Written by: Blackie Skulless
Despite having been around for over twenty years, Negative Plane are an act that only reached my radar at the beginning of this year. Being on their third album, these New York metallers dropped The Pact… last year, and somehow I didn’t get my hands on it until a few friends recommended them early this year; boy am I ever glad they did! Their brand of black metal is my absolute favorite way to carry out the genre, touching on the first wave vibes that use a lot of traditional and thrash metal influence under a coarse, wretched, and Satanic scope.
If only it were easy enough to describe it as that and end it there. As a matter of fact, their biggest selling point is the amount of layers and intricacy used, being displayed in seven long tracks that collectively touch the hour runtime. Yet, it’s riff after riff making an impression and sticking nicely. The harsh and noisy atmospheric platter makes the sharp leads and hateful vocals sound even more appetizing. You get a nice diverse selection of blistering, Venom-esque passages that use speed and rigidness, slow and doom-cladded breaks of bass frenzy to rake in a Celtic Frost image, and then straight up heavy metal clarity in the form of melodic guitars that feel like an ode to Saxon. One can’t be present without the other two looming in the background
Sorry about the word vomit, but Negative Plane do a lot within their hour window of time. I guess the only thing I could possibly nitpick is the fact that some of the transitions are pretty rough, but at the same time, I think the sudden breaks, and fades into nothing are intentional, meant to invoke that primitive black metal charm with a more controlled environment. So it should be no surprise that these six long tunes (and one interlude) feel like they could be separate songs within themselves. And you know what? I’m ok with it. Each one stands like its own tale within itself, working together to form what could be a compilation. The theme that holds them together is just the stylistic influence, and of course lyrics around Satanism and dark occult wankery; how fun!
But most importantly, The Pact... lets each of these stand apart in their own right. “Even The Devil Goes Into The Church” rests a lot in the chorus/lyrics basket, which makes sense being one of the shorter ones (haha, 8 minutes is “shorter”). On the other hand, “Poison And The Crucifix” builds energy with incredible cymbal ticks along a catchy rhythm section, and vocal clarity that together keep the ideas in line. Melody plays such a large role for a black metal release, and this one makes that more obvious than any. Opener “A Work To Stand A Thousand Years” belts out a little bit of everything, probably being one of the more choppy tunes, which works contrary to closer “And So It Came To Pass.” This one is a sixteen minute epic, paying tribute to everything with a more complex complexion (say that out loud) and darker energy than any other song. The evil tones cast themselves with the most focus here, and it becomes easy to pick up on more with every repeat listen. “Three Turns To The West” cakes us with pummeling drums and rumbly bass to cook up a story that works the feelings rather than direct emotion; the buildup and suspense reaches its peak here. “The Other Door” is your most straightforward one, a brief attempt at simplifying the, And of course “The Wailing Of The Immured” is a string/synth intermission between acts; go get a coffee or take a dump before we begin again.
The aforementioned note about repeat listens on the final track can still apply to the whole record, which is telling in and of itself. If I tried to go in deep detail for every track, you’d have a review the size of Marx’s Capital (yeah alright, that’s an exaggeration). It sounds like I’m downright worshiping the disc, yet I struggle to call it perfect. But the ideas that were being reached for clearly weren’t out of reach, and I still love everything about this. The Pact… is very much a record meant to be heard not as background. Throw it on during a nice long drive in the night, to accompany mindless work, or just as something to lay back and absorb. If a horror film around demons and witchcraft could be made into a musical experience, call this it.
Negative Plane - The Pact… was released April 30th, 2022 via Invictus Productions
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.