Album Review: Absent in Body — “Plague God”

Absent In Body - Plague God

Some things just go together naturally, without force or coercion, like they were simply made for each other: peanut butter and chocolate, oysters and hot sauce, pepperoni and cheese, a nice cabernet and just about any red meat.  Such is also true for the likes of Absent in Body, a true supergroup combining the brainpower of members of Amenra, Neurosis and Sepultura.  If it seems like a natural, organic fit, you’d be right.  If you think it sounds cool as hell, you’d also be right.  Plague God is exactly like what you think it would be in all the best ways possible.

Believe it or not, Plague God is an album that is a long time coming.  The seeds were laid as far back as 2017 by Amenra’s guitarist Mathieu Vandekerckhove and Neurosis’ Scott Kelly after a planned recording session for Hypertension Records’ The Abyss Stares Back #5, the band soon quickly scooped up Colin Van Eeckhout and Igor Cavalera on bass/vocals and drums, respectively (although, does that really have to be said at this point?) to flesh out the lineup, and the band managed to record one glorious, eponymous, almost twenty-minute sludge jam before their respective projects took them back to reality.  The four, individually known and renowned for their technical prowess and emotional playing, seek to create something that is a reflection of the current unstable times as opposed to the inner feelings they normally tap into for their own bands.  Even more impressively, Plague God was recorded with all four members in the studio together, as opposed to the more convenient and traditional supergroup modus operandi of file sharing.  Scott and Igor made the trek out to Belgium from Oakland and London respectively to join Colin and Mathieu at Amenra bassist Tim De Gieter’s studio, where the five monumental tracks were cut.  Incorporating plenty of crushing, beefy guitar riffs, industrial-tinged electronics, pounding tribal drums and dual vocal attack, Plague God capitalizes on everything that makes each of these musicians’ legacies cemented in the halls of metal royalty already.

Plague God is an album that punishes.  It is not an album for the faint of heart (or ears), but it is rich with deep, dark textures and crushing ambience.  The guitars are especially thick and mix especially well with the static hum of the electronics supplied by Vendekerckhove, all over a tapestry of Cavalera’s thunderous drums and CHVE’s nasty bass tone.  In truth, the drums carry a lot of the character of the music and lend a unique air to the overall sound.  Of course, they are doomy and sludgy with a significant amount of gravitas behind them, but in spots where Cavalera lets his roots show, like the openings to “Rise From Ruins” and “The Acres, the Ache,” are some of the standout moments on Plague God.  There’s a lot of seriousness and austerity in the music, there’s a palpable sense of enjoyment in the collaboration, and it all fits together exceptionally well.  Kelly and CHVE trade vocals, but neither steps on the other’s toes.  Kelly’s bowel-churning growl gives way to CHVE’s howled yelp, and then comes the classic spoken word passages to let you know that two major players in Amenra are a part of this project.  It doesn’t, however, feel like one or two people are driving the bus with everyone else left to hang on for dear life; there are little bits of Neurosis and Sepultura and Amenra all in equal measures, as well as plenty of brand new music that is pure inspiration put into sound.

Plague God is worth all the hype we have given it here, and we’ve given it plenty, but it should come as no surprise given the pedigree of the musicians involved.  We know they can all execute on their own, but this collaboration is something really special.  Maybe Plague God is one of those albums that makes you feel like it hates you for listening to it, but I think that’s okay.  I enjoy getting sonically pulverized, especially when it’s this good.

– Ian

Plague God will be available March 25 on Relapse Records.  For more information on Absent in Body, visit their Facebook page.

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