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Progression Through Unlearning - 91%

televiper11, May 22nd, 2012

Last Saturday, I witnessed Ulcerate's calamitous onslaught first-hand as they decimated Public Assembly in Brooklyn with a live set so tremendously capable and powerful that it rendered all objections mute. I can brook no argument with this band and the tectonic plate shifting they engage in. They are shaping and transmuting death metal in a manner that is quite opaque but also readily apparent. You either go with it or you don't. I'm no fool. I've seen the polarized reactions this band draws but I've also seen them deliver live music that ought to (for all intents and purposes) fall apart live. But Ulcerate are no mere studio dazzlers, no instrumental wunderkinds making up in technicality what they lack in passion. Absolutely not. Masters of their instruments, yes. Engaging in new forms, thoughts, and structures, absolutely. But unafraid to convey emotion or lace their tracks with barbed hooks to sink into any listener willing to progress beyond all staid convention.

Ulcerate don't just flaunt the rules of extreme music, they act as if those rules don't exist. And that is precisely what any forward-thinking band should do: take the basic inherent structures of any given genre of music and turn them inside out. Ulcerate do this primarily though the removal of the riff. There are very few traditional guitar riffs or parts on this record. Brutality here is measured in atmosphere and progression heads south, away from the cosmic noodlings that have become the cliche, and toward that dark ominous spot where the Earth's crust gives way to a molten core. Rhythm accented by atmospheric tension drives the augur towards the abyss. Like an explosive volcano, Ulcerate's rhythm section pushes through the chaos, centering the record in a violent whirlpool of deep tidal undertow around which the guitars swirl in vortexes of hideous darkness. The vocals alone help you hang on: intoning dark odes of humankind's inevitable extinction, they are the driftwood one clings to in order to avoid going under the waves.

Everything Is Fire comes from a disturbed place deep within. It has that pulsating radiant afterlife that glows in the mind more intensely with each listen. That without any of the usual songwriting help-alongs: no choruses or refrains, no catchy riffs or solos. It relies on itself, the completeness of its vision. Few bands create works as darkly manifest as this and I imagine a future wherein Ulcerate assume the throne through sheer dint of their musical effort and imagination.