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Cryptic proclamation to a worthless Father - 95%

Achintya Venkatesh, September 26th, 2014

The constant battle between innovation and derivativeness is a controversial topic in heavy music, especially when considering the death metal stylistic mould in this specific context, which has spawned a slew of imitators that have replicated the style forged by the originators in question. As far as the Incantation sphere of influence is concerned, it isn’t hard to see why the band inspired a slew of bands that came after it – their commodious and dissonant death metal style brought forth an entirely new aesthetic in death metal, striking a balance between atmosphere and structural dexterity, which a record like ‘Mortal Throne of Nazarene’ stands testament to. Incantation clones, as they’re mockingly referred to might impression as ersatz and devoid of any novelty themselves, but it would be unfair to paint all bands that derive from this sphere of influence as wholly spurious and unimaginative. Styles are meant to be pursued and explored once they’ve been forged rather than be left alone as innovatory isolates – they wouldn’t be considered seminal, otherwise. Inspiration derived from the said pioneers is almost wholly inevitable, and often opens up avenues for further honing, exploration and innovation within a niche style, otherwise spawning clones (as harsh a term it may be) that create music that is at the very least cohesive and is played with an admirable, but not unfounded conviction.

Dead Congregation is a band that has carried the death metal flag forward with utmost conviction, in an age filled to the brim with old school revivals spanning the gamut of the genres that fall under aforesaid broad term. ‘Grave of the Archangels’ was nothing short of an excellent record in every sense of the word, being an abstrusion to the likes of early Incantation and Immolation in the most delectable manner, making for an anachronistic juxtaposition of 90’s death metal sonic nostalgia alongside their own thematic explorations of the arcane aspects of their cultural roots, ritualistic samples and ambiance-inducing segments.

In contrast, ‘Promulgation of the Fall’ is not as meandering (although it would be fallacious to call ‘Graves..’ wholly meandering in itself), as is attested by the immediate belligerence of ‘Only Ashes Remain’, cascading forward with tonally raucous blast-beats, atop which down-tuned riffing surges forth with a sense of contortion that is characteristic for this style. Song-writing motifs rarely wear out their welcome, altering tempos and ushering in entirely new ideas although some of the more esoteric textures found in the previous album aren’t as marked here. The perpetuating repetition of a given preceding segment help in creating transition, yet rarely being excessively recursive and are instead ever-evolving. The first three tracks, for instance, seamlessly blend into each other, establishing a theme that forms a cohesive narrative of sorts, shifting between the sinister, portentous and solemn. Slower segments usually build onto something that is uproarious and epic, as can be seen on songs such as ‘Schisma’. As for comparisons to ‘Grave of the Archangels’, this record is certainly on par with it, and ‘Promulgation of the Fall’ impressions as a logical continuation of it. Yet, the tracks here lack the sheer suffocating quality of tracks like ‘Voices’, focusing on different directions and compositional evolution as opposed to fixating on a singular motion; and is also devoid of the ritualistic, sacramental interludes. The latter is something I think mirrors Teitanblood’s transition from ‘Seven Chalices’ to ‘Death’. There is nothing that is amorphous on this album – songs flagrantly charge forward as much as they dabble in eldritch moods.

Despite being cast from the same mould as the Incantation sphere of influence with smatterings of ‘Dawn of Possession’ and 'Failures for Gods' era Immolation, Dead Congregation never once impression as clichéd. These Hellenes do not restrict themselves to the comfort zone of the unrelenting chromatic riffing and atonalities that Incantation pioneered. Apart from the fantastically architectured segments of cavernous doom, the band exhibits a rich offertory of subtle and tasteful layers of melody in the leads that add a melancholic and emotional dimension to the otherwise down-trodden esotericism of this dark death metal style. The title track, restricting itself to a lumbering pace exemplifies this par excellence, and can also be viewed as an interlude of sorts, almost as if to serve as a premonition for the eschatological and cabalistic proclamations that follow. ‘Nigredo’ showcases this counterpoint within both frenzied blasting and a more dirge-like crawl. It is in aspects like this where the personality and compositional nuancing of A.V and his cohorts shines through, and distinguishes this band from the sea of clone bands with the same pool of influences.

Originally written for The Slumbering Ent @

Dead Congregation - Promulgation of the Fall - 80%

CF_Mono, June 16th, 2014

The mid/late 2000's was a great period for death metal. We saw strong releases from classic and legendary bands like Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Decapitated, setting a solid example for the paradigm of cut n' dry fast and brutal death metal that thousands still copy today. But in 2008 we also saw the emergence of Greece's new merciless band, Dead Congregation, who's debut album, Graves of the Archangels, shook up the metal community, and reminded us that all that sometimes simple tools are all you need to make a good death metal album: a stack of Marshalls, obscure morbid artwork, and riffs. Lead guitarist and singer Anastasis Valtsanis has repeatedly vocalized his objective of making simple, but effectively brooding death metal, inspired from little else from his own emotions, and it shows.

The announcement of this year's Promulgation of the Fall had us all waiting with intense anxiety. The political and economic situation in Greece doesn't allow for much passionate endeavor, and many of us suspected that high stress levels would greatly inhibit the writing quality on a sophomore album from the band, if one would even be written at all. But when details on the album were announced, it was hard to think that Dead Congregation were back at anything less than full throttle. And I can still firmly say that Dead Congregation's reputation is untarnished, and they are in no way hurting themselves by continuing to release albums. However, as with all great masterpieces, the mysticism of their debut album simply cannot, and will not, be replicated at the drop of a hat. Promulgation of the Fall offers a plate full of death metal ass-kicking, Dead Congregation style, but needless to say, it does not carefully advance appropriately the same way Graves of the Archangels did.

The most obvious realization about Promulgation after the first listen, is that the album is much more immediate. Dead Congregation have abandoned some of the aesthetic touches to their style, no longer including long, tremolo-picked trickles of sound, religious chants, or brief ambient moments. Instead, Dead Congregation have chosen to toss together an abundance of riffs like a salad, (albeit a well built salad) and require of the listener a much more involved approach. This may have appropriated their music to some people, but it cannot be said, in my opinion, that their compositional skills were as sharpened during the creation of Promulgation as they were before. The consequences of this aren't major, but at times I can find myself becoming distracted listening to this album, or losing attention in a way that makes me realized that it is difficult to listen to in its entirety, a problem this band has never before had. The trade off is that I am much more familiar with the tracks as individuals, and that you can listen to any one of them independently without feeling like you have missed out. Despite these drawbacks, the riffs themselves are still brutal and one-of-a-kind, and Dead congregation offers a fine template for headbanging away. We can see that Valtsanis still believes in making death metal the way he believes it should be; blasting out relentless beats, gut-wrenching riffs, and horrifying inhuman vocals. The final criticism I have is that, while the production and tone itself is okay, there seems to have been a propensity to pan much of the recording in the center, and that lack of depth perhaps attributed to the altered atmospheric content here. Nevertheless, after the first listen, it is easy to wrap your head around, and you can still savor the tasty morsels of distortion and metal serving after serving as they approach you.

All in all, Dead Congregation have failed to recreate the magical and haunting moments of their debut, and this is largely expected of them after such an unprecedented triumph, but they are still leading the way in this new brand of tortured, dirty death metal, and the influence can be seen in other great underground acts like Adversarial, Mitochondrion, Antediluvian, and Execration.

Written for Papasfritasreviews

The Fallen Angel arisen! - 95%

ultraviolet, May 28th, 2014

It’s been six years since that night when I stepped into Sin City club to watch my beloved Primordial and the shock from the juggernaut sound coming out of the speakers as I entered the basement is still fresh in memory. Yes, Dead Congregation, with “Graves Of The Archangels” having just been released at the time, were opening their set and this was my first contact with them. During this six-year period, the bonds between me and this sonic monster gradually developed and became strengthened, trips abroad were planned in order to watch them playing live and the waiting for the successor of one of the most important records for 00s death metal became more and more intensive.

So be it! As soon as the first two drum hits are heard in the opening track “Only Ashes Remain” and the first wave of mud is unleashed, it is obvious that no compromises are welcome here. Two minutes pass and the phrase “yes, this is the death metal we adore” floats in mind. But no, this not just it, this is much more, as unexpected, twisted guitar leads continuously paint the songs in colors that reek of grave odors. This is the pattern of “Promulgation Of The Fall”, which means… there is no pattern! Crawling, pitch-black funeral doom passages (how haunting are the title-track and mid-part of “Serpentskin”!) follow raw gallops of the guitars and blastbeats alternate with some of the most substantial solos we have recently heard among metal as a whole. Without noticing it, a quarter is almost gone and one realizes that in fact the first three tracks is essentially a unity, a FULL story. Murk, gloom, abyss…

When expectations for the creation of someone you admire, are not only fulfilled but surpassed in such a degree where you feel somewhat guilty for not doing justice to the band by underestimating what they can achieve, then it’s needless to say much. And what can anyone say about this masterpiece? Argue about the record being simultaneously old-school (in the purest of manners) and yet truly progressive with the constant changes of emotions and moods it encloses? Mention details such as that short techno-thrash riff somewhere around the 20th second of “Immaculate Poison” or describe the delirium arising from the orgiastic sequence of solos at its end? I believe it’s enough to point out the conclusion drawn around the end of “Schisma”, an OPUS that has come to battle head-to-head with the out-of-reach “Teeth Into Red” and during the seven minutes it lasts, simply… everything happens! And the conclusion is that while everything in here is familiar, nothing is the same because this is true Evolution. And I think there is no better symbolism for the above than the fact that while the fantastic cover art is drawn by a new artist (A. Lertas), Timo Ketola is still here, this time contributing to the (either way amazing) lyrics with those of “Nigredo” where my favorite quote of this album exists -“Ocean swallows ocean…”.

Those of you who love DEATH metal for the right reasons (that is because you find something special in this transcendental word and its transformation to sound) don’t need me or anyone to tell you that this subgenre has just acquired a new and everlasting gem. The only thing I can add is that if the successor to “Promulgation Of The Fall” is of such magnitude, then I accept to wait another six years for it. And then yet another six; just to complete the triad of the Sacred Number in order for the time to come when He will descend to Earth and sit on His throne…

Originally written for:

Belched and re-belched Underworld fumes - 77%

autothrall, May 8th, 2014

Dead Congregation's 2008 debut Graves of the Archangels was among the more popular of the 90s death metal throwbacks, and I surely know a number of folks on and off-line who continue to sing its praises to this day, though I was not particularly enamored with it to the point that I could share in the cheers. Basically well done Incantation worship tempered with the shifting energies of NY standbys Immolation, the speed and temerity of vintage Morbid Angel (first three albums) and a smattering of other, more obscure acts like Rottrevore, that album was consistent and solid material which only fell short in terms of how the songs resonated with me. As a follower of the genre since its birth, I still have that notion implanted of me that when I want to hear a death metal record, I want great songs, and the Greeks' material sort of all flows together, cohering into an album on which individual tracks don't have a whole lot of distinction from one another. Promulgation of the Fall follows suite, though after a six year hiatus, mother fuckers be so hungry for this sound that they are very likely to devour it. This will be an album of the year upon many a short list come December, but not for this author...

That said, it would be remiss for me to sell short the strengths of this quartet. Promulgation is one damn level playing field, that level being one of the substrata of Inferno. The production on this disc is pretty much Incantation's last outing, the dissonance, twisting melodies and force of the rhythm guitar chords work in perfect unison, while the drumming here is of a more innately brutal and technical leaning than what you expect out of many cavern core/occult death metal bands. It's just much cleaner and less crashy than you might expect. The bass isn't the thickest, but it's stuffed with enough bacon to satisfy its own presence, and the Pillard-ian gutturals also have enough depth and resonance to compete with the busier goings-on in the rest of the band. Structurally, the Greeks a good deal more variation than most of their peers, oozing from slower, roiling grooves to storming blast bursts and loads of tremolo picked guitars which summon forth the 90s. There is an impressive sense of balance, a very measured element to the songwriting that makes it seem like an album which took so long to produce...nothing feels cheap or fucked around or boring, and they almost never take the 'easy' way out with riffs that are less than busy, textured or atmosphere in how they fit one another like pieces of a subterranean, cryptic puzzle.

But ultimately, where Dead Congregation excels in a more professional and complete package than so many similar bands of the last 5-10 years, the song quality here still seems to evade me. Most of the tremolo riffs are mere derivatives of a million that predate them, without offering catchier or more unexpected note choices. The best I can say is they rarely wear out their welcome, and the band does perform with a lot cleaner skill than others who go for bulkier saturated distortion or far too reverb laden leads and vocals. How the Greeks paced this out was rather smart, interspersing the more atmospheric tunes like "Promulgation..." itself in with their busier, frenzied counterparts, but even then I just wasn't hearing riffs that stuck with me for very long. The blasted parts are rarely very interesting beyond their tight execution, the floods of melodic chords there just hammer away into a void of disinterest, rather than shimmering up from the depths with a hellish pallor. The lyrics were actually quite well written, often quotable, and a nice match for the aesthetics of the songwriting, but I often felt like the delicate balance of atmosphere and aggression was much stronger than the notes themselves, and wound up having a lukewarm reaction not unlike the one I felt for Disma's debut, which was another heavily hyped release post-Incantation, though slower and more crushing.

There are death metal records from 25 years ago, 20 years ago, 15, 10 or 5 that still manage to stick with me in an ageless fashion, whereas I've struggled to remember Promulgation of the Fall even an hour or so after experiencing it. It just lacks the identity and novelty of so many of its influences, and can really only ever be another 'good' outing rather than a great one. Of course, Dead Congregation should be credited for the proficiency and morbid perspicacity with which they approach the genre. The 'down time' was spent polishing up their skills and sound, and through touring promotions and word of mouth, I find it very likely that they'll prove one of the survivors once this nostalgic wave of 90s death metal moves on and something else takes its place. There is no horsing around here, a seasoned and serious assault on the houses of the holy. It just lacks that infectiousness to it which I so rabidly seek in death metal, and it's not really innovative or unforgettable enough to tear itself from the long shadows cast by its influences.


Crushing!! - 95%

mjollnir, May 6th, 2014

Once again we have a band that is labeled old school death metal, which seems to be a popular term these days. As I said in a previous review the term usually doesn't add up. In the case of Greece's Dead Congregation we have a band that truly lives up to the definition of the term. The twist with Dead Congregation is that they put a slight modern take on it to make this an extremely interesting and killer band. Their second full length release, Promulgation of the Fall, is proof that this band can truly live up to the hype. Their first full length, Graves of the Archangels, received tons of praise by fans of death metal and critics alike and it seems that this band is not slowing down.

What we have here is riff laden death metal that slays at every turn. The riffs are heavy and pounding. "Only Ashes Remain," is the perfect album opener as the opening riff just pounds you into submission. The vocals are low and guttural and sound fucking evil...just what I want in my death metal. The solos on this song, as well as the rest of the album, are killer with just enough technicality to make them interesting but not pretentious. The speed of the song varies from just thrashing at first to a more doomy sort of riff in the middle of the song. This song leads right into the title track that has an almost psychedelic feedback sound in the beginning. This leads into more heavy doom riffing that sounds like pure evil. They even throw some tremolos in there for a deeper dynamic. The song almost comes off as an interlude as "Serpentskin" comes in and kicks your ass at breakneck speed. Monstrous blast beats and crushing riffs is what this song is about until the halfway point where they just go balls out doom with heavy as fuck downtuned riffs. Being my first experience with this band, I am most impressed with the variety of sounds displayed here.

The production on this album is old school without that modern compression sound that can sometimes make or break a recording. This actually sounds like a mixture of the Florida and Swedish scene from the early 90s. It seems that this band takes from each scene but refines it enough to make it their own. As far as the slower parts they throw in, it seems to work for these songs like they way they add them in on "Immaculate Poison," even though most of that song has neck breaking speed and massive riffs. "Nigredo" is the same way, killer riffing and plenty of speed slowing down only towards the build up at the end leading to what is my favorite song on the album, "Schisma." This is almost seven and a half minutes of sheer brutality but with an epic twist at the same time. Twenty years from now when people talk about classic death metal songs, this one will be one of them. Huge riffs and a huge sound from this diverse and monstrous song. The slow parts are, once again, heavy as fuck and the fast parts are just riff laden. "From a Wretched Womb" closes out the album with more speed and riffs from beginning to end with just plain evil sounding leads and massive solos that almost sound like early Slayer.

As I said, this is my first experience with this band and I'm immediately a fan. This album is how death metal should be done...period. Every song on this album is done with precision and pure talent due to great songwriting and musicians that are professionals in their craft. Anyone who thinks that OSDM is just four letters that do not mean anything need to get this album....quick! This is essential.