Plaag – Ugh!
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To understand Ugh!, we have to understand how the record deals with hate. For clarity's sake, I mean hate in the sense of misanthropy, not racism, homophobia, etc. On a side note, when I listen to Bathory, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, and the earliest second-wave black metal records, I don't feel any sense of hate or misanthropy. At some point, I feel like hate was appended to the black metal lexicon of emotions, and it fits perfectly. I think I'm in the minority about the first/second wave records though. Am I?
The sense of misanthropy in Ugh! is laced with a bit of glee and humor. It's not in the lyrics, but in the music itself. It's ass-shaking, catchy black 'n’ roll that wants to have a good time even as it despises people. The record laughs at us, not with us. It revels in our human failings, and it will kick us when we're down. If it walked the streets wearing flesh and blood, it would punch throats and kick crotches and celebrate the damage. Taken to its logical conclusion, Ugh! feels like Social Darwinism.
The track “Steelteethed” rolls in with bass kicks and cymbals, nodding the listener's head, murmuring a nervous little riff. Twenty seconds in, it pulls the switchblade from its pocket and goes on the attack. But just listen to that chorus! It begs to be screamed and it backs itself with a catchy little double bass stutter. “Silently Beaten to Death” is my song of 2011. The drum beats are classic rock and roll groove, AC/DC style. The lead that cuts in at 0:30 is a reversal of fortune. It defies the good time rock 'n’ roll grooves even as it fits them perfectly. It's a gigantic shrug at victim-hood: "Your sister got raped and stabbed in a back alley? Bitch deserved it. Shouldn't have worn a miniskirt in that part of town."
The record should fall apart from the cognitive dissonance of black metal, good time riffs, and nasty sentiments, but it doesn't. The album's ninth track, “Christmas Time”, is hysterical, and intentionally so. The fifth song is called “Carl”. How black metal is that not?
And yet it all makes sense. In an interview with exterminal.com, Plaag's primary member Somber spells it all out for us. He watches the news and he feels angry and ashamed of the human race. He's inspired by the irony of humanity's existence. He plays black 'n’ roll cause he likes it and that's the kind of music that came out of his fingers and brain. Somber out and out says that he took the profits from the sale of >em>Ugh! to buy better equipment so he could give us better sounding black 'n’ roll. The record's available for free, and Plaag's site acknowledges that the economy makes it rough to spend money on music. Since when did black metal ever give a shit about the listener?
Here's the key: Somber is a mask, a persona, that is put on to write songs and deal with that hatred of humanity. Yeah, he hates us, but only while he's in character exorcising demons. It's like the album's first song says: “Somber's Out”.
And you know what? I can get behind that kind of honesty. Does anybody really spend life feeling 100% misanthropic all the time? I'm a generally happy person, but people do piss me off. Ugh! comes from that same mentality. Ugh!'s misanthropy is from the gut and is based on actions, rather than a purported philosophy of just hating everybody on principle. It can laugh because it focuses on actions. It's also not putting on airs about Satan or freezing moonforests. The lone reference to Satan is the second song, and it's actually about hypocrisy as it pertains to living life.
We all put on masks and lose ourselves in the heat of the moment. We laugh when we shouldn't and we make the mistake of wrongfully hurting others. We need to tap into our dark natures and relieve some of the pressure. We're all Somber. With that in mind, ugh! You fuckin' deserved it anyway.
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Plaag - "Silently Beaten to Death"
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Plaag - "Steelteethed"
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Plaag - "Christmas Time (The Birth of a Retarded Child)"
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(Per the band's website, physical copies are sold out)
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