FATHER BEFOULED – Crowned in Veneficum (2022)REVIEW

Wriggling their lethal flagellates in sponge and siphon of the sputum-mushed eyes of Christ since 2006, Father Befouled set themselves upon unwitting blasphemic skulls as an (initially) solo effort from southern Georgia-based musician and artist Justin Stubbs, whom at that point was best known in USBM circles from his work in the prolific yet formative Hills of Sefiroth. Their discography has long set a certain standard of incline for the elder traditions of United States death metal underground acts, specifically those heavily influenced by the impetus of Incantation‘s early catalogue. An intermittent live fixture and inspired presence for at least the last decade, today we find these fellowes a well-established quartet touting their suggested definitive sound on this fifth full-length album in the span of about fifteen years. ‘Crowned in Veneficum‘ is yet decidedly not a vision that’ll stretch the imagination into any uncertain wilderness far beyond expectations. Instead their focus seems to have been the ideal death metal album experience and the shining guts of its construction wherein each riff counts and each song goes places which redeem with blasphemic thought, or destroy the constitution of the willful listener.

Without fully detailing the history of the band, the formative years of Father Befouled would feature members of Witchcryer, Prosanctus Inferi and would later phase in members of Abyssion, otherwise typically finding Wayne Sarantopoulos (Conjureth, Encoffination) in the drummer’s seat ’til 2018 or so. Their second album was picked up by Relapse to some degree but it was their time with Dark Descent that’d been the best fit for the band during the early 2010’s, standing out as even more traditional, doomed and melting in terms of tempo map compared to many of their peers at the time if we consider the brutality of bands like Drawn and Quartered and Dead Congregation. The first great record from Stubbs & crew was arguably ‘Revulsion of Seraphic Grace‘ (2012) though it’d released at a time when the style of death metal they’d helped to reassert throughout the death metal headspace was at its peak fatigue; It was nonetheless an admittedly subtle leap into some of their own unique, stabbed-at rhythm and doom, a feat which was amplified and mutated to ungodly bastion on ‘Desolate Gods‘ (2017). That fourth album would end up as #27 on my Top 50 Albums of 2017 and still one of their most well-rounded full-lengths to date. They’ve more or less been on a roll since then between the inspired ‘Holy Rotten Blood‘ EP in 2019 (now featuring former Death of Kings drummer A. Rifkin) and a fantastic split EP with Exaugurate (‘Purging Holiness‘, 2021) where we see the most precedence for their continued honing in on the right balance of inspired riffs versus atmospheric bluster, now leaning most heavily into the realm of riff for ‘Crowned in Veneficum‘.

Having chipped away this album for a handful of years and road-tested at least one or two of these songs Father Befouled have delivered a more than worthy follow-up to ‘Desolate Gods‘ which leans into a bit more of their death/doom metal side, hits a few of the expectedly brutal ‘Onward to Golgotha‘-esque currents these guys are known for, and leaves it all on the table with some room to breathe in under 40 minutes. The full listen has an easily read verve to it as they’ve barnstormed in with “Unheavenly Catechesis”, taken a huge subterranean detour beyond the mid-album instrumental detour from “His Throne Decayed” well into the second half of the album by way of my two favorites here: “Miasmas of Sodom” paired with “Katabatic Deliverance”. These two pieces would end up being the righteous pits of utumno here for my own taste between the former’s excruciatingly tense death/doom metal scrawl and the latter’s ‘The Dying Truth‘-charged main riff, a grind and burn sort of song that relies on the swing of its main riff and quick slides into blasted bluntness for its memorable impact. Though they’ve more or less cranked the riff count and focused their brutal-minded tension into dynamic peaks on each song to get there those high-rate ideas otherwise land a bit more engaging, distinct without the too-obvious stylistic influences of the band dominating the ol’ mind palace while it whirrs under the act.

No need to needle it out and take a fine-toothed anything to ‘Crowned in Veneficum‘, it being an unshakable USDM album weighted towards the best sort of menacing, atmospheric realms. The full listen is experientially contiguous, a corrupted meditation that triggers that sort of Venn diagram in mind where both early Immolation and Krypts fandom spikes in my brain and crosses wires all over the place during the slower pieces. All in all a miserably unholy record that deserves a high recommendation for purists and the plebs alike.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Crowned in Veneficum
LABEL(S):Everlasting Spew Records
RELEASE DATE:March 25th, 2022

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