Review Summary: "Unholy Congregation embodies every morbid facet of the genre and amplifies them tenfold"
It’s fair to say there are a number of prolific acts that aren’t entirely representative of what Australia has to offer to world of metal. Indeed, you can easily forgive somebody for being a little hesitant to embrace the country’s output, given what most tend to be greeted with upon first glance. It probably comes as no surprise that the further you dive and the more intently you look, the more everything begins to reveal itself. Australia’s underground, in actuality, is healthy and thriving. Even then, a lot of the true gems still remain obscured, sometimes even due to a conscious attempt by the band to retain a certain mystique. More often than not however, this is simply because of the menacing and unusual material produced by this musical Hadal Zone, a spawning ground for some of metal’s most peculiar and disturbing acts today. Much like the hellish and frankly bizarre occupants of the deep sea, these acts revel in their isolation, free to twist and bend orthodoxies to their own sadistic liking.
Since their unexpected entrance in 2009, Impetuous Ritual has gone on to become a hallmark band in Australian underground death metal. Their opaque and frenetic style is not only hugely significant within the country’s underground, but one that is now being imitated globally. The hilariously titled Unholy Congregation of Hypocritical Ambivalence
is an unsurprising expansion of the band’s 2009 debut, enhancing what was already a winning formula. Songs are generally longer and more deliberate in their approach, and the sound engineering is even more cloudy and ominous than before. Instrumentally, what we have here is more of the same. Wayward, often indecipherable tremolo picking still dominates most of the guitar work, spaced out by the occasional doom section in which the guitars ring out and the overall pace slows down to a crawl. Craigos’ drumming is still a major asset to the band, differentiating them from their contemporaries through a combination of skill and eccentricity. Despite the generally forgiving production with regards to untidiness, it becomes obvious very quickly that Craigos has considerable talent. While many bands that endorse this cavernous, lo-fi aesthetic feature a lot of slow, heavy-handed, often repetitive percussion, the performance here is energetic, intricate and dexterous.
However, the instrumental prowess of the band, while impressive, is simply a means to an end when you consider the sound they’re going for. This is not immediate music, but an exercise in sonic imagery. The instruments coalesce into a wall of noise as opposed to operating as individual units, intertwining to create a suffocating vapour. Thanks in full to the aforementioned sound engineering, the riffs sound more like tremors of considerable magnitude, rather than just down-tuned guitar noise. The vocals prefer to operate as a theatrical, quasi-demonic presence, as opposed to an audible conveyor of lyrical ideas. The overall sound is something you’d expect to hear from an underwater earthquake. The only real negative is that at nearly fifty minutes in length, the album’s endless assault on your senses occasionally wears thin due to the lack of breathing space, but this is a minor qualm at best. Numbers like “Verboten Genesis”, “Sentient Aberrations” and “Abhorrent Paragon” are like unrelenting cacophonies, the intricacies of which are obscured but not erased by the sonic madness. “Metastasis” as well as the lengthier tracks, “Despair” and “Blight” are generally less chaotic and more drawn-out, but if anything are even more menacing due to their more decipherable, thus more engaging instrumentation.
While “devastating” and “heavy” are terms that are used quite liberally to describe bands in death metal, Impetuous Ritual truly take these characteristics to the extreme. Clearly, the band understand what they’re going for and have an equally concrete understanding of how to achieve it. The use of instruments as an atmospheric tool in death metal is obviously nothing new, but rarely do you see a band employing such an idea in a manner as painstaking as this. Unholy Congregation
embodies every morbid facet of the genre and amplifies them tenfold, and is another fine example of Australia’s distinctive brand of sonic depravity.