War//Plague, Manifest Ruination (Phobia Records/Organize and Arise, 2022)

The bleak binary of Minnesotan crust horde War//Plague has long been a fitting moniker.

The scorched earth, apocalypse-beckoning aesthetic and sound of the Minneapolis band has been a pillar of DIY punk for a decade plus.

With a sprawling and industrious back catalog, few bands have been as consistent or prolific, boasting numerous long players and a smattering of essential splits with genre heavyweights.

On the eve of their 15th year as a band comes their latest full length, Manifest Ruination. The co-release finds the band teaming Czech purveyor of extremity Phobia Records and Organize and Arise, the long running Twin City mainstay. 

Opener “Vacillation” fades in with a rumble, the drums already impossibly busy and the bass a thumping piston. It takes nary a second to unleash their now trademark take on thrash inflected crust. For every straight ahead passage of pummeling d-beat, there are blackened accoutrements and various touchstones of extreme music’s storied history tacked into the mix along the way.

Between the tremolo picking, the savagely unpredictable vocals, and the flawless transition into death metal inspired primitivism at the 3:00 mark, War//Plague have never felt more vital and incendiary.

Eschewing both the short, controlled burst template and the overly long, the band finds an epic but blunt sensibility that lives in the three to four-minute range. In any format, it’s an impressive feat to keep the listener enthralled. This band has always seemed to live on the razor’s edge, careening wildly between blistering implosion and the tightness of a band well into their second decade. 

Elsewhere, the collection treads well the band’s standard battle ground. On “Bed of Nails," we’re gifted a wildly fluctuating vocal performance atop a steamrolling militarism akin to DM legends Asphyx. Moving deftly from the mid-paced to a more frenzied speed, it’s just another bullet on the belt for the crust masters. Dynamic, nihilistic, and charged with a pugilistic sensibility, the is the soundtrack to never giving in. 

The title track sports both their densest and busiest moments. Across its four minute runtime, War//Plague manages to find new ways to crush. Leaning all the way into their thrashier tendencies, the tempo is savage but it vacillates seamlessly between the sound of their long held inspirations.

Follow up and personal favorite “Vultures” is another long form rager. Kicking into being on blazing guitar histrionics, rarely has a deceptively simple riff sounded so note perfect. As expected, it scavenges from the best and rebirths it into something wholly unique, even this deep into their discography. 

Closer “Necrosis” is fittingly fetid. As the longest track, the larger canvas allows the band to open up a bit. Ostensibly the album’s moodpiece, it buries the band’s firebrand crust attack between longer and more textured bookends. The track’s outro finds the band at their most harrowing, pairing haunted vocals to a sludgier sound and an anvil-heavy low end. Playing to each other’s strengths, the four piece all play in service to the song. It’s a glorious show of humility that’s born of nothing but chemistry and commitment. 

Hold tight to a band like this one. Despite the travails of remaining staunchly DIY, War//Plague have never been reduced to embers. Instead, they’ve managed to keep the fire alit their entire career.

Whether you’re a fan of labelmates Exploatör, the oft-tipped Tragedy, World Burns to Death, the motö-punks Inepsy, or modern faves Destruct, there’s something here to latch onto. If you’re looking for a sign, keep your eyes fixed to the North Star State. The usual suspects are still our guideposts. War//Plague forever. 

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