Ash

In the world of metal, certain names tend to become subject to little tug-of-war battles when none of the bands are huge. Plaguewielder, an unconventional sludge group from Ohio, got in touch with me not long ago. While I found a few other bands sharing the name, this group, formed from the ashes of Horse Drawn Death Machine, seems to be a worthy contender for their name. With some of the most instantly memorable tunes I’ve heard from a new artist, Plaguewielder seems equipped to deliver a professional sound and presentation from day one, with fully realized production that leaves just enough rawness at the edges to add to the sheer size of the band’s sound.

Drawing heavy inspiration from the Tibetan text “Bardo Thodol,” Succumb to the Ash is violent and chaotic, yet retains a mindfulness and self-awareness that ties the whole thing together. Rather than offering up an album of riff after riff, as many of their doom-minded peers tend to do, Plaguewielder crafts a fine balance of subtlety and delicacy to give extra heft to their most aggressive sections. In fact, three of the album’s eight tracks are instrumental, serving as fully developed songs just as much as they are palate cleansers and moments of respite from the misery and filth. The bass tone on this album is the first thing that needs to be mentioned, as it’s not always at the top of the mix, but often carries a fuzzed out presence that reminds me of Type O Negative, a band whose entire discography is dear to my heart. Still, slightly gothy tinge aside, this is primarily an album that beats the listener down not with violence but with mournful weight. Plaguewielder offers the burden of grief on songs like “Palms of the Earth,” which utilizes choral synths to grand effect. In fact, the keys are what really elevate this album. While the meat of Plaguewielder’s sound sits at a junction somewhere between Cult of Luna’s artistic monoliths and Crowbar’s earthen sludge, it’s tasteful synth placement that really accents the melodies and establishes Plaguewielder as a true force. Oftentimes bands with a great element like this will use it to oblivion, but the restraint is what makes these moments stand out so strongly. The occasional moments where the trudging resembles groove metal more than doom are still done properly, bringing a raucous energy instead of generic thrash and hardcore influenced anger. Finally, another small but tasteful touch is the use of saxophone in closing track “Offered Up to the Sky.” Were this to appear in every track, it would probably smack a bit too much of Ihsahn’s After (a great album but not one that could be easily imitated). Instead, the clever placement accompanies Plaguewielder’s heft nicely and adds just the right touch to an already beautiful, painful album ending.

Plaguewielder is currently seeking a label to release Succumb to the Ash. In the meantime, fans can hear three tracks on their bandcamp. This post will be updated if and when Plaguewielder finds a home for this beast of an album. As one of the saddest and most compelling sludge albums I’ve heard in ages, I really hope to see this in a physical format soon. I’ve linked to all three of their available tracks below so that you can get a feeling for the intensity and beauty of this album. As all three are actually lined up next to each other on the album, you should listen in order here for full effect.