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The artwork on my CD booklet for this is incredibly dim, so I was glad to score a brighter digital pic for the review. Really, though, just adjust your eyes, for when the pyroclasmic finale of humanity arrives, it won't be pretty. All roiling lava, sinking structures, smoke-filled sky and lungs slowly breathing their last. Then darkness. Contragenesis, being the counter to creation, is mildly more vivid and exciting in texture than that suffocating imagery might hint, but there is nothing comfortable about this record, just a damned consistent pummeling of the skull packed with tension and dynamics, a Mortal Throne of Nazarene sitting in the second row at a demolition derby and hurling popcorn at the destruction below. And if Death Transmutation hadn't been an ample enough effort to convince you of Ignivomous' magma-spewing audacity, this one surely secures their spot as one of the chief retro-brutal death metal exports of all the Australian continent.
Contragenesis' production is perhaps the best thing about it, with these caustic, crushing flows of riffing fuzz that cascade across a number of low end, tremolo picked harmonies that are so fat sounding I can barely comprehend how they manage to fit them over the dextrous drumming without the amps exploding. Loads of low end grooves round out the pacing, and just about every time they set up some bristling new progression they manage to mold the listener's imagination back to excitement with some sort of endtimes aural dopamine drug that constantly refreshes you, no matter how tired you might be of hearing the subterranean death metal craze of the new 'teens. Vocals capture all that cavernous resonance of a Craig Pillard or Ross Doland, and while that's probably not the sickest or most distinctive of styles so many years after the originals were first spawned forth, they do such a good job mixing these to the guitars and drums that it they sound fucking monolithic. The bass does tend to blend too much into the rhythm tracks, and the frilly little leads peppered sporadically among the compositions could be a little louder and in the face, but otherwise Contragenesis is one of the best sounding throwback death metal gems in my entire collection...
Now, this is not a 'riff' band. They have a hundred of the things, but they're not individually impressive or varied enough to really make it an album where you'd pick out particular songs to throw on a mix for your new girlfriend. No, Ignivomous once again demands that you sit there and take each molten spray in the face, endless gushing 'gasms of melted matter; but for what it's worth, there is certainly a level of complexity and nuance with what they do...these are busier patterns than your normal cave evil, and the constant threat of leads or end-phrase embellishments keep it interesting. Contragenesis might have lacked some of the surprise and malevolence of its predecessor, but it very nearly compensates in that it's a tighter effort with a meatier tone that sounds ridiculously morbid and voluptuous bursting out the speakers. I'm not sure how long their style will last without some tweaking and progression between releases (there is a little here from the first), but in the meantime this is just a corpulent libation to both Finnish ghoulishness and the darker, more impenetrable side of 90s NYDM which should not be ignored by anyone who revels in such claustrophobic, evil flatulence from below the Earth's crust.
Most reviews I write are about my personal choices out of the plethora of worthy death metal bands that have more or less arisen in the underground recently, compared to Immolation for example. Ignivomous is one of those bands.
The first time I listened to Ignivomous was few months before Contragenesis was released, when I was totally awestruck by their debut album Death Transmutation. I managed to get my hands on Death Transmutation's beautiful edition with the 7" by 7" booklet and even though I had listened to some songs off of it, listening to the whole album was apocalyptic. The effectiveness of the music can only be compared to first class bands like Dead Congregation, however they're probably the most aggressive band that belongs to this whole death metal conspiracy. Of course, that does not mean they're also the best, but they're one of the best.
Ignivomous' music is exactly what the band's name suggests: vomiting fire, death and blood. The album cover of Contragenesis is totally describing of the music's effects. After listening to the album, words like "obliteration", "devastation", "collapse", "eradication", "doom" etc are spinning in the head of the listener. Combining only the best elements of death, black, and doom, Ignivomous are completely serious with their sonar offspring, everything, even their photos convince you that those guys are not making this for the cult itself but because there is darkness within them that they have to somehow express. As such, the Australians are one step ahead of bands like Teitanblood -don't get me wrong, Teitanblood rules- that sometimes tend to sound like they're 90% black/death metal ideology and 10% black/death metal music. Ignivomous' riffs are like a meta state of everything that dark death metal has spawned in the two decades interceding the release of Incantation's "Onward to Golgotha" and the release of Contragenesis. It's like being pulled into a fiery vortex and then being crushed by dark energy. The bass is punishing, sounding like some kind of melodic -to the extent that this is possible within the boundaries of true death metal- earthquake spreading through your brain. Now, the drummer should be sent to Stanford University to be subject to studies, since he is most probably mutated. That is how I explain that he can change from the most barbaric blasting to the heaviest Bolt Thrower-like uber-fast double bass grooves and back without sounding like a drunk teenager. Definitely one of the best of his kind, together with the likes of Cam Sinclair of Diocletian, V.V. of Dead Congregation and a few others. Lastly, the production is warm and raw, neither deeming the instruments indiscrete nor becoming "modern", as such it's totally appropriate for this form of aural extremity.
Well, there is not much more to say about this monster. I recommend this for fans of Incantation, Immolation, Angelcorpse, Blasphemy, Blaspherian, Dead Congregation, Witchrist and anything similar to the above. There is a strong probability you'll favor this. There are no highlights within the album, every single song kicks total ass. With Contragenesis, Ignivomous establish themselves as part of the elite, and Nuclear War Now! Productions confirm its status of being one of the most reliable labels of our times. Only blood, fire and death!!!
Australia based Ignivomous moniker translates quite fittingly to "vomiting fire," the exact thing that the band are doing on their sophomore album Contragenesis: shooting fire and sulfur from their mouths with scorching demonic wrath. Easily one of the most sonically devastating albums of 2012, Contragenesis song writing is a strange mix of old-school sensibility and aesthetic that features a modern, warp speed presentation. Contragenesis borders on exhausting, and it's relentless nature gives Ignivomous a bit of identity that the bands debut, Incantation-and-Incantation styled Death Transmutation, an album which did not lack for brutality either but also felt far too appropriate and digestible.
Ignivomous still evoke the Old New York Gods of Incantation and Immolation in their brand of merciless death metal: occult themed sermons, loaded with plenty of intense tremolo picked riffs and explosive bursts of eery dissonance coupled with odd time-signatures. In this way, Contragenesis feels familiar and even a bit worn out: the whole Incantation-worship thing has been going on for seven years now and it's no longer all that interesting. It felt like Death Transmutation 2.0, without any kind of artistic progression or fresh approaches to old ideas. Contragenesis left a bad impression with me through a single listen, and it took me a bit of time to come back to it.
And I am glad that I did, because repeated listens begin to part the ancient fog and expose a sense of personal artistic direction missing from many Old School Revival acts. Contragenesis brings a healthy dose of sheer brutality to their style which helps it stand a part from the dime-a-dozen worship albums. No, I am not talking about breakdowns or chugs: Ignivomous keep everything decidedly old-school throughout. But in the vein of an early Deeds of Flesh or Gorgasm(or Angelcorpse, for those of you who could not possibly handle the comparison), Contragenesis is fucking fast and driven almost completely by the blast-beat. Both Incantation and Immolation had time for doom-laden introspection, but Ignivomous are not interested in such silly concepts for much of Contragenesis, seeking instead to hammer points home in a flurry of riffs so thick you cannot see more than a foot in front of you. Not every track is completely relentless: "Monumental Cosmic Transgression" and the finale "The Final Cadence of Bloodshed" slow things down a bit, for a few moments anyway before the torrent commences with violent furry. Despite the occult themes, Contragenesis is not much for ambiance and ritual; it would rather just gut the listener and smash the parts that fall out with a hammer while screaming about Satan. This might seem like a detraction, but it really is a major selling point for this album; it gives Contragenesis it's own identity.
Identity is great, and Contragenesis stands as one of the better Old School Death Metal Revival albums of the year, if not the best in a bad year for death metal(so far). But identity does not a masterpiece make: Contragenesis is still largely recycling ideas from bands who came before them, and not every track feels like a masterpiece. The previously mentioned "The Final Cadence of Bloodshed" does feature some of the albums slower and more atmospheric(intended anyway) compositions, but it is also the weakest link on the tracklist: ponderous, evoking old ghosts of Obituary and Master, and not really in line with the rest of the album. Vocalist Jael Edwards is a decent Ross Dolan-imitator, but he mostly is just there and grunting dutifully. I also would not describe Contragenesis is ultra-tight: some of the riffs here are damn complex, but there is also a sense of swirling chaos that at times feels out of control: about half way through "Seventh Seal Gnosis," the transitions become awkward because of the speed, and the drums seem to fall behind. These moments are neither common nor game breakers, and certainly gives Contragenesis a sense of rawness, but bare mentioning none the less.
I still can't find a ton of fault with Contragenesis. In fact, I have some pretty high praises for it. At least Ignivomous are trying to bring their own ideas and artistic expressions to their music, as so many of their peers are more than willing to suckle at the tit of their idols and rehash their songs in generally inferior ways. I would like to see Contragenesis as a sign of things to come from the band, a band hopefully ready to spread it's black wings and bring a pestilence of it's own nefarious design.
I'm pretty tired of everything being compared to Incantation right now, sure the modern underground death metal scene holds them as one of the main, if not the ultimate influence, but it seems like these days nobody is capable of reviewing a death metal album without comparing them to the original masters of murky evil doom. I suppose superficially, yes, tremolo riffs and doom sections is a very large part of Incantation's mighty sound, but there is more to it than that, and it's offensive to both the originators of the style for having their twisted sense of atonal melody and evil boiled down to such rudimentary levels, and to the better bands which have their other influences and ideas pushed aside for an easy to way to say that they belong to the new ODSM movement. Sure, many of these bands are all about tremolo riffs and doom too, but when bands like Encoffination, Undergang and Disma routinely get compared to them, the phrase "Incantation worship" seems to now be a calling card for "I listened to the first six minutes of this album without paying much attention". This is why I feel kind of like an asshole saying that Ignivomous sound exactly like Incantation.
One reason that most of these bands that get lumped into the Incantation worship heap can't compete with the masters isn't just that the originality factor isn't so great, it's that very few of them understand the subtle use of twisted and evil melody to the famous tremolo riffs, instead playing pretty straight forward riffs of a vaguely reminiscent style using the same nuts and bolt techniques, but none of the flair. Ignivomous understand how to get the full effect of these types of evil trem riffs. This is why this little Australian band that barely plays any of the slow stuff usually assigned to the style is the most similar of them all. These guys have perfectly replicated that convulsing evil that Incantation have, while never quite getting into that flat out pulsing and time shifting thing that creeps into Immolation turf like the others who try to mix up the standard buzzing riffwork do. Contragenesis is the purest replication of this sort of guitar playing around, and it is utterly gorgeous in a disgusting sort of way. This is riffy as hell, not just focussed on being murky and morbid, the band fully understands that Incantation was more than merely a mood band; they were masters of crafting riffs. Ignivomous have set out to prove that they are too by playing the same stuff with the same evil and unpredictable atonal picking, but while turning the speed up a notch or five.
Contragenesis may be the most unapologetically unforgiving album released this year, it's far from monotonous, but the slow stuff is used very sparsely, and other than a slow track right at the end the doom only hangs around for 20 seconds or so when it does happen to make a rare appearance. Instead tempo variation usually falls into the categories of fast, slightly less fast, ridiculously fast, and chaotically unhinged madness. The sheer relentlessness of the tempo is something to behold and easily sets them apart from the masses, feeling almost like old school death being delivered with the mindset of the most vitriolic of brutal death metal. Likewise all the beastly riffs are infused with an exciting sense of technicality and precision given the increased speed, but it does have a draw back. Obviously, something that spends 90% of it's time roaring along at full speed is always going to run a chance of getting dull. If you added up all the slow stuff, out of the first forty minutes of the album I would be surprised if you had more than a five minute total. Guitar wise Ignivomous are really good at avoiding these pitfalls, passages that are surprisingly melodic, or brutal, or technical, or full of deranged noisy soloing are tossed at the listener every three or four fantastic riffs or so, sadly Chris Volcano's drumming is less of a ride. He handles the slow to kinda fast stuff really well, usually adding in a nice selection of fills and different beats, the problem is for all the riffs that are super fast he only has one approach and that approach is to blast as uninterestingly as possible, while seemingly struggling to keep up, and this album is as fast as you could fucking believe more than it isn't.
Musically, not much has changed since last outing. They've pushed the doom even further back, which while making this band into even more of an unapproachable bastard than it already was, it also helps them seem a little bit more unique in their own right. On the last album the speed was up, but they still dropped into enough doom to still be following the Incantation template closely enough, the only difference was it took them three minutes longer than the real thing to decide to hit the doom button. Contragenesis doesn't hit the doom button until the 40 minute mark, so it's safe to say the traditional song format has been pretty much ignored. Other than that, you've got production quality and riff quality, both of which are better as far as I'm concerned. With so little difference in music there is an element of apprehension that they've just done the same thing again, and apart from the song writing shift they pretty much have, but really, nobody has aped these guys properly since 2009 and this album is better, so I really don't mind the reuse. If they put out the same thing again in three years then I might start to get a little antsy.
This music is not designed to be absorbed easily, and as such demands a lot of attention from the listener. Tempo shifts are frequent, Jael Edwards is a competent but monotonous vocalist, the technically challenging and pleasing riff work is all quite smothered in its own violence, and the drumming has a certain unhinged quality, all of which makes this album a pretty grating affair if just left on in the background. Attention from the listener to really absorb exactly what is going on at any given moment is an absolute requirement. These riffs really aren't hideous, they're twisted, evil, unpredictable and complex, very few are outright hooks, but they are not noisy, disjointed or messy like something fellow Melbournians, Eskhaton would do for example. This means that when you really pay attention to how well the riffs interact with the carnage and just how plain good they sound, this is not a ridiculously ugly affair. It's still not catchy by any means but it is obviously musical, carefully considered and very well written, it's just a little hard to find. The next thing that makes this album so flat out imposing is the length; this bastard is 48 fucking minutes long, it doesn't have a huge tonal range, and until the last 8 minutes any deviations into the slow are uniformly brief. It is a handful to get your mind around to say the least. Again, with attention given all of the subtle, evil melody and distinct tempo shifts become clear and the time will fly right on by, but this does mean you've got 40 minutes of endless blast beats and non descript rumbling if you just whack it on and go play a video game with it in the background. This album can feel like a 20 minute grindcore album, or something by Bull of Heaven entirely based on how much attention you give it.
But it's more than just the speed and the length that makes this unforgiving; this is suffocating, spiteful and almost seems to actively hide its more acceptable, slightly catchier side under the chaos. This is not like Disciples of Mockery where Incantation + speed = Fun! This is bestial and cruel, and uses its speed to get more of a war metal vibe, creating a maelstrom of violence, all with the added bonus of sharp technicality and excellent death metal riff focus over simple drumming energy. The production is a testament to the seemingly kneejerk opposition to being easy on the listener, it's deep, it's super thick and is as unapproachable as you could believe. It's a similar approach to the last album, Death Transmutation, but mercifully a little bit kinder. The intricacies are made out a little bit easier which makes the album's technical chops all the more impressive and the riffs a little bit easier to appreciate. Like DT this sounds excellent on a good sound system with it's deep, churning devastation matching the musical prowess, but also like DT put it on something with low grade to mediocre speakers and things suddenly get much, much less pleasant. As I said this is a little bit kinder, the band's debut was flat out unlistenable on crappy speakers, while this time it is just horribly detrimental to the music. Take my car speakers which are as average as average can be, if you were to play their 2009 release through them all you got was an irritating hiss and non-descript lowness with all the awesome riffing lost. With the follow up I can at least declare this listenable on a crappy set up, but the riffs lose a lot of definition, and the amount of focus needed to pick out the riffs begins to outweigh the reward from seeking them out. The standoffish, hectic styling of the music itself and mammoth wall of churning sound production values already demand a lot of direct attention from the listener, when the clarity drops out of the sound the music can appear generic if not flat out irritating.
This is what is so interesting about Ignivomous; they exist right on the edge of chaos. This is clearly what they love to do, and they are ridiculously good at it, but being right on the edge so much makes it easy for something to collapse under the strain and lose all the brilliance that is there at the best times. The production is so tweaked for adding into the madness that a minor hiccup on the stereo side can completely break it, the band is so fast and so relentless that a mere minute too long without shifting it up can break the interest for the listener, the demands on the listener to actively seek out and absorb the instrumental prowess and unique (in a total worship sort of way) riffing quality leads to a distracted listener or disinterested listener missing out on the whole effect, and the weird thing is I couldn't bring myself to suggest that they changed any of it. It's this commitment to knifes edge brutality and shameless disregard to listeners that makes Contragenesis such a great and refreshing album, and testament to how perfect they've had to get so many elements to make it all come together. Slow them down and they're probably a step too identical to the original Incantation, not to mention makes them more similar to the masses, ease up on the confronting production and the band would cease to leap out of the speakers and grind broken glass through your skull on a better set up, add in more actively catchy riffs and melodies and the band loses its brutal edge. This album is hateful, speedy, genuinely confronting, and the riffs are top class, and the whole package together is what this band interesting, take out any one element and the whole thing falls apart.