Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Divine Heresy - Bringer of Plagues - Review

Music by Dino Cazares, Tim Yeung and Joe Payne, lyrics by Travis Neal (except lyrics to “The Battle of J. Casey” written by Jason Casey), produced by Logan Mader and Lucas Banker for Dirty Icon Productions and published by Sangreal Music, Inc.

If you’re looking for juggernaut heavy riffs, pugilistic industrial rhythms and howling apocalypse-declaring vocals, then you’ve come to the right place, as Divine Heresy, the brainchild of veteran axe-wielder Dino Cazares, continue to pound out their sonic destruction with solidarity and technical prowess.

Divine Heresy were formed officially in 2006, but the origins of the band began in 2002 when former Fear Factory guitarist Dino Cazares and former Vital Remains drummer Tim Yeung decided search for a vocalist to work with them on a new musical project. Tommy Cummings was chosen, as was former Nile bassist Joe Payne. And thus Divine Heresy was born, their first album Bleed the Fifth released in 2007, receiving positive reviews and generating an instant following. After an onstage altercation in August 2008, Tommy Cummings was sacked from the band and replaced by Travis Neal, vocalist of The Bereaved. A year later and the melodic death metal group release their second and latest album, Bringer of Plagues.

One might expect a fairly different vocal sound and approach with the change in Divine Heresy’s line-up, but Neal ticks all the same boxes as Cummings did, switching fluidly from aggressive screams to melodic sections and back again. As far as lyrics go Bringer of Plagues follows the apocalyptic religious themes set up in Bleed the Fifth, and aren’t that much to get excited about. However, they fit the dark and desolate tone of the other musical elements of Divine Heresy, and work well with the overall rhythmic feel of the band. The gutturally chanted chorus of “Monolithic Doomsday Devices” (has there ever been a better song title?!) is particularly worthy of mention, working perfectly with the brutality generated by the other instruments.

The riffs of Dino Cazares have always been a straight-forward rhythmic onslaught right from the days of Fear Factory, sprinkled sparingly with melodic sections. While this was never a bad thing at all, it is great to see him embracing more technical ideas in regards to his guitar playing in Divine Heresy. Bringer of Plagues contains some extremely demanding riffs and licks, and not just in regards to their epic speed. The album’s opening track “Facebreaker” in particular contains some fantastic sweep picking in its main riff.

The drumming of Tim Yeung conforms to the same pattern, with sections of pure machine-gun double kick contrasted with more technical ideas and skills. I do find myself slightly cynical when regarding metal drummers nowadays however, as the proliferation of aids such as kick drum triggers allow a moderately competent drummer to sound perfect without good technique. But I will leave this scepticism aside, as I wouldn’t want to accuse Mister Yeung of being anything other than a talented musician.

Joe Payne's bass lines generally follow the guitar riffs, and don’t do much other than that, which isn’t really a bad thing considering the style of music. The overall result is songs that contain drilling riffs at the speed of light, with melodic tones thrown in for good measure. The only break from this rule is the slower ballad-like “Darkness Embedded”, which is as light as Divine Heresy will allow themselves to be; in short, still very heavy!

One could be forgiven for finding that the songs of Bringer of Plagues do have a tendency to blend into one and all feel fairly similar. This would probably only be an issue for music fans not interested in or accustomed to the styles and sounds of industrial death metal. Divine Heresy clearly do not have general commercial appeal in mind with their music, and hence are happy with the specific fanbase they have generated amongst the metal community. It could also be said that Bringer of Plagues does not strike out much further than the band’s first album, sticking to already covered ground. However, when you hit that precise sound you want from your band, you would be foolish to stray away from it unless you were really certain of wanting to take new direction.

While it may not be ground-breakingly different from Bleed the Fifth, Bringer of Plagues by Divine Heresy is a solid second album from a hard-working and passionate band. With their brutal aggression and thundering momentum, this metal-machine has a lot of mileage left in it.

If you like this, then try: All That Remains, As I Lay Dying, The Bereaved, The Black Dahlia Murder, Chimaira, Fear Factory, Gojira, Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, Machinehead, Nile, Pantera, Slayer, Trivium and Vital Remains.

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