Oh hey, didn’t see you there. We took a week away from the nonmetal side of things, hope you didn’t miss us too much. To make up for it, I subjected myself to another album that breaks new ground for me. While I am somewhat versed in the poppier side of electronic music, drone acts like England’s Colossloth rarely cross my radar. Still, something in my gut told me I should give Plague Alone a shot, and I’m never one to distrust my guts. This is Rainbows in the Dark, featuring the best of all things non-metal and metal adjacent.
While the title may be a little too on-the-nose, Plague Alone was actually recorded in the spring and summer of last year, long before any deeper meaning could accidentally be attached to it. For this record, Wooly Woolaston, aka Colossloth, decided to tweak the tried-and-true formula that has gotten his project heralded as “the best of the new wave of British drone” by approaching the song concepts from a cinematic standpoint and by making them even more expansive in scope, while still retaining influence from diverse sources that range from nature and Wicca to dark ambient, IDM and even grindcore. All of that put into a pot together makes a product that is at times (and even all at once) disquieting and comforting, aggressive and gentle, manic and centered. There’s a lot of layers here, and the way they build on top of each other shows clever songwriting under the noise. Not that there isn’t some noise for its own sake, but it all feels purposeful, like there’s a reason behind every eerie static hiss, gentle string sample and swirling synthesizer note. Plague Alone is a very listenable album despite the disquiet it showcases, and I wasn’t exactly expecting that. It’s a really sonically interesting listen, and from someone who had no real knowledge of what I was getting myself into, I felt like I could very much tell that these songs are crafted to be cinematic and wide in scope. They seem to tell a story, with each layer building on top of the previous one as opposed to throwing a whole lot of noise at you and forcing you to make sense of it. It’s like the soundtrack to the dreams I have when I eat the questionable tacos that have been sitting for an undetermined amount of time in the back of my fridge right before bed.
One of the things that I appreciate the most about Plague Alone is that each track feels like it has its own life and identity. I feel like, from an outsider’s perspective, that’s a tough thing to accomplish when you work in a genre that predominantly trades in experimental soundscapes and noise as opposed to riffs and solos. Hats off to Wooly again on his smart songwriting. A great track to highlight would be the title track to this one, because it most effectively showcases what this album is all about. “Plague Alone” opens with a gentle, almost haunting guitar arpeggio that hypnotizes you and lulls you into a false sense of security before spontaneously turning into a huge, throbbing mass of unsettling noise and static that then fades back into smooth, comforting string synths just when you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Plague Alone marks the first instance of multiple songs over 10 minutes in Colossloth’s canon, with the title track, “Silt” and “A fuse like this has to be lit” all being monstrous stretches of alternating ambience and cacophony that feel very much at home in a movie score or short film soundtrack.
Regardless of genre, I’m a big fan of music that has some scope to it. I don’t share the same opinions as some people about songs or albums that have hefty lengths or a lot going on with them. While Plague Alone is only an hour in length, it has a very expansive feel to it, one that I found helpful in my immersion and appreciation of it. These are dense songs, but they work on a lot of different levels in the mind. Some frightening, some serene, all of them pretty damn cool.