Saturday, June 29, 2013

Soul Remnants - Plague of the Universe


Sometime in 2009, I received an album in the mail.  This wasn't unusual, as I was writing for Metal Crypt at the time, and got plenty of promos, whether I asked for them or not.  I usually knew they were coming, or if I'd gotten one by surprise it'd also come with contact information so I could let the band know I received it and to link them the review when I was done.  That's what makes this particular album so strange.  It wasn't affiliated with any label that MC frequently dealt with (like Sevared or Metal Blade), the band hadn't requested anything from the site nor myself to my knowledge, and the package didn't come from the owner/webmaster of the site (usually he'd get piles of promos and then ship them out to reviewers).  This was... just kind of out of nowhere, with no contact information, from an address I didn't recognize.  This album, of course, was Plague of the Universe, by the unfairly obscure Massachusetts death metal outfit, Soul Remnants. 

Plague of the Universe has a couple things going for it that help set it apart from the legions of American death metal bands nowadays, and one of those is the fact that it has a pretty solid footing in that 1991 sound that Cannibal Corpse never left behind, with a very harsh, atonal thrash bent at times.  Instead of just going for all out brutality, over the top technicality, or a nasty, swampy atmosphere (the three most popular approaches to death metal nowadays, it seems), Soul Remnants never forgets that they're still writing music, and therefore each track comes off as its own self contained song, instead of a cog in a greater machine.  Both of these approaches are equally valid, but the ear catching collection of real songs seems to be a real rarity in death metal nowadays, with most albums being defined by an overarching feeling or theme.  That's not to say there's no theme to this here, as it's most certainly unified by infectious hooks in the riffs, a very powerful drum sound, and excellent, Ross Dolan-esque vocals.  Really, the vocals are a huge draw here, as they just sound like a roar from beyond hell itself.  Like the incredible Mads Haarlov, whom I always point to when examining great DM vocals, this sounds less like a man changing how his voice sounds, and more like he simply wasn't human in the first place.  The outro of "Rememberance" is a great example, with that massive "I SEE MY DESTINY" part.  Oh man that shit is just too cool.

Despite there being plenty of tracks that could be considered on the lengthy side, nothing here feels like it drags or was stretched out for the purpose of artificial padding.  The songs all flow very naturally, from one excellent proto-death riff to the next brutal tremolo section, everything has an inherent sense of melody that keeps it interesting throughout all the different twists and turns the record takes.  The melodies are surprisingly prevalent despite never being made the focus, and it just makes the record even more layered and interesting than it already is.  It's actually pretty difficult to assess each individual component that makes Soul Remnants tick, as no real member stands out as being leagues above the rest of the band (apart from possibly the vocals).  Soul Remnants work as one cohesive unit, just like the Boston Bruins (I'd like to make a joke about Boston losing the Cup to my Blackhawks, but I'd rather not rub it in (but just remember it only takes 17 seconds to prove who's the best, chumps!)). 

You know how I'm always throwing praise at Sectu for taking the idea of Immolation and making it more accessible?  Well Plague of the Universe takes the same idea and does it just as well.  There's pretty much nothing I don't like, and if there are any issues with the album, it's that I feel like the last couple songs start to lose identity a bit, but it's really only a small problem when compared to how great the other elements of the album are.  It all ranges from the fast and furious ("Chopwork") to the huge and triumphant ("Burning Reflection"), and it's all done extraordinarily well.  Definitely one of the better death metal bands out there nowadays, it's a shame they haven't released anything in about three and a half years.  I also learned while writing this review that the vocalist (Mitchell Fletcher) is married to Mallika Sundaramurthy, who most people recognize as the pretty face bellowing behind the mic for Abnormality, but what most people should recognize her for is the fact that she fronts not only one of the only three good bands on Sevared Records, but also potentially the most engaging and all around best BDM band around, releasing one of the best albums of last year with Contaminating the Hivemind.  Perhaps there's some idea sharing in the family?  I find it hard to believe that two of the best vocalists for two of the best bands in New England manage to live together and not rub off on one another.  Definitely one of the better surprises I've stumbled across throughout all my years of reviewing.

Sorry it took four years to actually review, guys!

RATING - 92%

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