24 Apr 2020 - Thorsten
Progressive-Death-Metal | Debemur Morti Productions | Release date: 24 Apr 2020
NZ is not only one of the most beautiful countries, not only home of the highly interesting Maori, not only the land of the All Blacks - it also has a thriving alternative scene and one of its spearheads is Progressive-Metal-Powerhouse Ulcerate.
A death metal act from New Zealand has been setting the bars high for a genre that has definitely seen some very good releases over the past couple of years. Never mind all the artists that set new measures for death metal (for example Blood Incantation with their doom infused record from 2019), Auckland’s very own Ulcerate are the ones to beat; even though not everybody notices.
The band has been releasing highly acclaimed records for more than ten years and yet, their new record Stare into Death and be Still is a new watermark for the whole genre. Roughly an hour stretched across eight songs (the shortest 5:41; the longest 8:25) this record is more than an old-school death metal album. The question to be answered is how they achieved that with not changing too much and with still-sounding like themselves.
In short: they stayed the course! The trio is still delivering cleverly arranged death metal tracks with lots of speed changes, with earthquake-like shredding, with raging bursts and with gut-wrenching vocals. They are able to intersperse their songs with sometimes minute pauses when they slow down audible from Defcon 1 down to 3 before jumping back to alert level 2 for a mere ten seconds and then slow it down all the way to Defcon 4 for a few breaths before the song finally bursts into near atomic war defense readiness conditions – and that was just the description of roughly two minutes within the title track. So much is happening in each of the songs that one doesn’t know where to start.
Something very special about Ulcerate is still the way they build tension. The awesome intro to “There is no Horizon” might be a good example for this: a near-post-rock space is clad with guitar pickings and single cymbals before the whole thing really kicks in after 26 seconds. But even then there seems to be a whiff of that posty-ness they used at the very beginning underneath all the blasting drums, the marching riffs and the growls to kill (for). And that ability to construct moods through songs and small additions from other genres only becomes more obvious throughout the record, for it becomes more and more a remarkable mix of rough post and clever death-metal.
The lyrics – as death-metal-like unintelligible as they may be – also add to the cult following the band wherever they go. With lines like “Banished to a fate worse than death / No worth remains of this condemned existence / Soon to be annulled” (from said title track) it becomes clear that Ulcerate are pretty unique in their way of expressing ideas. What could be worse than death? Silence. Obsolete-ness. Being forgotten and becoming nameless.
This record might not completely invent the whole genre anew, but every – EVERY – death metal record of 2020 will be measured against this. And I will be damned if it can be beaten; that is hard to imagine. New Zealand: if you got more bands of this kind, please do everything you can to make them known!