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on 26 May 2011
Here we have a big slab of emotive, evil, avant-garde Progressive blackened death metal. From the opening notes, I could tell this was right up my street.

I'm not a big follower of straight up death metal, and generally find it fairly exhausting to digest. I have a great appreciation for the technicality of it, and especially enjoy seeing good death metal bands live. But beyond that, I usually need something more out of my music to be able to sit and listen happily for 40+ minutes.

Ulcerate are quite new to me, and have a slightly different approach to the morbid brutality of the (somewhat tired) genre. As far as the guitars are concerned, speed and technicality is sacrificed for a far darker, slower and more compositional approach. Something more akin to bands like Portal, Impetuous Ritual, Ehnahre or Nihil (essentially death metal on a hot dose of Ved Buens Ende).

The guitars literally make me feel like I'm sliding down a steep wet embankment into a pitch black pit filled with Lovecraftian horrors. It is awesome. One guitar is playing clash-y melodies quite high up the neck, while another is plodding and bending around on the low notes. It doesn't just serve to omit a sense of dread and horror through the epic macabre dissonance; it's actually really quite clever stuff.

The vocals have Eric Rutan written all over them. Very devastating loud and low shouts and growls.

The drums trip me up a little bit. It's fast and technical, and at times doesn't even seem to follow the guitars, which works on one level, but on the other, it feels like the drummer was really intent on showing technical flare and speed, where it might've suited the overall feel better if he'd dropped the clinical blasts for looser jazzier style black metal drumming. This is really just a point of preference though.

Anyway, I think this album is going to be on repeat in my ears for some time to come. It's revived something that was fairly dead to me, and I have a feeling this release is going to be very popular with almost every scene in underground metal.
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on 29 March 2011
Ulcerate's 3rd album sees them perfecting the unique sound that they have been evolving. Although easily identifiable as death metal, they have obviously been concentrating on developing their highly distinctive sound in an often samey genre. They have an organic, contorted feel, like gnarled roots, and a real unity and focus which suggests a band completely in tune with each other artistically. There are significant deviations from the death metal template, and these are what makes Ulcerate a special band. The vocals are decent - the rasping roar variety, but they are not trying too hard to be the sickest vocals ever, and fit with the sombre, slightly despairing feel. The drumming is brilliant, and superbly recorded across the stereo spectrum. Whilst there are passages of full-on blasting, there are also loads of interesting, intricate fills; and unusual accents. Like the vocals, there is welcome restraint. The guitars are the main difference, with plenty of twisting riffs and runs in the mid- to high register, and they create a bleak, sometimes slightly atonal or discordant wall of noise that is intriguing and engaging. It is difficult not to find similarities with Deathspell Omega - in my opinion the best black metal band in existence. Just as DSO incorporate some touches of death metal in their sound, Ulcerate borrow equally from black metal, and they sound not too dissimilar. It is mostly in the guitar work: buzzing, churning and grinding - but also the construction of the overall sound - conjuring images of a slightly oppressive, hopeless, twilit world (I'm not especially interested in lyrics, but I'm sure they fit the bill). The artwork and song titles all contribute to this distinctive whole. This can be punishing and brutal like the best death metal, but also extremely evocative, and rewarding for discerning ears looking for something a bit deeper. Like DSO it rewards repeated listens as you get your head around the strange structures and guitar interplay. Quite excellent, and highly recommended, especially to those who may feel that extreme metal is stuck in a rut.
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