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Dead Congregation
Promulgation Of The Fall Joe Sweeney , June 9th, 2014 11:43

Let me illustrate a crude line chart for you. The x axis is labeled "Intensity of Catholic upbringing." The y axis is labeled "Propensity toward metal." The line rises steeply from left to right.

I'm sharing the results of this thoroughly non-scientific study because I've been listening to pretty much nothing but Dead Congregation's Promulgation Of The Fall lately, an album that combines suffocating, undulating walls of noise with outraged middle fingers at heaven's smug king. Here is everything that makes death metal both triumphantly human and deliriously sacrilegious, a feat of instrumental stamina and a carefully crafted argument for the cleansing simplicity of hellfire.

When I discovered metal, I was 12, and would share a Walkman with my similarly inclined Catholic school pal (it had two headphone jacks, which was awesome). We couldn't get enough of Cannibal Corpse's debut album Eaten Back To Life, specifically one moment when the cacophony abruptly ceased, and singer Chris Barnes intoned in his throaty roar, "Fuuuuuuuccccckkkk yooouuuuuuu!!!!!" It made us laugh, but it was also a form of nourishment, a blast of roughly hewn vulgarity to remind us that the world was a ridiculous place, and that if we were born with original sin, well then so be it.

Promulgation Of The Fall brings me back to that feeling, despite this underground Greek ensemble being more thoughtful, shall we say, than my hometown heroes in Cannibal Corpse. Because this music is uncompromisingly brutal in a subsuming, freeing way. The first sound on the album is a frantic snare hit from the band's superhuman drummer Vagelis Voyiantzis, and it's a completely appropriate way to start. Voyiantzis cranks up his snare heads to the point where it sounds almost like a timbale, and on that first song, 'Only Ashes Remain', he's not content to relegate it to 2s and 4s. Toward the end, it sounds like it's being struck 100 times per measure, slicing through the monstrous low end of the guitars and vocals like the Reaper's freshly sharpened scythe.

Even though Dead Congregation spends most of their time in attack mode – turning pregnant pauses into Rosemary's Baby pauses – its approach to the art form is refreshingly straightforward. Things never get too technical or dramatic. The riffs are simple and undeniable, layered and deepened to appropriately pulverising levels. Solos are short and never showy. And singer Anastasis Valtsanis belts his demonic screeds in a steady, guttural growl that brings to mind classic death metal vocalists. He's expressed admiration for Death's Chuck Schuldiner in interviews, and one can envision that band's 'Pull The Plug' fitting in a Dead Congregation setlist quite snugly.

Part of the appeal of 'Pull The Plug' was its defiant acceptance of the end, something that would end organised religion as we know it if it got in the water supply. And Promulgation Of The Fall operates in that spirit, embracing chaos with open arms and jettisoning millennia of human guilt in the process. Over the airtight speed metal onslaught of 'Immaculate Poison', Valtsanis welcomes his dark lord, invoking a different kind of passion play. "Immense cliffs of flesh / To satisfy his lust / Forever nailed alive / Nevermore fucking Christ." Will I be punished for smiling as I write this? For feeling a sweet catharsis? I'd think about it, but the music's too loud.