Review Summary: Don’t call this retro-death.
Dead Congregation’s Graves of the Archangels
is a pretty cool album. Musically, it’s coming right out of the early-to-mid-90s American death metal scene, but there’s a catch: Dead Congregation is Greek, and Graves of the Archangels
came out this past January.
If “Martyrdoom” is any indication of what's to come, and it is, listeners are immediately introduced to Dead Congregation's abso-fuck
ing-lutely massive sound. Taking a page out of Dawn of Possession: 101
, Dead Congregation employ a Berlin-wall of sound. “Martyrdom” is very much an introduction: it builds its strengths with an army of guitars and an overwhelmingly powerful line of percussion. It riles itself up, drags the listener in and then sludges itself down into a doom-y cessation. Of course it's temporary: “Hostis Humani Generis” is up next and it wastes no time. Featuring guitar interplay revolving around counter-points and tremolo picking, the track is aggressive from the get-go, blasting, smashing and demoniacally pummelling the listener into submission.
By this point you'll notice that the album lends itself to shoddy metaphors. You'll also probably notice a lack of bass. You also probably won't care: by this point, you're either completely enthralled or you're already back hailing the progressive wiener metal flavour of the week.
The title track starts off with an almost Gregorian sounding chant but just when it starts to grow a little tiresome Dead Congregation cuts it off (Deathspell Omega this is not) and continues onward into what is perhaps the album's most grandiose and melodic track. “Graves of the Archangels
” sounds like a theme-song for a race into hell. It may come with the most strikingly melodic guitar lines but it's also one of the more demonic, apocalyptic sounding songs. Given the bands propensity for tritones, angular squeals and generally terrifying techniques, that's saying something.
Graves of the Archangels
pulls absolutely no punches. As said, it's an absolutely massive sounding album. Lose your focus and the album quite literally turns to background noise. The guitars continually overlap into an ocean of riffs. They splash around and when one guitar isn't doing something the other is. Everything layers unto itself and make no mistakes that the intention hear is to deafen the listener in the most traditional of fashions. Of course some will take this as faulty production: the drums and guitars fade in and out of audibility and the bass is something you'll only hear clearly when the guitars secede into short bouts of feedback. It's produced with an atmospheric touch, one that's used more to overwhelm and suffocate the listener than it is to sound like complete shit
. It ropes the listener in and clutches at their ears; it doesn't scare them away by sounding like it was recorded through a tin can phone in the deepest pits of their parents' garages.
Graves of the Archangels
lends itself to lofty comparisons because it really is that good. These guys have channelled, alongside Satan himself, immediate comparisons to legendary acts like Demigod, Incantation, Deicide and most obviously Immolation. But it doesn't sound like they're lifting anything from these artists: instead they sound like one of their lost contemporaries. Graves of the Archangels
is not only one of the best metal releases of the year, but quite possibly one of the best in recent memory.