After "Decoding the Mainframe" (the 2010 remixed/partly re-recorded re-issue of its 2007 debut "The Architecture Of Oppression") the all-star line-up - that included former members of Forest Of Impaled, Luciferion, and Malevolent Creation – of Chicago, Illinois symfo death metal act Against the Plagues disintegrated. For a while it seemed like the band would go on hiatus. In 2013 founder/drummer Varyen Chyliński started to rebuild his band. Fittingly a new logo was created to signal the change of guard. Of the original line-up only Varyen Chyliński remains. "Purified Through Devastation" sees Against the Plagues adopting a leaner, meaner and more conventional death metal direction.
For "Purified Through Devastation" Varyen Chyliński assembled a completely new line-up comprising of frontman Shaun Albro, guitarist duo Aaron Covarrubias and Jon Corston and bass guitarist Milo Kovačević. Chyliński is a tremendously skilled drummer that hasn’t yet gotten his due despite having an upwardly mobile career trajectory spanning nearly two decades and as much continents. If anything "Purified Through Devastation" proves that Chyliński easily outclasses Derek Hoffman (ex-Fleshgrind, ex-Gorgasm) on all fronts. The guitar pyrotechnics and soloing have been toned down, which is understandable as it would be folly to expect Covarrubias and Corston to top the earlier work with Wojtek Lisicki.
There’s no true shift in the band’s creative paradigm but "Purified Through Devastation" opts to highlight a different aspect than its predecessor. Whereas "Decoding the Mainframe" was an elegant mix of various subgenres, this new record is a more straightforward death metal record with minor symphonic elements. Even though Against the Plagues has lost somewhat of its distinctive character due to the complete line-up overhaul the essence of its being remains. As commendable and technically proficient as "Purified Through Devastation" is, never does it rise to the occasion of coming within the proximity, nor does it approach the songwriting plateau, of the two Luciferion albums.
While the stylistic elements of the preceding album remain in place "Purified Through Devastation" is not nearly as individualistic sounding. The greatest strength of "Decoding the Mainframe" was how much it sounded as a Luciferion knockoff (which in itself wasn’t much of a surprise given the involvement of Wojtek Lisicki in both). "Purified Through Devastation", while more than commendable in its own right, has none of that. Even though the internal world and broadly philosophical concept of yesteryear remains in place, it's easy to assume it was replaced by a warfare concept due to the somewhat broad interpretable artwork and album title.
'Man’s Modern World', 'Theokratia', 'The Praetorian Icon' and 'Enemy Herein' originally appeared on the "The Quaternion" EP. 'Terrorform' and 'Enblightened' originally appeared on the "Extermination Event" EP, the artwork of which was recycled in whole for this release. 'All Flesh Corrupted', 'Extermination Event' and the instrumental 'Falling Further' are exclusive to this session. 'Man’s Modern World', 'Theokratia', 'The Praetorian' Icon and 'Enemy Herein' were written by drummer Varyen Chyliński and former bassist/guitarist Marco Martell. The remainder of the album was written by drummer Varyen Chyliński, Aaron Covarrubias, Milo Kovačević, and Shaun Albro.
"Purified Through Devastation" was recorded at at Belle City Sound in Racine, Wisconsin with Chris Djuricic producing. As expected from the facility, and producer Djuricic, the production is full-bodied, bass-heavy and texturally rich. The production is incredibly pristine and modern almost to a fault. It fits the music of Against the Plagues but would have neutered any traditional death metal band. The painting by Swedish artist Pär Olofsson is superior to the majority of his digital renderings of recent years, even though it is stunted by a rather daft execution. It looks more like a cut-rate 1970s scifi-horror movie poster and as an indictment of religious fundamentalism rather than an envisaging of the internal world and spiritual empowerment the band's lyrics deals with. The artwork reminiscences of a contemporary re-imagining of famous exploitation shlockfests as Luigi Pozzi's 1980 abomination Contamination and George A. Romero's overlooked 1973 low-budget thriller The Crazies.
That Against the Plagues was able to survive a complete line-up overhaul without losing much of its identity speaks volumes of Varyen Chyliński’s belief in his vision. "Purified Through Devastation" is by no means a change gamer but a consolidation that US bands should be, and are, perfectly capable in making a European sound their own. Freed from the burden of expectation of its former all-star line-up Against the Plagues has released a commendable symfo death metal album that succeeds in doing most things right. Hopefully Chyliński will be able to hold on to this line-up, and show what he is truly capable of with a set of dedicated musicians at his side.