The Ancient Plague does not fuck about. The debut demo/EP from Malefic Levitation is an unrelenting, skull-crushing twenty minutes of bestial and war metal that takes no prisoners. It taps in to that same sense of barely controlled chaos as the likes of Revenge and Archgoat do, walking a fine line between all-encompassing pandemonium and neck-snapping addictive riffs. Considering that it is a debut release, the mastery that Malefic Levitation display over this most ferocious of genres is all the more impressive.
Whilst war metal is a genre that might seem simple from the outside – a blend of furious drumming, relentless riffs, and inhuman vocals – it is a style of music that, at its best, possesses a deceptive aspect. Spend any length of time with the better bands who play this style, and it soon becomes apparent that, as well as violence, one of the most important aspects of war metal is the atmosphere that the music conjures. It is a style that should sound not just physically crushing, but also able to capture and keep hold of the listener’s psyche, with the riffs and movements being as addictive as they are punishing. This is something that The Ancient Plague achieves with ease, its twenty minutes stretching out in to infinity, with time becoming a meaningless concept as the tape keeps hold of your attention and refuses to let go.
As such, it can be difficult to pick out the details of the record; it is an experience of sensory overload, with the music moving as some vast, terrible beast that is too huge and demonic for mortal senses to fully grasp. What matters is not that the riff around the 1:20 mark of ‘Warlord Rites’ shifts in to a slightly slower tempo that moves like the offspring of Blasphemy and Black Witchery; or the subtle dark melodies during ‘Black Forest Worship’; or the way that ‘The Black Wind’ shifts tempos to great, haunting effect. No, what matters is the way all of this comes together as a whole that is far, far greater than the sum of its parts, most of which will not be picked out, such is the soul-searing intensity and overwhelming nature of what is presented.
More than war or bestial metal, The Ancient Plague is metal of death. It is music that conjures images of landscapes populated only by ruin and bleached bones; of cities forever still and silent; of a world where night will never end. Crushing, ferocious, and utterly consuming, this is war metal of the highest quality, and an absolute triumph.
The Ancient Plague is due for release on 24 November 2017, digitally via Bandcamp and on cassette via Sentient Ruin Productions (US) and Dawnbreed Records (EU). The versions released by the two labels each have different artwork.