HEAVY METAL & THE GLOBAL PANDEMIC: Detroit Crossover Death/Thrash Unit Plague Years

Heavy Metal and the Global Pandemic is a new series that focuses on examining how metal bands are dealing with the COVID-19 world. Heavy Metal is unique as a genre for often writing songs steeped in dystopian imagery, the darker side of the human condition, and of course – death. However, these are unprecedented times for everyone, including musicians with an inclination for chaos.

When Detroit, Michigan’s Plague Years broke out with their self-titled EP in 2017, they became instant favorites of the underground. With a revival of young thrash metal bands, Plague Years struck a chord among those who embraced their unique brand of crossover thrash and death metal. The quartet, comprised of vocalist Tim Engelhardt, guitarist Eric Lauder, bassist Rian Staber, and drummer Mike Jurysta, followed up their debut EP with Unholy Infestation, and the band is now poised to release their latest, Circle of Darkness, on September 18th – following a four-month delay caused by the COVID pandemic.

From the press release:

“Circle Of Darkness” is a brutal, putrid ode to headbanging, boot stomping, heavy metal culture. An unrelenting end of the world assault of the cataclysmic convergence of thrash and hardcore, with bits of blackened death and mid-tempo madness to spare, the Detroit master blasters are here to crash the crossover party. Summoning the primitive spirit of the singular moment when the heaviest of metal first smashed into a circle pit, Plague Years reignites the flame with sharp fury.

Last week, Revolver Magazine debuted the video for album track, “Incantation.” According to guitarist Eric Lauder, “This song is about resurrecting the dead that were condemned by god. Corpses become masters of chaos, rising to become a part of hell’s army to destroy their land and all things divine. This is one of the hardest and most aggressive songs on the record, relentless with its speed in the beginning and crushing heaviness at the end.”

We talked to vocalist Tim Engelhardt to learn how the band is dealing with the pandemic and how he’s getting through the day-to-day. You can follow the band on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also pre-order Circle of Darkness via Bandcamp.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your band, be it cancelled tours or studio time?

Tim Engelhardt: COVID definitely hit us pretty hard. Our album, Circle of Darkness, was pushed back from May to September, and we had a tour promoting the album cancelled. Really took some wind out of our sails, but we’re not stopping. We’ll be on the road as soon as we can. And we can’t wait for everyone to hear this album.

Where are you sheltering in place and what are your circumstances? Are you alone or with family? How are you coping?

Tim Engelhardt: I work in the medical marijuana industry, so I’m an essential employee, so I’m still working. To make things easier on my daughter, we’re staying with her grandma so she doesn’t need to travel for me to work. Having people around is a nice bonus of being here. We’re holding up as best we can. Trying to keep an eight year old occupied without anything to do is rough, but we’re making the best out of it. I’ve learned how to home school pretty well.

How are the members of your band staying connected?

Tim Engelhardt: Memes, hahaha. We have a group chat. We bullshit with each other like everyday. Eric has been writing some sick new riffs for the next album. Shits heavy. We’re all friends, so talking often just happens.

Concepts of “virus” and “pandemic” are no strangers to heavy metal lyrics and imagery. Is it strange that we’re now living in such a world? Also, have the current circumstances provided any inspiration for writing new material?

Tim Engelhardt: Metal lyrics are usually bleak and violent so it makes sense we would write about mass death. I don’t think it’s strange, death is a part of life. Just hope we don’t see the day the world turns into a Cannibal Corpse song.

The absence of live music is no doubt affecting the audiences and communities who thrive on the experience of seeing bands perform. But, as performers, what’s it like for you not knowing when you will be able to return to the stage?

Tim Engelhardt: We’re hurting to play. We live to play these songs live and let these kids get out some aggression. At least we know that we’ll be able to at some point, we’re not gonna stop. The bounce back is going to be epic.

Music provides solace for many in times of hardship. What have you been listening to in these strange and uncertain times?

Tim Engelhardt: Heilung is everything. And thankfully there is enough music out there that I can still find new shit to listen to. Plus bands aren’t letting this pandemic stop them from releasing music, which is amazing. I’ve also been jamming a lot of Ulcerate and the Acacia Strain. The Valley by White Chapel has been in my loop lately also. And the new Black Dahlia Murder is insanely good. Also Bolt Thrower, always.

Precision 2 Pocket 12" Gatefold Jacket
Plague Years LP, Circle of Darkness, it out in September via eOne.

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