Minneapolis’ scene veterans WAR//PLAGUE have finally released their debut full-length LP On A Darker Dawn on . The recipe first displayed on their debut 7” single Smolder b/w Malevolent Winds and subsequent continues to evolve, albeit minor—then ‘n’ now comparisons show them veering in slightly different directions while still snarled up in their crust punk roots. The conglomeration of styles and genres is varied enough though that it makes it difficult to put a solid label on them. Sure, in simplest of terms they are crust, but they are also quite a bit more than that too. (I used to call them post-ambient black metal crust-core or something like that. But let’s be honest here, what the hell does “post-ambient” even mean?)
Much of the band’s progression in sound has to do with a new drummer coming aboard for this record. The D-beaten barrage is still aggressive as ever, but there are noticeable tempo shifts and double kick rolls abound, resulting in a fierce convergence of percussion. You need not look any farther than “The Holy Blood” as an example of how good death metal-like pummeling sounds when given the crusty treatment.
It is endearing how much WAR//PLAGUE wear their Minneapolis influences on their sleeves; both literally and figuratively—literally in the form of Misery patches, and figuratively in the form of, well, very Misery-esque tuneage. It’s no secret Misery’s ’89/’90 Born, Fed, Slaughtered 7’’ was an influential crust record the world over, but perhaps it’s impact was not bigger or more lasting that it is in their native Twin Cities. And whether intentional or not WAR//PLAGUE’s album closer “Harvest” is a testament to that.
The vocals on this record are cleaned up to the point where you can actually understand the lyrics, but remain dirty enough that they apprpriately convey the grimness of the subject matter. And there is a peculiar airiness to the mix that lends it a touch of atmospheric ambiance. Then again that might just be the sound of flies buzzing about, presumably ingesting the flesh and feces of rotted corpses. From the album imagery—the cover art features a dark charcoal and oil depiction of flies swarming an earth-cloaked skull—to the lyrical subject matter—like, human burial aiding in the spread of disease and the depletion of Earth’s natural resources, for example—it’s their stringent adherence to topics such as death & decay, entropy and erosion that gives the album a thematically cohesive tone.
While WAR//PLAGUE aren’t attempting put any cracks in the foundation that crust punk was built on, they are at least constructing some really sturdy remodeling on top of it. Overall On A Darker Dawn is as impressive a full-length debut as you can ask for.