Those who have been following Plebeian Grandstand through the years will not be totally surprised by the direction they take on their third full-length offering, False Highs, True Lows. The French racket makers started out life as a furious, chaotic hardcore outfit with dissonant mathcore tendencies. But there was a darker edge to their sound that set them apart from other hardcore, mathcore, what have you bands in their category. This darker side, which shared similarities with modern black metal, would be explored further as they progressed. By the time 2014’s Lowgazers was unveiled to the world, Plebeian Grandstand had assimilated atonal, writhing, apocalyptic black metal nuances à la Deathspell Omega into their technical hardcore sound. They had been gradually leading up to the sound presented on Lowgazers since their 2010 debut, How Hate is Hard to Define. So, as previously stated, fans won’t be surprised that the band plummet further into the technical black metal abyss on their newest record. False Highs, True Lows is the most logical and natural step forward for this band and it delivers some of their most well-constructed, atmospheric and downright evil sounding material to date.
False Highs, True Lows‘ 35-minute journey down the end time rabbit hole begins with the sound of horns on the introductory track, “Mal Du Siècle”. These bellowing horns, and subsequent vicious scream, signal the coming destruction. “Low Empire” officially kicks the record off with mangled, dissonant riffs that utilize spacing and atmospheres for a disorienting and punishing experience. The drumming is tight, complex and works hand-in-hand with the guitars to provide ample sonic torture. The vocals range from acidic screams, snarls and layered yells drenched in misery and pain. The entirety of the track, and the tracks that follow, is awash with pure malevolence. “Low Empire” gives way to a lurching, menacing riff on “Tributes and Oblivions”. That opening lumbering riff bleeds into a blitzkrieg of blast beats and spiraling, atonal melodies that swarm around the listener like demonic wasps. The track eventually becomes a struggle between gargantuan, malformed doom and gloom and frenzied, angel murdering black metal. “Volition” closes out the first half of the record with six-minutes of sprawling, cacophonous dissonance that instills intense feelings of claustrophobia in those who listen. There are bursts of blackened insanity near the second half of the track, but it is its first half of atmospheric tension that draws the listener in.
The short ambient interlude “Mineral Tears” signifies the beginning of the album’s second movement. “Oculi Lac” unleashes cross-burning hell once “Mineral Tears” comes to a close. While “Low Empire” kicked off the first half of the album with twitching and writhing complexity, “Oculi Lac” focuses more on spacing and choking atmospheres. The guitars sound thick, dissonant and intimidating throughout. The drumming unleashes flurries of percussive assaults while the riffs displace the rhythms with their disfigured, and sometimes drawn out construction. The band employ this kind of drawn out, sprawling structure even more so in the penultimate track, “Tame the Shapes”. This seven-minute, mostly-guitar centered leviathan focuses on reverberating, down-tuned riffs that are slowly conjured throughout its duration. This doomed, atmospheric crawl is eventually accompanied by thunderous drums that gradually increase in speed and bleed into the record’s final track. “Eros Culture” storms right out of the gate with hell-spawned instrumentation that grabs the listener by the neck and drags them into the lowest recesses of darkness. The track attempts to combine all of the nuances found on the album into one, compact four-minute tune. The ugly, churning technicality, the atonal melodic stampedes, the sludgy stomps and the atmospheric dirges can all be found on this tumultuous hymn.
False Highs, True Lows is Plebeian Grandstand at their darkest and most intense. The direction they took on this LP will surprise no one, but the way they construct and execute these tracks will definitely turn some heads. For 35 minutes listeners will be subjected to shape-shifting rhythms, outré soundscapes and compositions that only become more cataclysmic as the record progresses. It will be interesting to see what path the band embark on next, because this album is going to be damn hard to top.
Release Date: April 29, 2016
Favorite Tracks: “Low Empire”, “Tributes and Oblivions” and “Eros Culture”
For Fans Of: Deathspell Omega, Nesseria, Calvaiire and Idylls