Content Warning: This article briefly discusses suicide in some lyrical themes. If you or a loved one is distressed, we encourage you to contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Typically, when I approach a Weekly Featured Artist article, I usually reach out to bands that I am not too familiar with. However, for today’s feature, Plaguebringer, this is not the case.
I first encountered Plaguebringer nearly 10 years ago. The band is from Calgary, Canada, a city that is close in proximity to where I’m from (Edmonton). Our two cities also have a longstanding rivalry. Forgiving their origin (I kid), I was drawn to the diamond in the rough that is their 2014 EP, Hallowed. Their technical, neoclassical, blackened, and symphonic approach to death metal and deathcore captured me even then, as well as their features that included Christian Münzner (Obscura, Alkaloid). I’ve since followed their trajectory with interest as they released the Three Kings EP in 2017, and their full-length, Diabolos, in 2019.
However, the quintet just dropped my favourite release of theirs so far, Sola Pravidas. Despite following them for so long, reaching out to them for this feature was my first time interacting with the group. Plaguebringer was incredibly gracious, timely, and thoughtful in the responses they shared to my questions.
The origins of the band go back even further than my exposure to them in 2014. Formerly known as Columbian Necktie, the group formed when its members were in high school, playing shows throughout the province of Alberta, Canada. After disbanding in 2011 with members joining different projects, they eventually reformed under a new moniker inspired by Magic: The Gathering:
‘We couldn’t decide on a name to reflect our new sound, so Diaro just picked two magic cards he had that sounded cool; “Bringer of the Black Dawn” and “Plague Rats”. Hence our name Plaguebringer.’
Columbian Necktie’s legacy remains, as their EP still exists on Plaguebringer’s Bandcamp. After reforming as Plaguebringer, the quintet began writing far more technical music. A song like “Maleficarvm” from 2019’s Diabolos perfectly exemplifies this. The song opens with rapid tapping and interlocking guitar shredding before Greg Smith’s dynamic blast beats open up the song and more melodic leads complement the ever-evolving riffage that evokes comparisons to a number of acts gracing Artisan Era’s roster, like Inferi and Mordant Rapture.
After Diabolos, Oswin Wong joined the band, bringing a range of metalcore, neoclassical, and progressive influences to their songwriting, complementing the existing members’ approaches to writing their newest project, Sola Pravidas:
‘We usually have a melody or hook we build off of. The biggest thing Oswin prioritizes is the range of the instruments, the band, or synth tracks so no parts cross over/conflict with each other and all the separate parts sit nicely together. We write the more dynamic sections naturally by building them up first, then stripping them down to create tension and drama in the music. Aaron’s bass lines are usually composed to complement the track (countermelodies and rhythmic flare) and Aaron James does a great job in writing lead parts and transitions to make the song sound cohesive and original. Diaro also write a lot of our riffs and synth tracks (sometimes full songs!) and arranges the parts in an organic manner. Greg prioritizes the vibe and emotion of the track to come up with rhythm that compliments the overall song structure.’
Sola Pravidas took shape slowly over the course of the COVID-19 lockdown, drawing direct influences from the 1824 novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. The band has a long established tradition of using gothic horror literature as an influence in their writing. This bleak, epic source material is a perfect fit for the group’s music, especially on the new record. The opening, instrumental title track of Sola Providas highlights Plaguebringer’s cinematic approach, further augmented by arranger/composer Randy Slaugh’s gifted additions (we’re big fans of Randy here).
“Destined to Hang” further justifies those earlier comparisons to Inferi with additional symphonic elements perfectly complementing the group’s rapid yet melodic riffs. Diaro Irvine uses operatic vocals alongside his growls and shrieks on the song to drive home the lyrical intensity of the track and themes of the EP:
‘We arranged the songs in a way that’s intended to flow from one to the other, in a cyclical loop to sort of emphasize how the book picks apart Calvinist predeterminism, but lyrically the songs are out of order to mirror how the main character of the novel ends up blacking in and out during the climax, losing his grasp on causality of his actions (ex. committing crimes before he has any knowledge of the events) before finally attempting suicide to escape the situation he finds himself in. Sola Pravitas opens with the main character’s suicide, but it’s meant to be up to the listener to decide if his suicide was pre-determined, or the result of his choices.’
The EP, to me, is easily the band’s most dynamic, mature, and engaging release yet. Excellent mixing and mastering from The Grid in Montreal, Canada further showcases Plaguebringer’s ability to create and release music that stands alongside their influences. A song like “A Perilous Path to Ruin” evokes some Lamb of God comparisons, especially to more atmospheric songs like “King Me”.
With Sola Pravidas out, Plaguebringer has a promotional summer tour planned across Canada, where they’ve often had their most memorable times as a band in the past, meeting a number of eccentric characters and many lifelong friends. As they prepare for this tour and promoting their new release, they also think of themselves and their legacy:
‘When we were young musicians, we were inspired by bands (big and small) that influenced us to start our own bands and write music. We hope that we can inspire other musicians the same way those bands have inspired us in the past. Of course, we are also looking forward to playing more shows, releasing new music, and having a lot of fun doing it.’
Aaron Lang – Bass
Aaron James – Guitar
Oswin Wong – Guitar
Greg Smith – Drums
Diaro Irvine – Vocals
The image used in this article was photographed by Karolynn Mattern.