It seems that Dino Cazares has been through a lot of shit with the guys he jams with, doesn't it? First there's the controversial split with FEAR FACTORY, then there was the highly publicized brawl/break-up with original DIVINE HERESY singer Tommy "Vext" Cummings and now we have the earth-shattering news that Cazares has reformed FEAR FACTORY with vocalist Burton C. Bell and left-out-in-the-cold members Raymond Herrera and Christian Olde Wolbers are none too happy about it. Now I'm not here to pass judgment on the guy, or point a finger one way or another; I'll leave that up to the gossip hounds. My point here is that, fueled by almost a decade of drama and backed by a rhythm section featuring the mighty Tim Yeung (ex-VITAL REMAINS, ex-HATE ETERNAL, et al) on drums and NILE bassist Joe Payne, the new DIVINE HERESY album should have fucking slammed. Well, sometimes when things look good on paper, they turn out to be paper tigers.
"Bringer Of Plagues" isn't an abomination of an album by any means, but it does lack the frustration-fueled punch that its predecessor, "Bleed The Fifth" packed. Things start off on a strong note with the blast-beat addled "Facebreaker", where Dino lets loose a flurry of rather intense death metal riffing alongside his trademark staccato groove. It's also on this opening track where new singer Travis Neal introduces himself as the album's weakest link. If the point was to bring in a carbon copy of Cummings, then mission accomplished. Neal is from the "I'm gonna sing harsh and angry for awhile, then I'll switch it up to melodic for the chorus" school of thought and does very little to separate himself from that pack. His harsh vocals might be a little more impassioned than those of Vext, but his cleans leave a little to be desired and his patterns can tend to be a bit unimaginative. To his credit, his performance on the blistering title track and "Monolithic Doomsday Devices" are some of the disc's higher points.
Both of the aforementioned tunes see DIVINE HERESY doing what they do best, and that's playing powerful and aggressive music that serves as the link between Cazares' two personalities; the machine-like groove of FEAR FACTORY and the more extreme persona he introduced us to with ASESINO. When DIVINE HERESY stomps through this middle ground the results are spectacular, but when they stray the music suffers and that's why it's difficult to go nuts over this album. While "Bringer Of Plagues" does contain some damn fine moments of metal, it really feels like this was an attempt to recapture the magic that was early FEAR FACTORY and, as we learned with ARKAEA, that just can't be done. Were they to trade some of the polish for punch and take a "less safe" approach with the vocals, this one would have hit much harder.