Reptilian Warlords

rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Cannibalicious
02. Impenetrable Leather
03. Cavedweller's Soliloquy
04. Rhythmic Demise
05. Warcries From The Crypt
06. Among The Filth
07. Reptilian Warlords
08. Misanthropical Breed
09. Venomous Ambrosia
10. Carnivore Massacre

What an astonishing year this has been for death metal. While mainstream metal media outlets continue to froth over all manner of shiny, new things that have virtually fuck all to do with heavy metal on any meaningful level, the genre kick-started by POSSESSED and DEATH all those decades ago continues to flourish and grow and is now in a healthier state than at any time since the early '90s. That's the real story of 2023, and it will end in the same way that it began: with more grotesque extremity, belched up from the underground and shoved into the faces of an increasingly vast and rabid global fanbase. Death metal is for life, not just for social media cool points, and PLAGUEMACE are as vital and alive as it gets.

A stomach-stretching full meal, after the gruesome hors d'oeuvre of 2020's independently released "Primal Priest" EP, "Reptilian Warlords" is an early Xmas present to savor. Once again highlighting the depth and diversity of modern DM, this Danish quintet have conjured a debut album that has the same powerful sense of individuality and imagination that has made releases by the likes of FROZEN SOUL, SANGUISUGABOGG and CELESTIAL SANCTUARY stand out from the brutal crowd.

A seething blend of American and European death metal styles, with a nourishing dose of Australian-style, songs like explosive opener "Cannabalicious" and recent single "Impenetrable Leather" don't so much hit the bullseye as kick the bull's head off, before stomping on it until its skull shatters. "Rhythmic Demise" nods towards CANNIBAL CORPSE's slower and most devastating material with bellicose, mid-paced churning, built upon riffs that mischievously subvert the old-school classics and add a fresh layer of the mad-eyed sickness that infects so many of modern death metal's greatest and best.

After haughty and tense overture "Warcries From The Crypt" injects surreal drama into the onslaught, "Among The Filth" tears its way through a bloody, monochrome landscape of blastbeats and SABBATH-ian grooves, with vocalist Andreas Truelsen showing off his demented arsenal of growls and agonized screams. Opening with a riff that is guaranteed to make DM diehards contort their faces with sheer delight, the title track is a nasty, nihilistic labyrinth of balls-out aggression and jarring tempo twists; "Misanthropical Breed" hitches itself to a bone-snapping groove, before delivering a mid-paced pounding for the ages, and one as ragged and raw as anything from death metal's old-school halcyon era; "Carnivore Massacre" brings the offal-soaked imagery of its title to life in a suffocating spray of broken teeth and hot vomit. The most powerful moment arrives when PLAGUEMACE throw off the shackles of four-minute conformity and stretch their formula into new, distended shapes. "Venomous Ambrosia" is a nine-minute nightmare, sodden with blackened hell-juice and laced with lysergic leads and ASPHYX-style, petrified doom riffs that steadily pick up speed, until PLAGUEMACE leap aboard a runaway train on the downward slope towards the Devil's dumpster. Having already fulfilled their enormous potential, this is the song that most effectively demonstrates how straightforwardly fucking great this band are.

Barely a week has passed this year without a stellar death metal record being released. "Reptilian Warlords" is up there with the best of them. Give thanks and praise to the old-school gods for setting these wheels in motion. PLAGUEMACE and their many capable peers will take it from here.

Author: Dom Lawson
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