It’s really no secret that symphonic deathcore is one of my favourite sub-subgenres in metal, and there are many, many examples of that on the virtual pages of Everything Is Noise. As such, it will not surprise you that I semi-frequently type in that tag into Bandcamp to see what’s new in the genre, and the bands I have not come across yet. When Plagues Collide, the subject of today’s review, was just such a discovery.
Active since 2016, the Belgian quintet impressed me with their ability to effectively blend symphonic elements into their music instead of just tacking them onto their sound. They also showcased a sound that leaned heavily on melodic death metal, not relying solely on the chug-oriented tropes of their genre. After hearing their 2018 full-length, Tutor of the Dying, I knew I wanted more. An Unbiblical Paradigm, out April 9, is just that – a well-crafted, melodic take on the rapidly expanding subgenre that may not stand out for any particularly unique qualities, but a fun listen all the same.
It’s not uncommon for albums in this genre to open with stormy field recordings and haunting strings. The fact that An Unbiblical Paradigm does too tells you something about what you’re about to hear – we’re in for a fun, well-executed, but not particularly innovative ride. Opener “Converted Into Cypher” explodes from this cinematic introduction into some fast-paced melodic death metal riffage and even some more memorable hooks before slowing to a breakdown and anthemic solo. At just under four minutes, the track doesn’t overstay its welcome.
In fact, concision is one of the strengths of this record. At eight tracks and just over 30 minutes, An Unbiblical Paradigm’s brevity allows them to avoid fatiguing their audience with their (mostly) non-stop mix of symphonic lines, rapid melodic death metal riffs, and pit-inducing breakdowns. “Death In Progress”, the album’s second piece, does not stray too far from this recipe, but opens with a blackened influence that relies more heavily on blast beats than guitar complexity. Fellow Belgian Sven De Caluwé (Aborted) lends his vocals to this track as well.
“God Complex”, the album’s single is a captivating piece that opens with theatrical percussion and choirs alongside an impressive drum performance before exploding into fast-paced riffage and thoughtful piano ornamentation.
The few times where When Plagues Collide switch up the pace lend a great deal of interest to The Unbiblical Paradigm. “Monopoly of Violence” relies on somber electric arpeggios and some engaging stop-start dynamics. “Devourer of Memories” is overall a slower track, and unfolds with acoustic guitars and piano before erupting into mid-paced chugs. The other radical departure on the album from the group’s typical sound is “In Alle Stilte”, which closes the record. The track, with its emotional piano performance and spoken word performance, would not be out of place as an interlude on a Fleshgod Apocalypse album. The under-3-minute piece is an interesting choice to conclude the record. Absent any death metal elements, I would expect such a composition to act as a palate cleanser midway through the record as opposed to its end. However, its position on the tracklist is an unexpectedly somber and reflective finale.
By leaning more heavily on the death part of their sound than the -core, and showing a mastery of incorporating symphonic elements seamlessly into their sound, When Plagues Collide’s newest output is an enjoyable, if somewhat unremarkable, installment in their career and the subgenre. An Unbiblical Paradigm might not stand out against the melodic hooks from Ov Sulfur or the vocal acrobatics of Lorna Shore and progressive ambitions of Shadow of Intent, but it will certainly appeal to fans of those bands looking for additional offerings in the subgenre of symphonic deathcore.