If you would have told me that Winds of Plague would be around long enough to release five albums, then I would’ve said you were insane. That’s coming from someone who was first turned onto deathcore by Winds of Plague. Yet here we are in 2017 with another entry from one of the best acts of 2008. But with vocalist Johnny Plague and drummer Art Cruz being the only remaining members from the band’s most well-known line-up, have Winds of Plague recaptured the former glory that was that 2008 shit? The answer is a resounding “no”… but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It’s not a secret that Winds of Plague’s last two efforts, Against the World and Resistance, weren’t exactly the finest pieces of music ever released. But on the other hand, Decimate the Weak is a deathcore classic, and The Great Stone War is a very, very good, low-key concept album that saw the band really make a statement about what they do best. So if Blood doesn’t find the band returning to the sound of their glory days, how can it not suck? The answer to that is simple: Winds of Plague have matured. That’s right! The band responsible for “California,” the dumbest song ever written, has grown up.
For starters, gone are the vast majority of stupid breakdowns, such as the first one in 2008’s “Anthems of Apocalypse” — a shit stain on an otherwise fantastic song. Although the album starts off in the typical WoP manner — intro track with a samurai feel (“A New Day”) followed by a ripper of a first song (“Nameless Walker”) — it’s clear from the beginning the get-go that the band has stepped their game up. Winds of Plague still have that perfect balance of symphonic deathcore with an emphasis on the hardcore parts, but the bullshit has been cut out. There’s even a noticeable black metal touch this time around. The songs rely more on riffs and less on chugs, and it’s very obvious that this is a more adult Winds of Plague than the one that put out Against the World. Furthermore, whereas the band’s last two albums crashed pretty hard after their intro track, Blood of My Enemy remains largely consistent throughout its twelve song duration, and even sees Winds of Plague take a few risks that make the album a fresh breath of air from their most recent releases.
Which is not to say that the record is perfect. Although some of these experiments, such as the female clean vocals on the chorus of the title track, pay off, some of them, eh, not so much.
The first, and biggest, problem with the album is that Johnny Plague’s filthy low growls are absent on Blood Of My Enemy. Although his mids and highs are surprisingly good, the lows were the rug that tied Winds of Plague together. Maybe his vocals were shot from all the inhale screaming he did on their early stuff? I dunno, but I miss those lows!
The second problem with Blood of My Enemy is the overuse of gang vocals. Although they work well in “Nameless Walker” and “From Failure, Comes Clarity,” which might as well be a Born of Osiris song, they seem to be the go-to thing to keep the tracks interesting; as a result, the songs don’t do enough to differentiate themselves from one another.
So are Winds of Plague still on that 2008 shit? Nope, not even close. Winds of Plague are on that 2017 shit now, and Blood Of My Enemy is better for it. The WoP catalog seemed stuck in a downward spiral with no hope of ever seeing the light again, but Johnny Plague has now effectively dug himself out of that hole, and by God I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t want to hear follow-up (which is something I wouldn’t have said after the last two records). Having now course-corrected their ship, I’m excited to see what else they can accomplish.