The Absence
Riders of the Plague

Metal Blade (2007) Kevin Fitzpatrick

The Absence – Riders of the Plague cover artwork
The Absence – Riders of the Plague — Metal Blade, 2007

The Absence hails from Tampa, Florida. Anyone with a sense of history knows that in the late eighties this meant something. Death, Obituary, Deicide, and Morbid Angel all hailed from Florida and significantly helped mold the clay into what we now know as death metal.

The Absence are fully aware of their roots and have set forth to continue the legacy of their forefathers. The Absence is not death metal, however, nor do they purport to be. One listen will tell you that their sound is indeed more west coast thrash than east coast death. The difference between the two, for the uninitiated, is melody. The Absence are very melodious and this what will make them either stand out like a blistered thumb or sink quietly into the background - something I have a hard time believing this band would ever let happen.

I want to like this band more. I know they're the real deal, but there's just too much soloing for my wee (huge) head to wrap itself around. They remind me very much of latter-day Testament, which, as much as I loved that band, was made cool in large part to Chuck Billy's vocals. The Absence have no such vocalist and their inclusion of a cover of Testament's "Into The Pit" makes this glaringly clear. The band has a more extreme look than their music conveys. They all look like they just shambled out of a Norwegian fjord. I guess I was hoping for more. Riders of the Plague

good metal title. War-machine style graphics. The presentation's good but the end result leaves the listener wanting something more

memorable. Don't get me wrong, as you're listening you're very likely to be going, "Holy shit - these guys can shred." And they most certainly can. But when the album is over I think you'd be hard pressed to be able to remember a single riff, bridge, or chorus that doesn't involve the Testament cover.

Which leads me to a final diatribe

I have nothing against bands covering others that have influenced them. Even at their worst, they can have a sweet "Hey grandpa! Look what I can do!" kind of charm that makes them impenetrable to even the most jaded, but I have yet to hear any kind of cover of a west coast thrash band (i.e. Exodus, Death Angel, Vio-Lence, Testament) that didn't fail miserably in comparison to the original. There was such a regional sound and vibe to it all that hasn't been recreated since its zenith of the mid-to-late eighties. So all you burgeoning young bands out there, it's a sweet gesture, but next time just thank 'em in the liner notes.

The Absence – Riders of the Plague cover artwork
The Absence – Riders of the Plague — Metal Blade, 2007

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