Everything Is Fire

Written by: AB on 27/05/2009 15:23:32

Ulcerate's debut album from 2007, "Of Fracture And Failure", is one of my favourite albums of the last few years. Highly varied, it contains some of the best technical death metal I've heard with a lot of different influences ranging from drawn out post-metal, the bleakness of industrial and black metal, the weirdness of later Gorguts and the dissonance and special groove of Immolation. Now these New Zealanders have released their follow up, titled "Everything Is Fire", and it's a release I've been looking forward to for a long time.

So for me it has been interesting to see if Ulcerate would continue their unique take on brutal death metal, or if they would change direction. The end result is midway between the two, as "Everything is Fire" sounds very different to the debut, yet it is still clearly an Ulcerate album. The main changes in sound is the omission of the black and industrial metal influenced parts in favour for more drawn out, post-metallic soundscapes, as well as even more dissonance than before. Furthermore, vocalist Ben Read has left the band, and vocal duties have been taken over by bassist Paul Kelland. Now, while Read wasn't up there with the very best of diverse extreme metal vocalists like Matthew Chalk (ex-Psycroptic) or V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (Anaal Nathrakh), he was close - a fucking excellent vocalist with some sick screams, growls, grunts and snarls, one of the (many) great points that made "Of Fracture And Failure" as super as it is. His replacement, Kelland, is sadly nowhere near his level, though he is by no means bad. He is just more, well, standard, and he only growls throughout the album, therefore lacking the diversity of Read.

I have been wondering if Ulcerate would be able to top the brilliance that is "Of Fracture And Failure". Let me say it straight away - they couldn't. However, that would almost be too much to ask for given the quality they have to compete with. Yet, "Everything Is Fire" is still a great album, no doubt about it.

Ulcerate start mercilessly off with opener "Drown Within" which opens up with a quiet, post-metallic atmospheric piece, before the super dissonant guitars and the weirdly groovy drums set in, producing a quiet but haunting background for the growls that suddenly pick up together with an increase in speed, creating a jagged, sea-sick inducing feel that is entirely captivating. The music is like this throughout the album; layered, dissonant, entrancing, weird. Throughout the album, the guitar tone sounds a bit off, much in the same way as Immolation, further enhancing the oddness of the grand compositions that compromise "Everything Is Fire".

The tempo changes all the time, from drawn out droning, over strangely fascinating atmospheric parts with intricate drum patterns - often used as the quiet before the storm, because storm there is too. The songs explode into furious assaults led by the twin guitars, that weave chaotic, aggressive and uncontrollable strings together into ear-shattering pieces of destructive originality. Though being greatly influenced by post-metal on this album, Ulcerate now sound closer to like-minded peers such as former label mates Rune (now sadly defunct) and Commit Suicide, or even the fantastic Orgone, than post-metal/experimental sludge bands as Cult of Luna, Neurosis and the likes. This difference in sound stems mostly from the fact that the long, droning moments Ulcerate have adopted from post-metal are used more to put the violent parts in relief and to slowly layer sounds on top of each other in order to create the ruthless fury that Ulcerate continually unleash.

It all sounds very, very good, but sadly it can't, as said, quite match the brilliancy of the debut. I have been thinking a great deal of why this is the case, and I mainly think it boils down to the fact that "Of Fracture And Failure" has a more diverse sound. The focus on "Everything Is Fire" has been much more on protracted soundscapes and gigantic build-ups than the diversity of influences that marked their former work. Here I feel that the loss of vocalist Read really hurt the band, as I am sure he still would have fit in, even to the band's general change of sound.

All in all, this is music that demands something from its listeners. However, I'm still confident that "Everything is Fire" will be placed safely in my top 10 of the year list come that time. But listen for yourself - if you like your metal strange, genuinely captivating, atmospheric, labyrinthine and slightly off, a little nauseating and stomach-turning, dissonant, chaotic and technical; unique - well, then this is for you.


Download: Drown Within, Withered and Obsolete, Tyranny, The Earth At Its Knees
For the fans of: Immolation, Orgone, Rune, Commit Suicide
Listen: Myspace.com

Candlelight Records

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