Drawn and Quartered – Congregation Pestilence Review

In the seemingly endless quest to quell the hankering for novelty, people too often fail to stop and smell the liverworts. I know what you’re thinking: “But DiM, you peculiar proser, I don’t want to smell European meat paste!” Not to worry, dear hypothetical reader, that’s liverwurst. Liverworts are plants that can basically only grow in caves and caverns. We can only stop to smell them if we head down into the dank, dark, and moist parts of the earth, where the music of Drawn and Quartered lurks. Time to get spelunking, nerds.

This was all a long-form way of saying Drawn and Quartered plays what many refer to as “cavern-core,” which really means “something that sounds a lot like Incantation.” Oftentimes there’s an echoey “cavernous” production whence this sub-subgenre derives its name. Drawn and Quartered aren’t interested in capturing that aesthetic via production tricks, though; they want to use riffs and songs to get at that Incantation magic. Cemetery Urn took a similar approach on their self-titled record to what’s happening on Congregation Pestilence, which is to focus more on the speedier moments of Incantation and make some barbaric, unrelenting death metal. Great pinch harmonic usage abounds because these types of riffs are nigh unfathomable without that. Naturally for this kind of music, Immolation can also be counted as an influence on individual riffs but not song structures.

Speaking of riffs, if you’re hungry for riff salad then Congregation Pestilence is not for you. Drawn and Quartered revolve their songs around variations of a few riffs instead of throwing twenty at the wall and seeing what sticks. Take “Oblivion Pilgrimage” for one example: it begins on a pattern which reminds me of Kingdom of Conspiracy, shifts that pattern around the fretboard for a bit before moving on to the second riff, which makes complete sense beside the first. The song has three unique riffs (not counting variations of patterns, the structure is roughly A-B-A-C), but Drawn and Quartered are savvy enough songwriters to make this work in the songs’ favor instead of sounding monotonous. For instance, when “Death’s Disciple” introduces a big new riff two-thirds through its runtime it acts as a coda, accented nicely by Kelly Kuciemba’s simple lead melody. Kuciemba’s leads play a significant role in Congregation Pestilence’s success too, most notably in “Age of Ignorance.” There’s plenty of King-style squealers in there, but also a deceptively catchy melody which drives the entire midsection of the song. “Proliferation of Disease” has a downright invigorating transition from lead melody to bona fide guitar solo, showing Drawn and Quartered’s finely honed instincts and writing chops.

The production reminds me of modern Incantation in that some may find it a bit too clean. There’s merit to this quibble, but in my view it’s good to hear Drawn and Quartered firing on all cylinders clearly and pick out the nuances. Herb Burke’s bass is nicely forward, which benefits “Dispensation (Rise of the Antichrist)” greatly, as his playing anchors Kuciemba’s almost blackened riffing, keeping it in the cavern. Simon Dorfman’s drums don’t sound raw, but it’s still clear a human being is playing them and doing a mighty fine job of it. Burke’s Pillard-esque vocals sound appropriately like a human blast furnace, and his phrasing is smart and often happily reminds me of Ross Dolan along with Pillard.

In hindsight, I was a bit hard on The One Who Lurks back in 2018. With that in mind, Congregation Pestilence is a far better record. “Rotting Abomination (The Cleansing)” has one of the best trudging Incantation style riffs outside of those written by the masters themselves, and the demented lead melody in “Carnage Atrocity” hasn’t left my head for weeks. Congregation Pestilence is thirty-eight minutes of proper death metal, nary a second wasted. Drawn and Quartered remain firmly rooted in the genre’s traditions, but novelty is not needed when the writing is this good. Lasting as a death metal band for well over two decades is no small feat, but to release something this vital so far into such a long career is undeniably impressive. It’s clear that Drawn and Quartered never lost the passion for their music, and their extensive time together has resulted in an undeniable chemistry which permeates the record. Congregation Pestilence may not be “new” to the average death metal listener’s ears, but it’s plenty exciting and warrants a high recommendation without hesitation.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Krucyator Productions
Websites: drawnandquartered1.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/drawnandquartered
Released Worldwide: July 2nd, 2021

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