AGAINST THE PLAGUES – Unleash The Devastation
January 15, 2016, 2 years ago
Chicago blackened-death metallers, Against The Plagues, has been carving out a nice little niche for themselves since its 2005 inception. Drummer Varyen has been leading the band from behind his kit with thunderous double bass explosions and a barrage of blast beats. Varyen’s musical indoctrination in the ‘80s was a little different than most of us growing up here in North America. After witnessing a rare Iron Maiden concert in his hometown of Gdansk in 1986 when he was 13, it set him on a path to a life of metal worship. Immigrating to the US in 2000, Varyen has embraced the diverse metal community of Chicago. On the heels of Against The Plagues’ third full-length release, Purified Through Devastation (released last month through Non Serviam Records), the band is hungry to get on the road and tour.
BraveWords: Chicago has a well-known Polish population. But what’s the local metal community like because Chicago is such a great musically-diverse city.
Varyen: “There was a big Polish community here. It’s smaller now because a lot of Polish people went back to Europe after the market crash in 2008. There’s a lot of bands and a lot of different genres. There’s positive things and negative things. The good thing is that there are a lot of shows and musicians, but the bad thing is that there is too many. People are confused because they have like seven or eight shows every day and they are ignoring the smaller venues and smaller shows and choosing the more well-known bands and venues. And that’s hard to promote and expose yourself in such a big city like Chicago.”
BraveWords: When you formed the band in 2005, did it initially start as a side project?
Varyen: “It did start as a side project because I was in a black metal band called Forest of Impaled. Me and the guitarist Adrian decided to do a side project in a different style, so we wrote some stuff together and recorded a few songs. From the side project it involved into a regular band and we recorded more songs that turned into an album. The first album, The Architecture Of Oppression in 2007, it was a self-released album, but we had good distribution through Century Media in the US. After a few years we signed to the Dutch label Non Serviam Records and they re-released the album under a different title. The official album under the title Decoding The Mainframe came out in 2010. I went through several lineup changes over the years, but after 10 years Against The Plagues is a strong, fully-operational band. This band is stronger than ever right now.”
BraveWords: Purified Through Devastation consists of four tracks from your 2012 The Quaternion EP and two tracks from Extermination Event and then three new tracks.
Varyen: “The Quaternion EP was self-released with four songs and we were trying to find a label to release the new album. In 2012 it was hard to find a label who were willing to promote a band like us. We didn’t have a proper promotion and only a few hundred CDs were released. When we had the opportunity to record the full-length album, we recorded those four songs and decided to put them on the album because they were strong songs and they weren’t exposed properly. The last EP, Extermination Event, was a two-song promotional CD from last year and was pretty much the same story; to try and find a label or management who would be interested in us. When we finally signed the deal with Non Serviam Records, it was always the plan to put all these songs on the new album.”
BraveWords: The album is relentless with its brutality but there are also some very memorable melody lines. How important is it to inject melody into the songs and what were you going for while composing the tracks?
Varyen: “I am from Poland and have a lot of European influences especially late eighties/early nineties stuff, which were always about the melodies. My bass player is originally from Serbia and our guitarist has Mexican roots. It’s a multi-national band so that’s why we have a lot of different influences and different musical styles. There’s a lot of brutality and extreme metal aspects in our music but there’s also keyboards and acoustic stuff, and some of the harmonies are black metal orientated. The songs are very complex and some are 7-plus minutes and we spent a lot of time working on them. This last album took about two years to make. It’s a very complex procedure to write and arrange the songs how we want them.”
BraveWords: Opener “Man's Modern World” immediately bludgeons the listener with a barrage of blast beats and a wicked growl. Was this track the clear-cut decision for the opener and how difficult is it coming up with the album track order?
Varyen: “’Man's Modern World’ is the essence of our style. So when we were talking about the opening track we were thinking about ‘Man's Modern World’ or ‘Extermination Event.’ Against The Plagues’ style is a combination of fast parts, blast beats plus harmonies, as well as slow parts, which is always important to us. We want to mix several different ideas and styles together to make the song more interesting. That song represented our style and the core of the definition of our philosophy. This song is about enslavement and the masses following orders. It was the perfect mixture.”
BraveWords: The keyboard sampled orchestrations throughout the album are important to your sound but they aren’t overly dominant and are there only to enhance the atmosphere of the main rhythms.
Varyen: “After the first album, a lot of people were complaining that the keyboards were too much up front. Also, a lot of journalists who were reviewing the album pointed out that we sounded like Dimmu Borgir, which honestly pissed me off. So I remembered all these opinions when we started creating the songs for the new album, so I was trying to keep the keyboards in the background. We used a lot of atmospheric, dark notes that improved the whole sound. Our goal was to have an extreme and brutal sound but to have that keyboard character, and that was the goal, to keep that epic, evil, atmospheric vibe.”
BraveWords: Talk about the video shoot for “Enblightened,” it turned out pretty killer.
Varyen: “We went to an abandoned church in Gary, Indiana, which doesn’t exist anymore. When we were shooting the video, the city workers were starting to erect demolition fences around the building and they were waiting for us to finish shooting the video to demolish the whole structure. It was scary though, because we shot the video when it was dark outside. When it got dark, you could feel some sort of paranormal stuff going on. It was a very weird feeling when you were inside that huge dark church. You could feel the vibe; like we were not alone. It was a low budget video because we don’t have thousands of dollars to shoot a video, but we picked that place because we heard a lot of stories about that church.”
BraveWords: I’m a drummer myself and I noticed that you play open-handed/left-hand lead? What’s your kit layout and who were some of your major influences?
Varyen: “I’m not left handed, I’m right handed. But I‘m using two hi-hats and I’m hitting my right hand on the snare and my left hand on the hi-hat, but the toms stay the same classic setup, from left to right. I’ve been playing drums for 25 years and I’ve always played like this. That’s my style. One of my biggest influences in death metal music was Pete Sandoval of Morbid Angel. He was the pioneer of death metal drumming, especially his blastbeats. Nicko McBrain from Iron Maiden was a big influence for me as well when I was 13 years old. One of the first shows I saw was Somewhere in Time in 1986. It was a funny story because I lied to my parents and told them I was going to the soccer game but I went to the Iron Maiden show instead. In Poland in the 1980s, we didn’t have a lot of big rock bands who were visiting the country at that time. So when Iron Maiden visited Poland in ‘86, it was huge. People from America don’t understand, but back in the ‘80s in Poland when Iron Maiden visited my town, it was one of the biggest things to happen to people there.”
BraveWords: What’s next for Against The Plagues, including touring plans and what do you hope to achieve or accomplish in the future?
Varyen: “My biggest dream right now is to go on tour and expose Against The Plagues to people. We’ve been in the studio and we’ve been practicing for so long, so now it’s time to have a bit of fun and share our music to people who like this type of music. We are getting good reviews from the new album so far, but playing shows is the only thing I’m looking forward to right now.”