Album review by Mick Mercer

Secular Plague had the honor to be reviewed by Mick Mercer, the well-known English writer who discovered lots of goth and punk band in the 80’s. You can read his review below or on Mick’s facebook page.

Ferocious! Well, that’s what I thought initially, somewhat reeling in shock that I was listening to some hardcore punk, from a band started by former Sleeping Children man Saphire, but then my ears started to level out and like a cocky albatross I began gliding around in an analytical manner.

‘Brainwashed By Medias’ actually threw me right back in time to 1982 where clear divisions existed in Punk. The adventurous sounds were coming from America and the scenes were lifestyle-related in the UK, with the Anarcho, UK82 and Oi scenes clearly quite separate. Secular Plague fit into the rumbustious UKL82 ethos. The songs are short and punchy but with enough of a melodic tinge to keep you listening. Grubby guitar lunges out and dominates tense vocals and there is something about the Arrangement which probably appeal to mathematicians. ‘Heal Me’ gnashes politely, similarly taut and briskly repetitive.

‘Gourmet Cruelty’ slows the guitar gait and the drums lope leanly and if SP have a problem it’s the lack of vocal clarity although I wouldn’t have wanted to hear these particular lyrics. ‘Violent World’ is choppier, the guitar carving through the air like unravelling barbed wire, and ‘Paranoia’ could be an extension but for the bassier sounds. Like most UK82 bands Secular Plague start to sound very samey after a few songs, as this is always a basic set-up and attack. What works for them is the stark, linear brevity.

In ‘Can’t Stand The World’ the guitar is a touch jauntier and the vocal sneer like an underfed Ruts. ‘Police Prejudices’ scampers meanly, ‘Based On A Nonsense’ stands and reverberates calmly, but also seems dull because of the more orderly approach. ‘The One To Blame’ is far feistier, the vocals and guitar equally pointed, the guitar lustily propelling the song forward.

‘The Breath Of Eternity’ manages to tease out extra guitar tendrils which fill the sound in a more interesting manner, ‘School Propaganda’ just grumbles along sounded fairly ordinary but we close with a more compelling and sour ‘The Endless Fight.’

The problem, which Saphire may take as a compliment, is that it all sounds like it came from that third wave of Punk, as though I’d just dug out an old record. The vocal delivery is a genuine antique, the clipped narrative stapled to a bulimic rhythmical strategy. As I never liked many of the bands from back then I personally am not impressed by this, but people who revel in that area will surely be interested, and it is still a well-respected vein of Punk’s dappled strata. Overlooked at the time it’s actually something very well served by blogspot treasure hunters.

I think Saphire needs a band to get more juice out of his ideas, as solo Punk ventures can never convey true power, but more importantly if he can replicate an approach so well he should equally be able to work out how to make this approach sound relevant for today with a new shape. There is so little anger in music these days, particularly as Industrial is too self-indulgent to encompass any useful worldview, that a modern Punk voice could be thrilling.

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