Review Summary: If it isn't broken, don't fix it.
Sometimes change can be a good thing, especially when you play a style of music that has been re-envisioned and regurgitated countless times for almost 30 years. At the same time, a case could easily be made for the complete opposite. Change is nice, yes, but sometimes nothing is better than getting exactly what you expected to get, especially if what you’re expecting promises to be great regardless of how it turns out. Thankfully, Grecian death metal titans Dead Congregation seem to have recognized the latter and have returned from a six year silence to bring us their sophomore effort, Promulgation of the Fall
, another massive slab of the evil, labyrinthine, occult old school death metal they very nearly perfected with their movement defining Graves of the Archangels
all the way back in 2008.
Promulgation of the Fall
functions as a direct extension of the sound these Greek titans have been honing since the release of the Purifying Consecrated Ground
EP in 2005. Consisting of equal parts twisting, cavernous Incantation style tremolo riffs, hyperspeed Hellenic blackened death metal, and crawling, subterranean diSEMBOWELMENT style doom, Dead Congregation’s second full-length delivers on just about every conceivable level. Taking into account the now classic sound they solidified with their debut album, Promulgation’s
biggest success is managing to stay engaging from start to finish, with razor sharp songwriting that showcases not an ounce of extra fat. Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, the rather conservative runtime only serves to highlight the concise, tight compositions that comprise the entirety of the album. There exists not one riff that doesn’t immediately beg to be played again, which for a band that plays this spiraling, occult style of death metal is a massive accomplishment in and of itself (even Incantation themselves never quite perfected this).
None of this is to say, however, that Dead Congregation haven’t injected some new life into their tried and true formulas. While the basic approach has stayed mostly the same, there are quite a few little nuances to Promulgation
that further cement its status as one of the most accomplished collection of songs this style of death metal has ever seen. While Graves of the Archangels
was a massively successful debut, it suffered slightly from spending too much time building atmospherics and not enough time riffing into oblivion, which caused the album to drag in places. Promulgation
contains not only some of the best riffs this band has ever written (“Quintessence Maligned”, “Nigredo”, and “Schisma” are perfect examples) but manages to establish a similar sonic palette without dwelling on meandering atmospheric passages for too long. The band has unfortunately sacrificed a small bit of their old attitude in the process, getting rid of most of the rather charming theatrics of their debut album. However, the result ends up functioning as a more concise, to the point collection of songs than the previous effort. In place of the excised theatrics, Dead Congregation have turned up the doom to eleven, crafting some of the most engaging examples of the crawling, malignant doom characteristic of acts like diSEMBOWELMENT and those that followed in their wake since they disbanded all those years ago. With an extra dosage of morbid leads and solos, the Hellenic charm that gave Graves
most of its character is still massively present, albeit invoked in different ways.
They’ve also managed to fix one of the most glaring issues present on Graves of the Archangels
, which came in the form of the production. Dead Congregation never tried for or really needed the under-produced, demo style production many bands in the old school death metal world usually go for, but Graves
, for all of its triumphs, felt sort of like a middle ground between crystal clean modern death metal production and the organic, old school sound present on many of the genre’s best albums. The result left a little to be desired (especially when it came to the rhythm section), and while it didn’t necessarily hurt the album, it didn’t help it either. Promulgation of the Fall
has eradicated this problem completely, finding a perfect balance between a clean, modern sound and the dirty, organic world of the old school. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the drumming of Vagelis Voyiantzis, who, even when done a bit of a disservice by the bad mix on Graves
, still managed to prove that he is easily one of the most proficient drummers to ever man the kit in a death metal band. The kicks are huge and resonant, the snare is tight and organic, and the toms sound gigantic and precise. When put behind the rest of the brilliant mix, Promulgation
brings to the table one of the best examples of how a death metal record should sound in 2014.
Promulgation of the Fall
sees Dead Congregation very nearly perfecting a style they have towered over since their debut record almost six years ago. While some of the charming theatrics of Graves of the Archangels
have been replaced by a more straight forward, doom heavy assault, this trimming of the fat helps their sophomore record stand on its own ground. While not necessarily straying too far from their chosen path, they have managed to pin point just about every loose screw in an already water tight sound to bring us the culmination of their efforts so far, and perhaps one of the last truly great records we can expect to see come out of this waning old school death metal movement. With tighter songwriting, better production, and a little extra helping of doom, Dead Congregation’s Promulgation of the Fall
stands strong with their now classic Graves of the Archangels
and delivers in just about every conceivable way. If you’re a fan of death metal, Dead Congregation’s newest full length is essential listening.