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Death metal and California have always struck me as strange bedfellows. I’m a lifelong East Coaster; for me, the word “Californian” conjures these notions:
- Palm trees
- People wearing flip-flops
- Liberal marijuana laws
- Deep whole-body tans
- “Relaxing”, whatever that is
The striving and clenching and scowling I associate with death metal do not jive with my image of the place.
Of course, my image of California absurdly diminishes its reality. Cali is a huge, diverse place that cannot be reduced to postcard clichés. And it has given us a great deal of death metal, from Autopsy and Exhumed to Deeds of Flesh and Odious Mortem. Now California has given us Sacramento’s Plague Widow, who strive and clench and scowl harder than most.
Structurally speaking, this debut EP approaches grindcore in its brevity. Its nine tracks run only fifteen minutes (four of which are interludes or outro), and Plague Widow blasts straight through the sub-three-minute songs. But texturally, this music bears none of grind’s punk grit. Instead, Plague Widow summons Portal-like maelstroms of dense black/death noise. But the delivery is different—tight and clean, with lots of precise pinch harmonics. This material would rest as easily on Willowtip Records (think Malignancy) as Portal does on Profound Lore.
A great deal of metal is written about power. Plague Widow’s music suggests not might, but fear. It reminds me that the world is a scary place for everyone, no matter how brightly the sun shines.
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STREAM PLAGUE WIDOW