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Although much extreme metal being released nowadays seems to be content with emulating the works of past giants, there will always be those bands out there that try to turn the concept of a given genre on its side and redfine what it can do. Although this can sometimes lead to peril for the band, when done well, it leads to a fair deal of excitement, as is the case with New Zealanders Ulcerate and their latest work, entitled 'The Destroyers Of All'. While it is made clear from the highly distorted riffs, technical drumming and deep growls that this is indeed a death metal record, Ulcerate crosses the boundaries more than once, creating a work that has many of the characteristics of the prescribed genre, but still manages to skim the edge of something different altogether.
When listening to 'The Destroyers Of All', the biggest thing I notice are the guitars. For much death metal, I find that the main purpose of the riffs is to add to heaviness and- in many cases- the technical aspect of the music. Ulcerate is different in this aspect for the fact that the guitar work here is neither particularly brutal throughout, or fast-paced. Although it would be foolish to say that there aren't some looming moments to offer here, the guitars instead offer sounds that rely more on dissonant chord structures, complex timbres and eerie use of feedback. From my personal musical background, the closest thing Ulcerate's guitar work here sounds like is the latter period of Deathspell Omega; experimental, atonal, creepy and sometimes downright disconcerting in nature. All of this works in Ulcerate's favour. When first oging into this record that seemed to have people so excited, I was not expecting something other than a typical (albeit good) death metal record, and the band proved me wrong.
Apart from the relatively experimental guitar work, the rest of Ulcerate is fairly straightforward for the death metal genre. Some great technical drum work of Jamie Saint Merat and washed out but functional bass playing fills out the rest of the sound with the added heaviness the guitars didn't seem to worry about. The most generic thing about the band are the vocals however. While Paul Kelland is a fair enough growler, his grunts here lack the power and emotion to add much to the music.
Ulcerate's 'The Destroyer Of All' is therefore a fairly interesting creature for death metal. With equal parts death metal and something else altogether, the band has crafted an hour's worth of dissonant music that certainly grinds against the nerves at times, but for the time being, the album has given me back some faith into what I perceived was a dying genre.