PLAGUE WIDOW, Plague Widow (2012, Buriedinhell)
Very “Darkthrone” in aesthetic, this cover pushes two buttons that, for this Friar, separate a killer skull cover from a dumb skull cover. I have a particular fascination with skulls that have an entanglement of roots underneath them, a fascination I didn’t even know I had until starting this ridiculous project. But there it is. Those roots are beautiful, seeming a “dust to dust” sort of commentary — “back to the earth from whence we came,” that sort of thing. The other button-pushing bit of coolness is the black rust dripping down the skull’s face, especially the streaks under the right eye which look like black tears. I’m totally into that too. (This blog is one of deep personal discovery for some of us!) With the geometical patterns framing the background and lending a cosmic sort of vibe, and that awesome if generic logo that’s nearly un-readable (but easy work for us logo codebreakers), you’ve got a cover that’s not big or dumb yet worthy of entrance into the hallowed Skullection.
“I don’t go in for this kind of grindcore meets black metal stuff,” an alternate-world, metal-loving Ron Swanson might have said. It’s a big deal in some corners, but it often comes off totally sterile and insincere. And totally fucking boring. Sacramento’s Plague Widow, however, are for real, and this nine-song, 15-minute EP wipes the floor of lesser hipster bands trying to do this same thing. Think about Insect Warfare playing Marduk covers, maybe. Plague Widow does everything right — the recording is powerful, punchy and crisp, their playing abilities are on the level of, say, Brutal Truth, and the multi-level approach reveals a mastery of everything from Disrupt-ish old school grind to blast-attack death metal to the dissonant string-scraping of a more technical black metal band. It’s all dark as hell, an imposing sound that cannot really be criticized, because the band achieves what they’re setting out to do, and they do it with total authority. They’re a very young band, too, so I suppose their tiny discography (this EP and a split) will grow immensely over the years. Ultimately, this is just plain impressive, whenever you’re in the mood for this kind of tormented calamity.
— Friar Wagner