Artist: Father Befouled
Album Title: Crowned In Veneficum
Label: Everlasting Spew Records
Date of Release: 25 March 2022
My newly heightened love for death metal continues with the latest release from a band that, until now, I’d never heard of. Formed back in 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia, Father Befouled have been incredibly active, releasing four full-length albums in the intervening years as well as a handful of EPs, a demo, and several split releases. They boast one of the worst logos within death metal as far as I’m concerned, illegible even by extreme metal standards. But the dark and malevolent cover of album number five, ‘Crowned In Veneficum’ did just enough to capture my interest and ensure a cursory listen. The cursory listen has now turned into a full review, I’m pleased to say.
What makes the relative prolific nature of Father Befouled even more impressive, is the fact that each of the four members can list a veritable library of current and former bands with which they are connected, particularly vocalist/guitarist Justin Stubbs who can namedrop upwards of ten other bands past and present with whom he is or has been involved. Stubbs is joined on ‘Crowned In Veneficum’ by guitarist Derrik Goulding, bassist Rhys Spencer and, most recently, drummer Amos Rifkin, who joined the ranks in 2018.
Put as purely and simply as I can, Father Befouled play an incredibly dirty, gritty, and nasty form of death metal that seeks to pummel and bludgeon the listener whilst plumbing the depths of the underworld. This is a band that can be described as ‘no nonsense’, driving forth with a kind of incessant, old school-derived brutality whilst exploring topics about death and blasphemy. Not that you could ever understand the lyrics because in fine brutal death metal fashion, Stubbs’ vocals are deeply guttural, at times so low that they can barely be heard over the instrumentation; his voice has a dry, rasping hiss to it too, as if it emanates from the body of the dead.
‘Crowned In Veneficum’ is a not atypical length for a death metal record, sitting as it does around the 36-minute mark. But in that time, it makes a decent impact, and will almost certainly find some favour with fans of bands such as Incantation and maybe Immolation, although not perhaps as scything as the latter.
That said, the ferocity with which ‘Unheavenly Catechesis’ explodes from the speakers is immediately impressive. Wailing lead guitar notes lead the charge under which we’re treated to a torrent of blastbeats and buzzing riffs. It’s so intense that it almost feels like it could unravel and descend into an almighty mess. And yet the suffocating onslaught does clear just enough to allow some discernible groove to enter the song, as well as a marked slowing of the tempo at the halfway stage. It’s here that the stench of doom pervades to great effect, allowing an almost melodic lead solo to dominate the final stages.
There are few surprises to be heard as the album develops, but that’s not a bad thing in my opinion, as the Father Befouled stock-in-trade material is sufficiently strong. I particularly enjoy the moments when a greater sense of dark atmosphere is allowed to muscle in on the otherwise tumultuous bursts of ferocious death metal aggression. A great example of this can be heard within ‘Salivating Faithlessness’, and at other key moments throughout the record.
If I had a negative comment to make about this album however, it would be that the instrumental tracks, ‘His Throne Decayed’ and ‘Euphoria Of Accepted Suffering’ are less impactful than the remaining material. In particular, at just 38 seconds, the latter of the two is a little pointless, even if it does carry a certain cinematic, dystopian quality that segues nicely into the closing track, ‘Utter Abomination’.
On the subject of the closer though, this is perhaps where the greatest surprise is delivered. For the first two minutes of the track, we’re plunged even further into funeral doom metal territory, where the pace is almost stagnant as heavy, lurching riffs encase the ears. It means that when the pace is increased, these periods of aggression are all the more impactful. Expecting the remainder of the song to maintain the increased pace, it’s nice to be proven wrong as the doom façade returns until the close.
I didn’t really expect an awful amount from this album, but it is a generally positive affair, and reasonably consistent. Whether you enjoy it, will depend largely on your predisposition towards this kind of dirty and depraved death metal where technical prowess is evident, but plays second fiddle to a more straightforward, no-nonsense form of brutality. I don’t think that ‘Crowned In Veneficum’ will propel the Americans into a much higher echelon of the genre, but it’s a fine record that will please the afficionados of the genre, no doubt.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%
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