New Zealand death metal trio Ulcerate are back! After touring in support of 2013's most excellent Vermis, this year sees the technical calisthenics bound ever onwards with Shrines Of Paralysis. The band has also announced a headlining North American Fall tour with Icelandic blackened death band Zhrine and Montreal death quartet Phobocosm; both familiar to our site. I intend on catching a little corner of the mayhem here in Portland. For those unfamiliar, Ulcerate formed in Auckland, New Zealand in 2000, and their experimental fusion of chaotic technical death with bleak post-metal, sometimes dubbed "post-death," is unrivaled.
What is the sound of bones crunching? Complete annihilation? The planet imploding in on itself in a blaze of...shoot I already said all of that. It's hard, because a band like this is difficult to describe, and I was so happy with how my review of Vermis came out. In short, Ulcerate is possibly the fastest, mathiest metal band around. The vocals are insanely brutal, complimented by guitar and drum work that is quite simply insane. Perhaps I could use some of my preceding parallels to talk about the progression of this new album. If the riffs previously drilled, here they sear; if time signatures were previously devoured, here they are consumed.
Many of you fans out there likely caught a listen of the leading single, "Abrogation." This track is a freakin' colossus and remains my favorite on the record. It seems to be the perfect fusion of their bleak and disturbing controlled anarchy with some mildly conventional song structures. There are actually a few notable hooks and grooves to speak of on this track, and those sudden breaks and eruptions towards the end are worthy of Vesuvius. However, for those who were concerned about some of these more (tenuously) marketable directions, fear not. There is still plenty of bitter and desolate terrain to explore. In fact the latter half of Shrines of Paralysis is a barren womb of doomy, post-metal meandering.
I love it all, but personally it's the trio of leading tracks that gets me going. There's only so many times you can wander directionlessly through the ether. I am aware that even the band's most esoteric tracks contain enough technical variation to give the average music student, male or female, a raging hard-on; but it's just so dense that it makes me weary after a while. I welcome some of the more infectious moments of "Yield to Naught" and "There Are No Saviours." They have an extra kick of energizing power while still distancing themselves from anything that could get notable airplay. And "Bow To Spite," perhaps their shortest track to date, has a simplified brutality that reminds me of Primitive Man.
Another amazing album that all of you watching our "musicianship" scale with starry eyes must hear this year. The drums. I mean, my God. Between the unending barrage of variable, breakneck rhythms and the equally violent (and unconventional) approach to guitar it must be heard to be believed. I would like to see the band branch out and explore their sound in new ways a bit more (hey, if you love The Destroyers of All so much go freakin' listen to it), but the fact that their sound is so original to begin with lends them some extra points. Album drops this Friday.