Ulcerate

Stare Into Death And Be Still

Written by: AP on 09/01/2021 13:42:08

Every metal genre seems to be evolving into a post offshoot these days, so why should death metal remain an exception? Ulcerate from New Zealand have been working toward this pivot since their 2016 album “Shrines of Paralysis” and while most people seem to agree the trio belonged in the technical death metal category on the basis of both that record and the four that came before it, no one can argue with the fact that it became nigh impossible to find any truly similar artists when it came out. And certainly their newest undertaking, “Stare into Death and Be Still”, deserves to be regarded as something of a trailblazing album as far as death metal tropes go, its emphasis on atmosphere and its shunning riffs and grooves in the traditional sense empowering Ulcerate to transcend the boundaries of the genre. Shall we call it post-death metal then, or perhaps deathgaze, in keeping with the prevailing trends?

One listen through the opening track “The Lifeless Advance” and it should be obvious just how unique the sound that Ulcerate have cultivated since their inception in 2002 has become. It sets the tone for the rest of the album with shapeshifting leads by guitarist Michael Hoggard that seem to float around the soundscape like revenants of melodies that once were, either barely clinging to or just detaching themselves entirely from Jamie Saint Merat’s drum patterns, which are quite freeform and unpredictable in their own right. There are moments on this song and indeed the album as a whole when it feels like frontman Paul Kelland’s bass guitar is the one thing holding it all together, and yet at the same time, it never feels like the music is on the verge of collapsing in on itself. On the contrary, the record seems only to grow more immense and enveloping with every passing song, opening myriad avenues of sonic exploration to the curious and — it should be said — patient listener. Ulcerate are not, and never have been a band catering to the faint of heart.

Tracks like “There Is No Horizon” and “Inversion” are characterised by salvoes of blastbeats and double-pedal pummeling by Saint Merat that both sound and feel like sudden tectonic movements, and although there are passages during which Haggard’s guitar playing is actually quite smooth, it is most often so jagged and ridden with dissonance that one could be forgiven for thinking he took some riffs from the repertoires of Gorguts and Immolation, and then simply tore them to shreds and blended them into a craggy, black mass of noise. It sounds brutal as f**k , especially when Kelland lays some sepulchral growls on top, and it flows through the entire span of the hour-long record at the same glacial pace regardless of how the overall rhythm shifts. For an album as firmly rooted in death metal as this, “Stare into Death and Be Still” thus emerges as an unexpectedly psychedelic listening experience, one best taken in, in a single punishing yet captivating session.

Death metal has taken leaps in recent years as younger bands have adopted bold attitudes and began to break down conventions and push the genre beyond its traditional envelope of blasphemy, groove and splatter. Ulcerate have established themselves at the forefront of this movement since issuing “Vermis” in 2013, and with this latest album of theirs, it is truly starting to feel like one of the last bastions of genre truism that still lives on in the metal community is on the verge of falling and allowing new ideas and philosophies to take part in shaping its future. And even if that were not the case, “Stare into Death and Be Still” must nonetheless go down as one of the very best death metal releases of 2020 simply on the merit of how masterfully the Aucklanders have brought their artistic vision to life with it. Skip this one if you are on the lookout for archetypical death metal — but get your hands on it immediately if you want your preconceptions about the genre to be challenged and, ultimately, destroyed.

9

Download: The Lifeless Advance, There Is No Horizon, Inversion, Visceral Ends
For the fans of: Gorguts, Portal, Sulphur Aeon, Svart Crown
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.04.2020
Debemur Morti Productions

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