Plaguemace – Reptilian Warlords


Danish quintet, Plaguemace, take pride in reliving the old school days with wide-eyed enthusiasm. That should make you sigh. The last thing we need is another unambitious death metal band with nothing new to offer. Nevertheless, Napalm Records saw enough promise in the Danes to offer them a recording contract following the self-release of their 2020 EP, Primal Priest. Their music is not as dull as you’d expect. Death metal might be in decline like a former empire reduced to a rump state with mercenary armies to protect it, but Reptilian Warlords dares to entertain those of us that stopped listening to the genre with any great expectations after 1995.

There’s only one thing more annoying than an unreconstructed Bolt Thrower rip-off, and that’s an overproduced deathcore album. Thankfully, Plaguemace are neither. Their sound is rough and primitive enough to reproduce on a live stage. Opener, ‘Cannibalicious’, might have a silly title, but its purpose is serious – to remind you that death metal can still be barbarous enough to make you snigger. Here, fuzzy guitars dominate the mix like a raging storm. Vocalist, Andreas Truelsen, gurns and grunts with the charisma of a caveman at a conference of Nobel scientists. Hunting tigers in Kenya with spears instead of guns is the name of the game here. Be careful, you might get a few scratches.

The group’s song titles suggest they have a sense of humour. ‘Impenetrable Leather’ starts with simple tremolo rhythms and bone-headed drums that collide like rickshaws weaving in and out of a Delhi traffic jam. This is the New York death metal of the early 1990s injected with adventure. Flat distortion and primitive chord combinations conspire to denude you of taste and judgement. That’s the point. If only punk music had the same effect. ‘Rhythmic Demise’ is just as ugly. Imagine a three-course meal of bread and dripping for each plate with different seasoning. The palm-muted riffs stand proud like soldiers who did their duty and dealt with the enemy using discrete methods that will never be discussed again.

As with most death metal albums, you must cling to the few moments of uninterrupted oxygen supply for real enjoyment. This arrives in the avant-garde brass metal of ‘Warcries from the Crypts’. It’s a sensible decision to place this at the half-way mark before the onslaught of ‘Among the Filth’ and the title-track at song number seven, both of which feel like days spent masturbating when you should be completing your PhD thesis. Plaguemace are proud of their crusty art in the same way a porn actor is proud when contemplating the great names in the Hollywood Hall of Fame. Their combination of early Celtic Frost with the Napalm Death of the mid-90s in ‘Misantropical Breed’ is worthy of admiration. Now you know why Napalm Records lifted Plaguemace from obscurity.

Inserting a song of eight-minutes as the penultimate track ought to be a certain way to bore the listener, but ‘Ambrosia’ is a morbid affair with subtle hints of melody. The faster parts are like the impatient burglar who shows more interest in leaving a turd on the premises rather than stealing the jewellery. You’d think the band recorded this on an analogue eight-track. A surprise flurry of Spanish guitar strumming emerges from the ashes of the outro riff. They call their last song, ‘Carnivore’. That needs no explanation.

Traditional death metal is one of the least interesting genres in heavy guitar music. Plaguemace won’t change that perception, but they have fun, and so might you if thirty-eight minutes of horrible noise appeals to you after listening to Spotify’s global top ten songs of the last month.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 17/11/2023

Record Label: Napalm Records

Standout tracks: Impenetrable Leather, Among the Filth, Misantropical Breed

Suggested Further Listening: Dipygus – Bush Meat (2021), Penny Coffin – Conscripted Morality EP (2022), Hebephrenique – Non Compos Mentis (2023)