Making no excuses for their 90s alt-rock/grunge sound, ReverbNation supported band Plague Artists, from Belfast N. Ireland, also make no excuses for rocking as hard as any of their heroes’ did (an in many cases still do). Formed in 2012, Chris Manhood (drums), John Hanna (guitar), Jamie Peters (vocals, guitar), and Leighton Robinson (bass), soon made evident through their music that the likes of Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Therapy were their obvious musical influences. With the major label debut albums of the aforementioned bands quickly passing into the “classic alternative” phase of their existence, the time feels right for a new “classic alternative” inspired band to take up the mantle. Plague Artists might not be ready to do that just yet, but they’ve developed a tight sound that will please many Gen X’ers…and their kids.
Plague Artists’ 2014 EP What Floats Like Flies showcases their 90s alt-rock sensibilities quite nicely. Standout track “Off Beat” makes excellent use of the “loud/quiet” characteristics of grunge and 90s alt-guitar-rock without simply copying it. Plenty of thick “wall of guitar” sounds shore up the track and highlight some excellent riffing. “Go” betrays their most stringent affinity for Dave Grohl-like breaks and bridges. It also gets the EP off to a strong and ear catching start, especially with its excellent solos.
All the best reviews of a band’s new material eschew comparisons (especially the most hip reviews), but with Plague Artists this cannot be helped. So, like they make no excuses for the 90s sound, I’ll make no excuses for my continued comparisons between them and the giants of the era, and “Into You” off the What Floats Like Flies EP is another great example of these guys’ love of The Foo Fighters. “Into You” is the most complete song on the album. WIth less guitar solos than “Go,” and even better bridges and breaks than “Off Beat,” here the band really, really does something special. “Into You” sounds like it would easily be at home on “new rock” FM stations circa 1995-97, but somehow sounds as fresh as yesterday. It’s the sound of a band working with an established genre, but actually contributing to the conversation about it instead of rehashing it’s tired points.
The band doesn’t contribute to the conversation with every track on What Floats Like Flies. “That’s How It Goes,” even with it’s catchy chorus and bopping guitar beat, sounds more like Sister Hazel than Soundgarden. (No offense to Sister fans out there). The song’s saving grace, strangely enough, is it’s beat. A fun, but not too interesting listen. “Suffocate,” with it’s Nirvana-esque baseline opening and its gradually building frenzy born of its slow burn riffing ensures that What Floats Like Flies only has one song that bloats like one gorged on garbage.
Some might say rock is dead. Cliched, I know. Still it’s nice to see that it isn’t where artists like Plague Artists are concerned though. I mean, what would you rather have: new bands that take their influence from White Snake or bands that are inspired by Dave Grohl? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.