If there is one thing that Winds of Plague excels at, it is continuously blurring the lines between metal and hardcore. Their new album Against The World is another showing of how well they can accomplish this. The six-piece hailing from California shows that, though uncommon, symphonic elements can be successfully presented in a deathcore band.
The album is laden with enough breakdowns to make any hardcore kid have an orgasm, yet it also contains enough metal elements to make any metalhead’s neck hurt after listening to it. Musically, the album takes one back to the Decimate The Weak days of Winds of Plague, while adding the occasional two-stepping riffs in order to appeal to a larger audience. One particular difference is the sound of the keyboards (performed by newest keyboardist Alana Potocnik); there is more of an overarching ambience to them, rather than solos and repeated single-finger notes. Truly, the album as a whole is a stark contrast of The Great Stone War.
There are several guest vocal appearances, including Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed fame and Martine Stewart of Terror. It also features a monologue by former WWF star Ultimate Warrior concerning (what else?) the path of the warrior.
The first two tracks are actually one full song that the group decided to split into separate songs (similar to their first album’s “A Cold Day In Hell/Anthems of Apocalypse”). “Raise The Dead” is a song comprised of bleak, doom-filled keys and an eerie chorus of children chanting about the rebirth of corpses. The song slides right into “One For The Butcher,” a brutal track where the keyboards are right at home; the ending is quite epic sounding.
Track three, entitled “Drop The Match” is a vengeful song, the lyrical content going right with the punishing riffs this song presents. Hardcore kids will love this song for the pure savagery it contains.
The next song is called “Built For War” and features Jamey Jasta; this song starts off in typical Winds of Plague fashion, with the blaring keys leading into a chunky riff that’s sure to get anyone’s head nodding. Jasta’s part is (as always with him) very intense, with his powerful voice almost overshadowing Johnny Plague’s. If you’ve ever seen the two of them, with Plague being an overbuilt giant and Jasta being a short skinny dude, it’s easy to be impressed.
“The Warrior’s Code” features the WWF wrestler Ultimate Warrior. It’s a minute and a half long speaking part (with oriental-styled background music) that details the belief system of a true warrior, and leaving a mark in the world through your actions. The Ultimate Warrior might even start up his own band; his angry growls seem like he’s seriously contemplating it.
The title track of the album, “Against The World,” is an appropriate Winds of Plague song, immersed in heavy chugging riffs, and an ending keyboard solo that shows what Potocnik can do. The repeated ending, “You and me against the world!” is sure to help this song be a crowd favorite, with eager fans waiting to scream it along with Plague.
“Most Hated” is a big middle finger to all the people who dislike and insult the band. Lyrically, this song is kind of cheesy; it just seems overly simple, but perhaps that’s the best way to describe hatred. At one point, Plague proclaims, “Imma let the beat drop,” and indeed the bass thrums through your body as you are forcibly shoved into a breakdown. It is both awesome and terrible (think of something you know you should hate, but just can’t help enjoying…like the movie Mega Piranha).
“California” is an obvious tribute to the home state of the band. Martine Stewart and John Mishima sing guest vocals. The song takes one back to the old-school style of hardcore, and two-steppers everywhere will rejoice when this track is played live. One can tell that Stewart had a lot of involvement in this song’s writing process; it sounds like it should be on a Terror album, but not on this one.
The last song, “Strength To Dominate,” is another traditional hardcore song, with more breakdowns and two-stepping riffs that every hardcore kid will love. The drumming on this song is oddly misplaced, with random blast beats occurring out of nowhere.
While this isn’t a terrible album by any means, it is not their best work. It’s a radical departure, both in subject matter and tone, from The Great Stone War. While sounding more like Decimate The Weak, it seems to be a little more hardcore in nature, and this isn’t necessarily a good thing. The album starts off good for all kinds of listeners, and then halfway through makes an abrupt and surprising shift into almost solely hardcore.
Musically, the keys are better; the atmosphere that emits is almost black metal in nature. The guitar work seems lazy, especially compared to earlier releases. The bass for the album is turned up too high, and it seems to drown out the other instruments, especially the drums. All of the instruments seem to be kind of muffled, as if they are all playing in separate rooms and the listener is in the middle with a hexagonal wall surrounding them.
It also seems like Winds of Plague is trying too hard to accommodate their varied fan-base instead of just playing what feels comfortable to them. The songs that have guest vocals on them always seem to sound like that group’s own song (outstanding example is “California”). It’s not exactly a bad thing, if you happen to like the bands that the guest singers come from; if you don’t, you’re stuck with something that doesn’t sound like Winds of Plague. Also, way too many gang vocals appear on this album. WAY TOO MANY!
At times, the lyrics are corny; it’s almost as if Plague tried to dumb it down for his listeners. The Ultimate Warrior track is downright laughable (though he IS the Ultimate Warrior, so he can still kill you if you do laugh), as are random other parts throughout the album. The overall subject matter isn’t as varied as Decimate The Weak, though it is still traditional Winds of Plague. It’s also not conceptually based like The Great Stone War (unfortunately).
While hardcore fans will easily gravitate to this album, fans of the metal persuasion may drift away from this release. Whether or not Winds of Plague are finally choosing a side in their battle of mixing genres is unknown, but this album will appeal to hardcore kids far more. If you’re into breakdowns and don’t mind recording quality, this album is a sure pick-up.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Pros: Good keys, uncommon ability to blur genres, guest singers are always a fun idea!
Cons: Bad recording quality, almost no improvement on their sound, guest singers are sometimes a bad idea!