To think that “primitive” means “simple” or “easy” when it comes to music is a mistake that many people make. The very word – primitive – harks back to earlier, pre-historic times, when things were certainly less complex than they are now. But when used in the context of metal – especially the kind of bestial war metal that Plague Phalanx have unleashed with their self-titled record – it hardly means that things are straight-forward and obvious. Rather, the use of “primitive” here as a verb is to attempt to describe the raw, elemental power and force that Plague Phalanx tap in. It is music of blood, of war, of violence and hatred. It is utterly, utterly primitive, and all the more impressive and effective for it.
Musically, the chief point of comparison is, as almost always with music of this style, Blasphemy. Plague Phalanx possess a similar feel of chaos and violence as those gods of war, albeit with a touch more of death metal. The five tracks here are crushing, rolling forward with no regard for the devastation left in their wake. Opener “Offering At Tophet” locks in to a series of almost hypnotic riffs, whilst the rhythm section move on with bloody determination and force. Meanwhile, the vocals are deep, inhuman grunts, all meaning lost but their intent perfectly clear.
What sets Plague Phalanx apart from the majority of other bands forging a similar path is obvious as early as on second track “Raped By Apparitions”, which features a series of discordant guitar movements, somewhere between Deathspell Omega and Portal in feel and (twisted) structure. It’s a dark delight to hear a band playing war metal and looking beyond the usual influences, especially when, later in the song, they seamlessly switch between such unsettling movements and more straight-forward riffs and patterns. Too many bestial, primitive bands are content to simply bask in the animal power of the music they make, without considering doing anything new or different with the style. Plague Phalanx are not one of those bands.
Likewise, it is evident that they have not simply thrown a collection of riffs and pounding drum patterns together and called it a song. “Deathmarch” and “The Befouling Aspergillum” both show an understanding of space and dynamics that eludes most bands playing extreme metal, demonstrating that moments of (relative) calm make the storm seem all the more terrifying. The way that “The Befouling Aspergillum” combines slower guitars with blitzing drums at points is especially effective.
“Seraphim Bone Armament” brings the record to a close in a whirlwind of disorientating guitars and merciless drums, leading the listener in to a maze of torment and chaos, with sudden pauses catching out the unwary. The way the song shifts in to slower, more abstract territories around the halfway mark is hugely impressive, as is the way such movements flow seamlessly in to Portal-esque twisting guitars, before the song comes to a sudden stop.
By this stage, the listener should be left in no doubt as to the power and talents of Plague Phalanx. This is a hugely exciting and promising debut, demonstrating all that is good about bestial metal. It is all performed with immense conviction and talent, and I am very excited to see what the band offer in the future. Extreme metal has rarely sounded so hateful, so primitive, and so dangerous as it does here.
Plague Phalanx can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp.