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Plague of the Fallen

Amongst the Rats

Review by Craig Leahy

Far out man, we’re back! Been a while since I was able to not accountability for my words when people get passive aggressive at me in a Facebook comments section after some throwaway line on here. Massive changes in my life have led to having quite a bit less time for playing in bands and rambling on the internet. Man I’ve spent the last three months not sleeping, while cleaning vomit and piss off the walls, obviously, I got a job at Valhalla in Wellington.
Nah man, my fiancé and I welcomed my daughter into the world, and it’s fuckin’ awesome. Only downside, as mentioned earlier, is it gives me way less time for this, but I’ll still be uploading when an album drops that the world simply needs my opinion on. Today I’m back because there’s an album I’ve been looking forward to for the longest fucking time, and one that comes with built in Gone for Smokes lore too. You’ve probably seen the band I’m going to be talking about today looking svelte as fuck on the internet or beating up teenagers in the bike sheds of Christchurch.

Just how much pre-workout is way too much pre-workout to drink before a band photo?

Is this band the band that will save us from the true scorn of nerds taking over death metal?

Did this album actually convince me to change the way I rate albums?


We’ll answer all these questions and more as we look at the disgustingly crushing new album from Christchurch meat-axe enthusiasts, Plague of the Fallen’s new album Amongst the Rats.
It’s crazy man, the whole idea of Gone for Smokes came from some online banter with Plague of the Fallen’s megababe drummer Stuart Henley-Minchington (also of Erin Simpson fame). He’d replied to some review I’d written and posted on Facebook demanding that every New Zealand release gets the same treatment, to which my reply was that I will absolutely do it, so long as I’m not physically intimidated by any members of the band. Unfortunately, Plague of the Fallen is fronted by one of those big fuckin’ hanging meat carcasses from the Rocky movies so it counted them right the fuck out.
Maybe a year later I finally met that meat carcass in person, Vincent Minchington, and you know what? Dude is an absolute fuckin’ sweetheart, instantly loved this guy. He asked if I’d eventually do a Gone for Smokes piece on Plague, and after telling him the exchange I’d had with Stu a year earlier he said these words to me…
“Oh I’ll only kick the shit out of you if you go easy on me”
Well Big Vin, let’s go motherfucker, I’ve had two sugar free Peach Mango Nectar C4 energy drinks and been listening to your album for 3 weeks. And since the big dog likes it rough, some South Island bogans are probably going to take some friendly fire too, but let’s be honest half those nerds have had it coming anyway. Truly, if you want people to stop talking smack about your whole ass island, stop dressing like you’re ready for a job interview at EB Games at a moment’s notice.
But seriously what the fuck is up with the South Island man? Every single time an album drops down there it tears the whole country apart. HEAVY fuckin’ hitters down there with Blindfolded and Led to the Woods, Organectomy, Utilize the Remains, Swamp Dweller, Sawnoff, Order of Diptera, fucking hell I could go on forever. But with all the god tier bands down there, why the fuck is it every time I talk to anyone from the South Island under the age of 25 they’re drunk as fuck, trying poorly to roll a spliff and calling me a cuck or something for not having heard the latest Slam Death gurgle-fest, like fucking Christ I get it, but Devourment had what, two good albums? Slam Death kids are the Pantera fans of 2023. And fuck man don’t get me wrong, I ain’t taking anything away from the Slam bands down south, just look at the god-tier run Organectomy are on, and Utilize the Remains are opening for so many internationals they might as well rent rooms aboveValhalla and Whammy. Deservedly so for them, these bands have put so much love into their craft, I’m so fucking stoked for them getting the opportunities they’re getting.  It’s just that you can basically tell every single time a new Slam album drops by the amount of grown ass men wearing anime tee shirts there are dancing in the streets.
Ugh, when did slam become so closely adjacent with grown men in gamer chairs.
Anyway, Dorito dusted nerds aside, a few weeks ago Vinnie sends me a DM, he’s got a promo copy of the upcoming Plague of the Fallen album Amongst the Rats. Fucking amping, I run downstairs and immediately download it.  You may remember me talking about building Himbo Home Gym in our garage a few reviews ago, there’s a strict ‘only himbo hardcore’ in Himbo Gym, but I decided to make an exception for this album, it seemed fitting to have my first few listens while fighting a kettlebell, looking at a picture of Vinnie and knowing I'll never be built like that.
For those who haven’t heard of Plague of the Fallen yet, let me paint you a picture.
First of all, I think these boys thought ‘scoop the mids’ meant kicking all the average looking people out of their band because these guys all look like they fuck.


Plague consists of Stuart Minchington (Blindfolded and Led to the Woods and Pill Murray), Matt Bolch (Organectomy), Sam McRobert (Organectomy) and Vincent Minchington (every protein powder pop-up ad you’ve ever seen), so their lineage ain’t fucking around either.
Earlier rant aside, I need to be clear, Plague of the Fallen are not a slam band. Plague have a visceral approach to death metal that to be quite frank, I think New Zealand has been sort of lacking for a while. They have old school sensibilities in their song-writing, without ever being stuck in an era or dated sounded, the songs are violent, overwhelming at times but somehow always have a subtlety to the composition that really sets them apart from other heavyweights in the genre.
Having dropped a scattering of singles and an EP in 2021, the upcoming LP, Amongst the Rats, is Plague’s first attempt at hooking an audience for longer than a Family Guy episode, binge watching Family Guy being the national sport of the 25 year old New Zealand bogan.
Comparing this album to Plague’s 2021’s EP ‘Bleeding and Vehement’ is tricky. Mind you, the EP absolutely ruled, it did however have very rawdog punch you in the head for being a dick energy.  Where Amongst the Rats is such a monumental step up from a form and composition perspective, upon each re-listen it becomes clear that it is filled with such meticulously written and fucking bleak layers that it creates something that I really think is missing in A LOT of modern death metal, and that’s atmosphere. The atmosphere is so thick on this album that it would be a disservice to just say ‘yea these songs are tough cunt anthems’, this album isn’t just meathead riff after meathead riff, they’re compositions with purpose, and their purpose is to fucking murder you, what don’t you understand here, Plague of the Fallen fucking hate you and intend on telling your mum that you died a loser.
All that being said, these songs are dripping with tough cunt energy so we really have to talk about a few of them.
The album kicks off with an over one minute harsh noise intro that you’re too scared to skip in case one of these cavemen sees you do it so you sit through it every single time, but within 10 seconds of the title track kicking in Plague have completely prepared you for the beating you’re about to take.
The title track immediately lets you know that none of these songs were written after a 6 hour stint of streaming Diablo 4 on Twitch, they were written by a big fucking tricep, and that’s it. That’s exactly what I wanted out of this album, I wanted it to sound like it could move into my house, drink all my beers, convince my fiancé that I’m a coward and take the good spot on the couch every night. Fuck I miss the end seat, that arm rest really helps my posture stabilization.
Following up on that we have The God of Depravity which is a re-recording of a much earlier single, it benefits from slightly lower tuned guitars and significantly better production. I love this track being here as it does shine a light on the fact that Plague have always had thoughtful compositions mixed in with what their Facebook photo tells you about them, this song is guttural, intense and is thick with Nile inspired interplay between the guitars over the bridge through to the end of the track, with the vocal hook ‘Dismembering the bodies of the dead’ ripping through with such intent someone should probably check Vinnie’s house.
While on topic of Vinnie, not to blow too much smoke but fuck, this fucking guy is a generational talent man, the fuckin’ Ric Flair of NZ death metal. I’d been told a bunch of times over the years that he’d written all this material himself, after spending a few weeks with the album it’s clear to me that this guy is untouchable within the death metal sphere. His vocals are violent while still being so articulate that you can make out every word, none of his lyrics ever feel machismo or lame. And god damn don’t make me bring up the composition approach again as I feel like I’ve talked about that a lot, but these songs aren’t just thrown together by someone who kind of likes death metal, these are the songs of someone who breathes this shit. I’m a pretty cynical guy when it comes to modern death metal and with the threat of having my ass kicked for being too nice on the line, I just have just lean in and say – Big Vin, this album is fucking perfect. I’ve got a heavy bag in Himbo Gym now, so I’ll start training for my ass kicking, see you at Hell in a Cell motherfucker.


It isn’t just Vinnie bringing the heat on this thing either, the state of the drumming on this thing man, of fucking course it has to be the god damn resident overachiever Stu on drums. At this point it feels like a fever dream how much this guy is everywhere in my life, next I’m gonna walk down to New World and Stu is gonna be on the deli counter, then at the self-checkout making sure I don’t shoplift kumara, well guess what Stu? I’m too 37 to stop shoplifting now so fuck outta here. Man, the production really brings out how hard Stu is hitting on the album, his intensity, stamina and sense of when to push a song forward and when to hold down the tension are a thing of beauty. It’s fucking annoying because you could also say the same thing about him on guitar too, what a dickhead. I swear to god I’ll keep paying the domain fee on Gone for Smokes until this guy puts out an album where his playing stinks and I can rip it apart, but until then, I will continue to give my mans his flowers, dude is the fucking man and this is an absolute masterclass in death metal drumming. What an asshole.
Without going into a track by track breakdown, the last thing I really want to call out is the boys Sam and Matt on guitars. These dudes are custom fuckin’ built for each other. I swear most bands guitarists have the relationship equivalent of two white women at a mutual friend’s brunch pretending to like each other for the group Instagram photo then liking each other’s post as some form of civil duty, but these boys ain’t sitting here listening to fucking Meredith talk another second about her good sleep habits, they’re outing her for her ketamine addiction then skipping out on the bill immediately. These guys are SO fucking good together. The song ‘Cycles of Anguish’ really lit my ass up man, like, stop playing Session Skate Sim and take notes kind of lit my ass up. Session Skate Sim fucking rules too man, don’t sleep on that shit. Cycles became my favourite track on the whole thing by the end of my few weeks with the album. Just a guttural two guitar onslaught on some violent shit, and I fucking love that it has a blistering ass guitar solo without the song ever feeling like it’s just the vessel for a quick wank, instead, it’s as eloquent as a sentence about wanking.
Trying to wrap this thing up yesterday, I was driving around listening to Amongst the Rats pondering on how to best describe it. Deep in the heart of God’s Country, Lower Hutt, I pull up at a stop light on Queens Drive, look next to me and there’s an OLD ass mum driving in her car with her whole family, her window was rolled right up and she was just HUFFING on a cig, no fuckin’ rollie either, full on tailor made son of a bitch. She was looking super stoked on the cig while her family were all looking super upset, that’s when it hit me, Plague of the Fallen are that old mum. Just a bunch of jizzed up death metal veterans doing what they love and not giving any fucks about whatever stylistic approach to death metal, or the health system is the norm now, even if their album makes everyone in the car look upset and makes their clothes stink.

Congratulations Plague of the Fallen, you fuckin’ old mum, this album is a fucking behemoth and I truly think you’ve cemented yourself as a cornerstone of New Zealand death metal with it.

I posted the question earlier about if this album made me change the way I rate albums. And the answer is absolutely yes. Giving a number grade to an album tends to suck the fun out of this whole process to me, so moving forward we will look at the degree as to which an album could kick my ass.

When looking at Amongst the Rats, it’s clear to me that at any point in the near or distant future this album decides to stake its claim to any element of my life, then I would surrender immediately. This album could take my house, sell it for weed, then sit and make me watch it smoke weed and play Session Skate Sim on my Steam Deck that it also took. Absolute hard cunt energy that will hone in on all your insecurities and make them known to your friends and family whil reminding you every single day that you are the beta in this relationship, not Plague of the Fallen.

Plague of the Fallen’s Amongst the Rats is out December 9th, I can't find a link to pre-order, but keep an eye on their bandcamp HERE to purchase, I truly cannot recommend this album highly enough. It will stay in my rotation for the foreseeable future and has already found its way onto my end of year 2023 Top Rarks list.

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