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I've been listening to this album for close to two years now, and only now do I feel qualified to analyse and review it, such is the depth of the music on offer here. Even after countless listens, sometimes something new jumps out. I'd liken it albums like Gorguts' Obscura and Immolation's Close to a World Below in the way that at first it may seem like a very difficult listen, but if you persevere, you'll come to realise it's nothing short of spectacular. Big call, comparing it to those greats when it's the debut album from a relatively unknown band from a small country at the bottom of the world with a tiny metal scene. Some may accuse me of blind patriotism, given they're a local band for me, but bear with me.
What this album has that sets it apart from the majority of 'brutal' and 'technical' death metal these days is the atmosphere it conjures up. This is a bleak, vitriolic and ugly album, with a brilliantly dark atmosphere, something which is often missing from death metal these days. Ulcerate may have the technique and musicianship, but it's not the primary focus here. The brooding riffs, the cloying, suffocating production, acidic vocals and crushing drum barrage combine to produce a sound that's like no other band. If you really wanted to simplify it, it's a mix of the twisted, dark riffing of Immolation, the savagery of Hate Eternal and oddly enough, the bleakness of bands like Isis and Neurosis, but really it sounds like none of them and to say so would be a disservice.
Speaking of the riffs, there is some amazing guitar work here. Mike Hoggard and Mike Rothwell definitely give a performance they can be proud of. It's not particularly flashy, but it will get stuck in your head. There are a lot of riffs on this album, the songs are very linear and don't repeat passages very often. You won't get bored in a hurry. The tend to mix up, harsh, dissonant patterns with passages of eerie dark melodies, the tranquil moments provide a good contrast to the fury that tends to be unleashed shortly after. The best example of this is the segue from 'Failure' into 'The Coming Of Genocide', but there are other less obvious instances all the way through the album. Backing up the guitar work is a stellar drum performance from Jamie Saint Merat. His drumming is technical, intersting, not to mention fast as fuck! He doesn't blast a whole lot, but tends to use furious double kick and awesome cymbal work to create immense walls of sound. His cymbal work tends to complement the riffs a lot, following the same patterns, it's a technique I've not heard all that often and one I've grown to enjoy. Ben Reid's vocal performance is nothing short of outstanding. Some have criticised his vocals for being too 'hardcore' sounding, given the higher pitch compared to most death metal vocalists, but given the passion of his performance, I really can't see any fault. His frenzied howls are the perfect compliment to the savagery of the drumming and guitar work, and convey a real sense of hatred and anger, something that rediculous gutturals and pig squeals can never do. He does mix it up too with more typical growls and lower pitches, see the beginning of 'Martyr of the Soil for example. It is a huge shame he is no longer in the band as his vocals and lyrics were exceptional, as was his live performance. I wish I could say more about Paul Kelland's bass playing, but the dense production does leave him somewhat buried, though his lines do get a chance to weave in and out now and then.
Standout tracks would be Martyr of the Soil, The Coming Of Genocide (a revamped track from their Demo days that's been given new lyrics and made considerably nastier) and the albums stunning closer, Defaeco, with one of the most crushing and majestic outros on a death Metal album in a long time.
If you are tired of the amount of sterile, clinical brutal/technical death metal bands and are looking for something with a killer dark atmosphere, full of real passion, how death metal should be, then give Ulcerate a listen. It may take a while to appreciate, but I gaurantee if you stick with it you will not be disappointed. With a new record deal and a new album on the way, Ulcerate are going places. Mark my words.