Ogre Cure the Planetary Plague

Dude, this art rules.On their probable swan-song, the now-defunct Maine traditional doom trio Ogre mounted what was likely their greatest achievement yet. After being together for a decade, the band released Plague of the Planet in 2008 on the suddenly-MIA Leaf Hound Records out of Japan. As ever, the band demonstrated the sound reasoning behind their becoming a New England institution, why so many thought them to be the best the region had to offer as regards trad doom. With all the ?70s vibes and nods toward Pentagram, Dio-era Sabbath and Mot?rhead, it?s a hard argument to counter. I won?t even try. Instead, I?ll just be happy that Pittsburgh imprint Shadow Kingdom Records saw fit to reissue the album and get it out to the masses (myself included) earlier this year.

Plague of the Planet tells the story of humanity?s demise and ultimate redemption at the hands of the machines we?ve made. It?s a familiar sci-fi theme, but Ogre handle it with grace and a flair for epic storytelling that puts oil wars in an entirely new context. Like Road Warrior meets Metropolis meets The Terminator with some role-playing nerdiness thrown in for good measure. The album?s art, like a comic book cover, goes a long way toward giving an idea of the band?s intent.

Like a lot of concept albums, the narrative lyrical approach means the individual songs are often without a chorus or traditional structures. Ogre skirt that by making the 11 individual parts of Plague of the Planet — seven of which feature vocals from bassist Ed Cunningham — one 37-minute track, so while parts like that dubbed ?Drive,? the third of the 11, has a catchy chorus, it?s basically absorbed by the largess of the material surrounding. This of course has its ups and downs, but what it forces the listener to do is take on the album as a whole, expose him or herself to the entire story and decide how they feel about Plague of the Planet on that level. There are no singles here.

So long dudes.Musically, the trio offers riff-centered ?70s-fueled rock. Guitarist Ross Markonish (Blood Farmers) springs forth with riff after riff and blazing solos, culminating ultimately in ?Dawn of the Proto-Man? — also the name of Ogre?s 2003 debut. ?Plague of the Planets,? as it happens, was also the parenthetical name of ?Colonizer,? from their 2000 demo. Everything comes together eventually, and in the case of Ogre, it does so completely and satisfyingly. Plague of the Planet leaves nothing wanting in the music department. Cunningham, Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent (also Blood Farmers) have a powerful chemistry that plays out naturally as the record progresses. It?s too bad they decided to call it quits before taking their sound any further.

If there?s a snag or anything on Plague of the Planet that?s an acquired taste, it?s Cunningham?s vocals, which, though varied respectably, come on in a combination of Lemmy, Jello Biafra and any number of sub-power metal singers. On early listens, it?s easy to be put off or even annoyed by his approach, but you come around to it eventually, and by the time he starts preaching humankind?s resurrection at the hands of the half-man, half-machine Proto-Man, you?re more concerned with the culmination of the album than his singing over it.

If they are indeed done (never say never in metal), they went out on top. Ogre?s last album is a treasure of underground doom. Consider it highly recommended for those who dig on the old school and feel their life is lacking in the riff department.

Ogre on MySpace

Shadow Kingdom Records

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