Crossover thrash is having something of a renaissance of late and has always held an appeal for its delighting in the carnage resulting from the collision of breakneck thrash and brutal hardcore. Where better, then, could a band emerge from than the abandoned industrial hellpits of Detroit? If Plague Years have anything to say about it - and they have plenty to say with debut Circle Of Darkness - nowhere does it better.
Album opener ‘Play the Victim’ will make abundantly clear if Plague Years are for you or not. A brief ambient intro soon gives way and a thick, chunky guitar tone paired with thunderous drumming enters the fray at a mid-paced stomp. This, too, lasts a very short time before a squeal heralds the band’s acceleration to a whiplash-inducing tempo. The band take a much more meat-and-potatoes approach but infuse their Slayer worship with a hefty dose of death metal influence ripped straight from the bludgeoning assault of Obituary. ‘Paradox of Death’ creeps in with a foreboding solo and then annihilates all in its path with a mid-paced chug custom-made to open ferocious pits before the speed kicks back up and the bodies start flying.
Vocalist Tim Engelhardt gives it his all, delivering a gut-ripping performance full of bile and bite. Clearly he can bark and snarl with the best of them and while he never truly flies of the handle such as the now-iconic “swing of the WOAH” from Power Trip’s ‘Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)’, his delivery is wonderfully anarchic and full of barely-constrained fury.
Slayer are absolutely the band’s biggest influence - there’s many a riff here that comes off as a Hanneman b-side, and I mean that in the best way possible. Guitarist Eric Lauder is an endless font of ideas, capable of changing from mid-paced attrition to full bore, balls to the wall speed. All the while, drummer Mike Jurysta keeps things moving, but like an old minecart there’s a constant sense of danger that this could come off the rails at any moment.
Producer Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Tomb Mold, Cavalera Conspiracy) is synonymous with the resurgence of crossover thrash and his influence is keenly felt here. Circle Of Darkness is relentless, unforgiving and violently efficient in its execution. He keeps things loud without sacrificing clarity or brutality, each venomous bark and razor-sharp riff landing with the force of an eighteen wheeler.
What sets Plague Years ahead of the pack is their sheer ferocity and the consistency on display. Circle Of Darkness starts at 100mph and they never take their foot off the gas, laying down mammoth riffs and earth-shaking grooves aplenty. For a band on their debut this is impressive work, melding raw aggression, breakneck speeds as well as gargantuan grooves - given a little more time to firm up their sonic identity, Plague Years will be a force to be reckoned with in crossover for years to come.
Circle Of Darkness is out now via eOne Music