Author: Gay For Gary Oldman
Artist: Plebeian Grandstand
Album: False Highs, True Lows (2016)
Genre: Avant-Garde Black Metal/Mathcore/Powerviolence
Label: Throatruiner Records
Well this was certainly a bit unexpected. I had come to this record in great anticipation of another suffocating, immensely grotesque work of art; something in the vein of the recent Gnaw Their Tongues output. After all, Plebeian Grandstand’s 2014 release Lowgazers was an absolute masterpiece of sick sonic hatred. For those not privileged to be in the know, Grandstand had taken the recent popular surge of crusty grind and powerviolence, and infused it with equal parts of early Converge mathcore and Deathspell Omega’s unpredictable avant-garde black metal. The music and the production were equally dense and impenetrable, and at times it was difficult to decide if the music sounded more chaotic or deliberate.
Not so, here. From the first moments of Low Empire, it is obvious that Plebeian Grandstand has turned all its fury in a single direction, and the sharpened riffs and more focused songwriting result in a decidedly more deliberate manifestation of their art. The chaotic and unpredictable mathcore elements have not disappeared, but have been moved further into the back, decorating shorter moments between the more motivated black metal passages. This is also reflected in Adrien’s vocals, which have most of their hardcore and grind elements in favor of a black metal rasp not too dissimilar from Atilla.
Which is telling, as moments of Mayhem’s Esoteric Warfare can be heard in the highly strung opening chords of Tributes and Oblivions, as well as decorated throughout the album with almost dark jazz-like eeriness. Volition slows things down for its first half with a doom-like unsettling ambience and ends with almost ritual-like rhythm. Elements of mid-era Anaal Nathrakh are also familiar when Adrien’s vocals fall from a rasp to pure manic shrieking, and Eros Culture could have been taken from that band’s Eschaton days.
Tame the Shapes, however, is somewhat of a disappointment and breaks the momentum of the album. Featuring a full four and a half minutes of naught but dissonant guitar tones, the band then decide to introduce a slow, doomy and off-putting series of percussive moments before eventually leading to the albums most unrelenting fury…for all of about 30 seconds. It’s clever, though. Because this was truly the ‘False High’ for a track which was ‘Truly Low’ in the quality of the album. See what I did there? But to apologize for it, I think my favorite point of the album would be the second half of Oculi Lac, where dissonant waves of black metal riffage crash repeatedly against you in spectacular fashion.
I think the most telling point of comparison would be to the recent collaboration between Dragged Into Sunlight and Gnaw Their Tongues. Both albums originated from the template of the grind and powerviolence styles, injecting dense blackened elements into the music to create something truly vile. I have returned to NV several times since reviewing it last year, but I think that Plebeian Grandstand have created the more memorable release here, with sharper and more focused songwriting than the band have displayed previously.
- Gay for Gary Oldman
Check them out here: http://plebeiangrandstand.bandcamp.com/album/false-highs-true-lows