DRAWN AND QUARTERED – Congregation Pestilence (2021)REVIEW

During these times, there was a pestilence, by which the whole human race came near to being annihilated. Now in the case of all other scourges sent from heaven some explanation of a cause might be given by daring men, such as the many theories propounded by those who are clever in these matters, for they love to conjure up causes which are absolutely incomprehensible to man… But for this calamity, it is quite impossible either to express in words or to conceive in thought any explanation, except indeed to refer it to God.” Procopius, History of the Wars

The gates are reopened as public lunacy beneath the godhead-and-hand of deathly suffocating illness sees no real abatement, massive hypnosis intends the impatient and unthinking flea-ridden crowd to bite and scratch at one another as community becomes a slow-jammed massacre before us. Just as the generations beyond plagued purge of antiquity left humanity with opportunists and usurpers as their next downturn, so do we see a purposeless gleam in the eyes of de-socialized and greed strictured prole. As devolution sinks us into howling, shit-flinging mania all communal clambering for identity first lands upon nostalgia and here the most consistent, unflinching artists appeal most — Those whose work transcends all known generations of death metal and persists with clear and uncalculated personage becomes the most righteous quench for the blood-thirsty monstrosity that is modern man. In this sense Seattle, Washington-based death metal trio Drawn and Quartered are a geyser of rotten blood, an tainted font of elixir to remind the distorted minds of the future exactly what the sub-genre was, is, and should be. If you are reading between the lines you’ll have inferred that the eighth full-length from the band, ‘Congregation Pestilence‘, is not vastly different than the majority of their well-respected discography but this is not for the sake of holding tight to an old, dead legacy. Instead we receive the bilge that pours from them as the latest, most potent disgust they’d craft to scorn and affront the unworthy with.

Much of what’d serve as a proper introduction to Drawn and Quartered would be redundant coming from me as I’ve given quasi-summarization and full praise of their lauded work in the underground death metal realm for a key reissue (‘Hail Infernal Darkness‘, 2006) and their most recent full-length (‘The One Who Lurks‘, 2018) to some degree. The gist of it is that Plague Bearer formed in 1992, I believe as an outlet for guitarist Kelly Kuciemba whose style is consistently recognizable from the first demo in 1993 throughout the long and storied discography beyond the 1994 transition into Drawn and Quartered. Back in the late 90’s their original label Moribund Records often touted the band as if Incantation were performing ‘Altars of Madness’ and I still find this to be one of the best ways to describe their first several albums and/or the level of quality that they’ve maintained since the early 90’s. That, or an equivalency of a band like Dead Congregation. By the late 2000’s they’d been experimenting with more lead guitar finesse, different rhythmic ideas, and that’d definitely leaned towards more of an ‘Unholy Cult’ sort of sound to my ear at the time. As Drawn and Quartered resurfaced in 2012 we’d see the tides turning back closer to their best records with my favorite being ‘Extermination Revelry’ (2003). The band have been in good company with Krucyator Productions‘ Loïc. F who has not only been releasing their records since 2017 but mixing and mastering them as well. Nothing was lacking in their past works, especially if we consider their production values compared with a lot of early 2000’s brutal death metal, but it would be fair to say that ‘Congregation Pestilence’ and the prior record do a fantastic job of preserving the classic edge of the band while leaving behind some of the compressed suffocation of the past while embracing the dynamic motion of their sound.

“Six Devils (Trepanation)” is the finest example that glances the top of my skull as I consider where we get the most classic Drawn and Quartered piece that is yet unveiled of depthier charge by the production values in hand here. Though one could easily argue it away as an arbitrary choice, any longtime fan could slide over to 1:40 minutes into the song and follow this riff as they carry its many layers towards the two minute mark. Though these levels of texture were available on records like ‘Return of the Black Death’ (2004) they were arguably never so well balanced that the voice of the rhythm guitar was this clear. You might need a decent pair of headphones to take such a small observation of greater precision into account but to my ear, it echoes deeply within the full listen as a new peak in quality. I mention “Six Devils (Trepanation)” for good reason since die-hard fans will have already noted that you’ve heard this song in demo form as four (five if you got the 2018 reissue) of the nine pieces included were also on the ‘Proliferation of Disease’ tape back in 2016. Being able to directly compare the cleaned up demo recordings on the reissue to the final product here enforces the level of care that went into making these songs blast from the speakers rather than thump and clatter around like a washing machine full of knives.

The downside of being a longtime fan who owes nothing but respect to this band is that I am blind to what others are discovering for the first time and we must account for the characteristic performances of each of the three musicians here. Even with the brick of it all having already sledged my head a hundred times, I’d hear “Oblivion Pilgrimage” and readily appreciate that this is exactly all cylinders firing for this intense and brutal band, who’ve worked long and hard on developing this exact signature sludged and warped atmosphere which is far, far beyond “caverncore” or a too-obviate Immolation reference. The sinister bend of their rhythmic movement here is just one of the many masterful weapons in Kuciemba‘s arsenal and the only real substantial note I have here is that he has reached a point where his leads are generally signature alongside the riffs whereas in the past it was the riffs that’d pulled me into their sound. Otherwise vocalist/bassist Herb Burke is still a suffocating and vitally characteristic force, a deeply bellowed growl that looms and buries the ear in a still horrifying way. Simon Dorfman‘s drumming is notably more savaged and fill-heavy than on ‘The One Who Lurks’, he wasn’t at all green sounding on that recording but it does sound like they’ve simply had several years to fully road test and preen things to a point of reasonable technical standards. Have been this “on” and incensed in recent memory? In terms of performances I’d found the whole of this album inspired.

Dangling the devil’s triangle above us and ringing out certain doom “Dispensation (Rise Of The Antichrist)” was unforgettably damning closure for ‘Proliferation of Disease’ so it makes sense that it seals Side A here but I’d not been sure it was the right choice ’til the title track rings out with its own equally effecting curse, leading off with a particularly strong strike of co-morbid unison between rhythm and lead. The two songs in combination almost dual-handedly insist that this is a vinyl purchase for my taste as each throttles the momentum back toward another in perpetuum. As such the album worked best in halves rather than one blur through for my own taste, and only because there is so much detail to pull from the experience in a single run. The album art is likewise thrillingly detailed, a morbid assemblage of the damned that might be one of the most iconic and readable works Gabriel Byrne has done for the band and it is worth noting that he has done all of their full-length cover artwork. The result is no less brutal or surreal for how readable it is, and this applies to both the art and the fine production value of this album overall. As such, this is not just another Drawn and Quartered album but the thriving eminence of ghouls as humanity unknowingly prepares to choose between huddling together, raptured by disease or slowly burning alive in the Hell on Earth we deserve. Very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (94/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Congregation Pestilence
LABEL(S):Krucyator Productions
RELEASE DATE:July 2nd, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death Metal

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