It’s that time of year again. The middle of December when you remember you haven’t done your holiday shopping so you’re packing it all in at the last minute. Sometimes you’re early enough where you get it all done in time and everything’s perfect. Other times, you were just a little too late. I really wish I hadn’t written my thrash wrap-up for the year without hearing Plague Years and their second EP, Unholy Infestations. This is a damn fine example of how thrash is coming back in 2018 with some fine hardcore-heavy crossover thrash.
Detroit’s own hardcore four-piece has returned from 2017’s self-titled EP. For a band on their first recording, they sound incredibly mature. This is a band that knows exactly who they are and what they want to do. They sound like real pros. Every track was tight and together. It sounded like a band who has put in their time and created something to be proud of.
This October, we were graced with Unholy Infestations. My god, what a sound! While there are definitely some Power Trip comparisons to make here, they really do have their own take on the modern hardcore-influenced crossover sound. While Power Trip may be invoking a more hardcore take on metal guitars, Plague Years tries to inject some death metal sounds into their crossover. Outrageously distorted guitars like this just make everything sound so much angrier and bigger. It’s a great combo with crossover thrash, making it that much more aggressive and seemingly much more hardcore influenced.
However, the band’s direction with crossover is very original. Usually crossover bands tend to go political and wear their punk bonafides on their sleeve. Plague Years lean into the metal side of things. The imagery in the lyrics are delightful horror references show off a blackened streak in the band. Take a look at the title track’s opening lines: “Endless onslaught; nightmares unleashed/Hell on Earth, unholy war/Mark of the Serpent on your deceased/Invert the cruciform”. Not normally what you hear from bands more accustomed to skate parks than black masses.
But enough of all that. It’s really all ancillary to the actual sound. If you really love your metal on the rough side of aggressive, just check out “Hellborn”. Listen to all that dirty stuff on that chugging intro riff! It’s like a biting down into chunky peanut butter except it’s full of razor blades. Ominous tribal sounding drums make you think you’re headed into a cult’s dungeon basement. Then it’s everybody chiming in. It’s as raw as you can make metal. What boggles my mind is the guitar solo here. When I think of crossover soloing, I don’t really think about technically able and proficient guitarists. No disrespect meant of course, but you usually don’t hear this kind of precision on this kind of track. It’ll make your jaw drop faster than a whammy bar dive bomb. It’s all so mature that it’s hard to fathom these guys have only put out one other EP.
This record could easily be one of my personal favorites of the year. It’s such a niche record that it scratches a few itches at the same time. Hardcore punk heavy crossover thrash with just a dash of black metal atmosphere makes some weirdo metal heads very happy. If you’re like me, this is going to be a personal favorite for you and a band to look out for in the future. It’s in a wonderful sweet spot that’s rare to find. You need an itch scratched between your ears? Plague Years is a great option.
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Unholy Infestation is out January 4 through Seeing Red Records. You can pre-order it here.