It’s easy to see why Winds of Plague are the butt of jokes in “internet metal circles”. As they rose to popularity during the most oversaturated era of deathcore, their imagery and lyrical content was mostly emblematic of all the tropes of the genre. Their most recognizable songs were aggressively simplistic thematically and musically. This reception is almost a shame, because Winds of Plague have always had a brilliant band hidden somewhere in that well of unrealized potential. The entirety of The Great Stone War, which was a progressive deathcore showcase, and tracks like “Angels of Debauchery” from their debut showcased the band’s more creative and clever aspects, but it’s also undeniable that the band brought this upon themselves with tracks like “Reloaded”. Regardless, there’s been a small contingent of fans wishing for a return to the more nuanced and epic sound that they often hinted at. After 4 years and a nearly-entirely-new lineup, the band returns with Blood of My Enemy, which doesn’t fully satisfy that craving, but is a massive step in the right direction for the band.
It’s pretty clear that the genre that band skirted around for a majority of the career has been a dead horse for a while. Arguably, this was the case during 2013’s Resistance as well, but hey, better late than never. Blood of My Enemy sees the return of longtime drummer Art Cruz, whose absence was sorely felt previously. We also get a new keyboard player in Adrienne Cowan, and new guitarist Michael Montoya and bassist Justin Block. The only remaining original member is vocalist Johnny Plague (and Art Cruz if we ignore the band’s first EP). With a wholly new lineup, it’s hard to keep stylistic consistency, but this actually works in the band’s favor. Even Johnny Plague sounds nothing like before, relying less on inhaled vocals and more on raspy screams. In essence, this is basically a new band that’s only tangentially related to Wings of Plague. Detractors of the band can construe this as good news, and fans need not worry.
The DNA of Winds of Plague is preserved in the most pleasing fashion. Almost all of the aspects of the band that vehement opponents to their style would roll their eyes at are left behind. The prevalence of synths is preserved (and increased), and so is the general direction of being melodeath-influenced. The rest of the sound is reconstructed from the ground up. The end result is something between melodeath and metalcore with symphonic elements. Now, that description obviously doesn’t sound too different from the band’s former style. But the ethos, the approach towards the same elements is different. This isn’t an entirely new band, more so a different band in the same genre. Chanted singing parts, pedal riffs, blast beating on almost every song, significantly less breakdowns (and they’re nowhere near as slow as before when they do happen) all result in a very different tone.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean Blood of My Enemy is great. It’s definitely vastly improved, but nowhere near as interesting as The Great Stone War. There aren’t any moments in this album that particularly blow the listener away. The riffing is never bad, every song is tight, it all moves forward at a good pace; but everything is mostly unremarkable. It’s a shame that all these elements come together and don’t really amount to anything. It’s almost bizarre that a band can improve so much yet still end up so lacking. The album is a fun listen, and a good change of direction for the band, but not anything worth coming back to.
All in all, what we have here is something between a huge step forward and a weird horizontal side-step. With a brand new lineup and different approach that eschews everything many hated about the band, Winds of Plague have tried to recreate themselves as a respectable symphonic/melodic metalcore band. They’ve done that successfully, but the end result just isn’t compelling. It’s much better than their two previous releases, but that doesn’t amount to much. A decent album that one can listen to a few times and forget about. However, they have a good starting point and if they can iterate on this formula and develop cohesion with their new framework, they can achieve greatness. But not this time around.
Blood of My Enemies is available 10/27 via Good Fight Music.