January 30, 2014

Welcome the Plague Year

At my high-school as seniors we were allowed to leave school during the day if we didn't have classes. It wasn't a luxury we took advantage of every day, but when we did we inevitably found ourselves at Cheapo records, a used record store on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul.

We would flip our way through the stacks of CDs with the satisfying "click-click-click" that has come to define record stores in the digital era. We'd pull oddball CDs out, giggle at funny looking covers, tick off the bands on our lists and make our purchases. I kept a disc-man at school for the sole purpose of listening to my most recent finds while I did homework at school, scrunching my forehead at math problems while tapping my foot to some new, brutal band I had discovered.

Oftentimes the bands I'd purchase were ones I'd heard of and I went to the store with the sole intention of checking out. Sometimes I'd pick up a random album only to sell it right back while other bands were lucky guesses. My prized discovery was the band Welcome the Plague Year.



I bought this weird looking album in the hard-rock section of the store, liking the long name and longer song titles. I didn't listen to it for awhile, adding to a pile of unopened CDs in my car. When I finally opened it up and shoved it into my car stereo I thought something had broken. There was a high-pitched squeal, like my speakers had melted down. I turned the stereo off. Maybe it's one of those things that will go away, I thought. I turned the stereo back on and heard the same thing. Maybe if I just wait, the squeal will go away. It did go away, and was replaced by one of the most intense rock songs I'd ever heard.



Welcome the Plague Year is whats termed a "screamo" band. In the mid-2000's screamo gained a correlation with any type of mainstream punk or rock that involved people screaming and was quickly relegated to the bin of "Fad Music for Hot Topic Kids". In reality, especially on the eastern side of the country, screamo was a more progressive style of rock characterized by thick guitars, thick instrumentation, fast playing, and yes screaming. It was an emotional style of music but not so blatant and pandering like some of the more maligned bands. These bands didn't sing about the emotions, they inhabited the emotion. There was a sincerity and complexity in this music that elevated it beyond the more obvious bands.

One of my favorite things about Welcome the Plague year is that I don't understand any of the words. Not a single one. I didn't know if the singer was a man or a woman and it didn't matter. The songs are dark, but in an organic way, not as if they were putting anything on. At the time I loved metal but I hated the pageantry and machisimo. I loved post-rock but wanted things to be faster. Welcome the Plague year was like Godspeed You Black Emperor mixed with The Locust. They were the classical music of punk-rock.



Welcome the Plague Year was unlike anything I had ever heard and taught me that music could be absolutely anything. In their songs I heard that voices could be just as driving as electric guitars, and electric guitars could sing in the band like violins in the orchestra. No band has held a place in my imagination quite like this one. I'm still blown away by the song writing and innovation on this album. If you don't own this album and you liked the samples above I encourage you buy it. As for where to buy it...I'm not sure. I saw one copy on Amazon for $20. Maybe you can find one on Cheapo.

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