Drawn and Quartered has often flown under the radar compared to some of the more high profile death metal bands out there, but I’d argue that they’ve maintained a level of quality that is up there with some of the best the U.S. has to offer. The core duo of Kelly Kuciemba and Herb Burke has put their own spin on cavernous and twisted death metal since forming as Plague Bearer in 1992 (which now exists as a separate side project), and with the addition of Simon Dorfman on drums in 2013 Drawn and Quartered released a monster of a record in the form of The One Who Lurks three years ago. For album number eight, Congregation Pestilence, the band has re-recorded several songs from their Proliferation of Disease demo as well as some new ones and the results prove that these guys are still in top form.
Although some of the material was previously released in a rawer form, you likely wouldn’t know that without doing some research. Each of the nine tracks on Congregation Pestilence flow seamlessly together, as they’ve been sequenced in a way that keeps the intensity at a high for the entirety of the album. Drawn and Quartered hasn’t deviated significantly from the approach taken throughout their career, bringing violent and dense riffs that give way to some murky and slower grooves that make it feel like you’re drowning in sludge. Their style has often come through like a mixture of Morbid Angel, Immolation, and Incantation, but the band’s ability to inject some twisted melodic leads into their songs and the sheer precision of the instrumentation continues to set them apart. Congregation Pestilence is a slightly more compact effort than its immediate predecessor, coming in at a quick thirty-eight minutes that favors more direct attacks and doesn’t have quite as many drawn out slower passages. This works to the band’s advantage, as where The One Who Lurks lost just a little bit of its impact by the end here the songs kept me interested from beginning to end. “Oblivion Pilgrimage” and “Carnage Atrocity” are perfect examples of what makes the material so memorable, as the nightmarish qualities of the leading melodies seem to twist and turn as the songs progress and stick with you upon repeated listens. The production once again is well suited to what Drawn and Quartered is doing here, coming through as immensely powerful and dense with just the right amount of murk that doesn’t completely obscure the nuances of the instrumentals.
While the quality of the riffs and drumming could easily sell this album to most death metal fans, Herb Burke’s vocal work is what continues to tie everything together and make this a strong overall package. It only takes about twenty seconds in to be met with immense, room filling growls that have a considerable amount of distortion and have a similar ominous and foreboding tone as the instrumentation. Even though the recording is fairly dense, Drawn and Quartered haven’t buried their vocal work like a lot of other death metal bands tend to, instead giving the growls just enough space to come through with room filling capacity. Where some long-running groups in this genre have vocalists who give performances that seem tired and flat, Burke’s seem to only get more violent and powerful with time.
For all the repetitive and overly formulaic albums that come my way, bands like Drawn and Quartered continue to remind me of why death metal is so appealing. Though their roots may also pull from familiar ground, there’s a precision and confidence to their songwriting that makes a difference, and one riff after another sticks with you over repeat listens. Time will tell where this one ranks within their discography but it certainly seems like it’ll land fairly high, and it’s already a highlight of death metal in 2021. Congregation Pestilence is available from Krucyator Productions.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to share it with others to help us grow. You can also like and follow us on the social media of your choice with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and support us on Patreon.