Hailing from the oh-so-tiny, yet oh-so-rich country of Luxembourg, Plaguewielder have somehow found something to be angry and depressed about. Their debut LP, Chambers of Death, reveals a band heavily rooted in doom but not afraid to experiment or cherry-pick influences from black metal. The album has its successes and its (admittedly, mild) failures, but makes for a pleasing listen overall. It’s a promising start from a band not likely to make the same album twice.
As amateur-hour as it is for a review to begin with the opening of the album, Chambers of Death opens with the vocals. Echoing, reverberating and cavernous, Nicholas O’Connell’s performance sounds as if it’s being played in reverse — as if he’s sucking air in rather than pushing it out. That vocal timbre continues throughout Chambers of Death. In fact, Plaguewielder have about as much in common with depressive suicidal black metal and atmospheric metal as they do with doom metal. For all intents and purposes, let’s just call them an experimental doom band.
Plaguewielder leans away from the typical stoner doom affectation of many doom bands, incorporating keyboards and taking their share of liberties. They remain heavy, they remain slow, and they remain depressing. At times, as on “Drowned” and the other longer tracks, Plaguewielder devolve into what is essentially a doom jam. By allowing the guitars to find higher registers and bending notes mournfully into their proper channels, the band retains a thoroughly depressing and sorrowful expression of doom. Pay special attention to the highlight track, “Casket of Dying Flesh,” where organs are on full display.
The album is recorded as if a dream. It sounds farther away than the instruments actually are, and the heavy use of reverb and echo, as well as some delay effects, makes the album seem almost surreal. This feeling of de-realization is exacerbated by Plaguewielder’s patience — which, naturally, breeds tension and, eventually, anxiety. Thus, even though the band keeps the pacing slow, head-bobbing if you will, they retain the uneasy feeling of black metal.
The combination of thin, brightly-toned guitars, excessive experimentation, and a commitment to keyboard usage makes Plaguewielder a very unique band in the doom genre. They’re constantly changing their sounds and filters to create atmosphere and keep the listener’s interest. They are likely to get a few more cracks at the nut since Luxembourg’s life expectancy ranks 8th in the world with an average age of 82 (80 for males, 84 for females). A clearer focus on song structure and editing may help some editing may help them down the road, but for now, Chambers of Death is a promising beginning for such an experimental outfit.