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This album often makes it into my top five albums of all time when I am asked the question. For me at least, “Top Five” lists fluctuate and change almost daily, but this album always features. Why? Because, quite simply, within this CD lie pretty much every element of extreme music that I look for when listening to it. Groove, power, aggression, speed, transition, mood… this album ticks all the boxes. But if there is one main ingredient that this album possesses IN ABUNDANCE where any other album, good or bad, lacks in one way or another, it is this: that the album, throughout its entirety, is NEVER short of riffs. Its just riff after solid, catchy, heavy, groove-laden riff, and its so refreshing to hear this kind of approach to modern death metal when there are so many wank-fest, brutality-protesting idiots that populate the scene currently.
It kicks off with ‘Intro/Doctor X’, a smooth, well-oiled blast machine wrapped in layers of groove and speed. But Yyrkoon keep it interesting; the song is constantly writhing away from itself, as though trying with desperation to avoid returning to the previous riff, so much so that when the intro riff is re-introduced towards the end, it still feels new and punchy. Brilliant opener, and Yyrkoon get out of the starting blocks pretty damn quickly.
And they show no sign of slowing down as they crash headfirst into ‘Censored Project’, another absolute highlight. It starts off slow and dark, but still just as heavy as any other track on the album. What quickly becomes apparent is that the band are so rhythmically in tune with one another that its impossible not to be drawn into the music, something that is tangible at any given point in the album, from the opener, to the title track half way through, to ‘Surgical Distortion,’ to the final track ‘Erase the Past’. It’s because of this that special kudos has to be awarded to drummer Dirk Verbeuren. In a band so focused on rhythm and syncopation, nothing short of an outstanding percussive performance will do, and that is exactly what is delivered. Although clearly talented, the emphasis is never on showmanship but intensity and delivery, which comes in the form of uncompromising blasts and some outstanding footwork.
This is a phenomenal release. It’s a huge collection and showcase of all the best bits in this massive genre, mish-mashed together in this brilliant and dynamic testimony to good music from both a creative and an appreciative point of view. In short, if you like one dimensional, verse-chorus-verse-chorus money makers, don’t get this album. Buy the new Arch Enemy instead. However, if you have any sense of musicality about you, then this album deserves a place on your shelf.
Yyrkoon’s thrid evolutionary step and apogee. Here, the band decides to tackle a style which is different of everything they’ve ever done: On their first album, “Oniric Transition”, the idea was to propose an innovative, inspiring take on thrash metal by developing an abstract and torrid atmosphere, largely based on keyboards. “Dying Sun” saw a more traditionalistic approach, based on heavy metal/thrash, while retaining some elements of its predecessor. Now, “Occult Medicine” unleashes all of the band’s potential in form of the most powerful death metal you’ve ever experienced.
Although it’s not as experimental or doesn’t try to create atmosphere as Oniric Transition, OM is far away from your everyday slam death metal and is successful at representing the album’s concept (it’s based on the Re-Animator series). The coldness of the best horror movies can be witnessed through the morbid riffs and their melodies. The harsher riffs are effective at enforcing the album’s concept, be via some high-pitched “effect” riffs that sound like an alert to the imminent danger or via the stomping, rock-solid rhythms which are predominatingly midpaced. “Revenant Horde” even showcases a slight black metal influence. I also like how the album allies lively melodies to the ever-present heaviness. Some bands just don't have that sensibility and the melodic character doesn't convey any emotion at all or ends up contradicting a band's style. That's not the case here: Although OM is rich and layered, it's also very coherent.
The best of it all is the careful production job. This album would be a total waste if it had that same saddening excuse for guitar tone which plague otherwise good albums like “The Adventures of Borghul Torkain” by the band of same name or the recent “Leading Vision” by Gorod. These albums lost a good deal of their impetus and liveliness. But no, OM sounds volumous: The guitars attack with conviction, the drums are implacable, the melodies don’t show a sign of timidness. Harder to explain, there is that intrinsic factor which allows the band to sound like a band. Just listen to any of the above mentioned albums before OM. A good adjective for this album would be “colorful”.
Yet another important point here is the drum performance by none other that Dirk Verbeuren, which is probably my favorite drummer and one of the best in metal. His style can be discreet or more dominant, both approaches with great results. OM shows a very participative and accurate performance, which definitively isn’t a synonym for “leashed”: The way he interacts with the riffs is excellent and his double kicking sounds so good as the first time you’ve listened to double-kick drums (do you remember when you used to think double-kick was all the rage?). His performance doesn’t apply dissonance or oddball tempos: It has enough variation and dynamics, unlike overly fragmented albums like “Identisick”.
“Occult Medicine” is death metal in great form. It allies heaviness and atmosphere to create a remarkable experience, using real musical capability. All ini all, this album represents Yyrkoon’s best moment and is another good example of well-done death metal.
Picture yourself wandering through the French countryside. Cool breezes, lush vegitation, historic landmarks, etc. You're enjoying a baguette, thinking how great it was to take this little vacation and enjoy a cultured getaway. Suddenly, from around the next corner, another walker on this beautiful day lurches into view. Three others slowly drag themselves up the dirt road behind him. Something is very odd about their movements - are they drunk? You wonder if they've sampled any of the fine Merlots you enjoyed from this region. Their clothes seem tattered as well - perhaps they are farmers in the vineyards.
As they draw closer, the baguette falls out of your mouth in terror. You can now see that each is horribly mangled, their skin ripped to shreds, blood pouring from their mouths, flies swarming around their open wounds. Before you can react, they are upon you! Rending and tearing, they begin pulling the flesh from your bones as you scream in pain. For a last, brutal insult before cracking your skull open with a rock to eat your brain, they tear your balls off and shove them down your throat.
This is YYRKOON's Occult Medicine, a tremendous album that is much like being devoured by zombies. There is an overbearing and grim production much like Aborted (whom they have some ties to), a frenzied death metal attack that would make Bloodbath proud, some underpinnings of thrash to the death that might remind you (just a bit) of Vader, and heroic guitar solos straight outta the 80's. The vocals are generally a low but understandable growl, which occasionally turns to a high shriek, and which FORTUNATELY rarely turns to a clean melodic voice, but only in chorus sections. Lyrics are good as well - while there is some bad English from time to time the overall theme of "Herbert West - Reanimator" comes through strong. The drumming is BAD FUCKING ASS, blasts, thrash beats, and double bass madness that drives everything else - and thanks to the aforementioned production they sound huge. Guitars, as mentioned, go into championship mode for the soloing, but are oft quite content to pump out death/thrash riff after riff - almost all are quite memorable and I guarantee they will stick in your head for quite a bit.
Standout songs include the inescapable REVENANT HORDE - this song starts fast as hell, settles into a nice midpace groove, lays into an excellent solo over an amazing riff, repeats, and then just goes right back into that solo over the riff right to the end - if you do not bang your head for the last minute or two of this song YOU ARE NOT METAL. Lyrics about zombies wasting people=good times.
The three tracks toward the end (TRAPPED INTO LIFE, SURGICAL DISTORTION, and SCHIZOPHRENIC CARNAGE) also pack a hefty wallop. SCHIZOPHRENIC CARNAGE is certainly one of the best on the album, with hilarious lyrics about an angry guy wasting his family at the dinner table. Yesssss. And if you can get the chorus of TRAPPED INTO LIFE out of your head after hearing it a few times, you're a better man than I. If they played serious heavy metal on the radio, SURGICAL DISTORTION wouldn't be a bad pick for a single - it comes close to following a verse/chorus/verse structure and is a burly brawler throughout.
The first three songs after the medical-style intro (DOCTOR X, CENSORED PROJECT, and BLASPHEMY) are each entertaining blasts as well - maniac speed coupled with slow, brooding sections that will have you prepared for non-elective surgery. While these tracks don't stand out as much for me, I still deeply enjoy them. The slower section at the end of BLASPHEMY rules.
The title track is a winner too, though a bit slower and more sinister. After a very disturbing intro featuring some questionable operation-room procedures, it goes into a lurching gait with some well-utilized and not overdone clean vocalizations.
So if fast, aggressive, evil, but not blast-wankering death metal is your thing, I can GUARANGODDAMNTEE that you will enjoy "Occult Medicine." There may be a bad song or two, but when the rest of the tracks are so complete and soooo vicious, you can't go wrong. Who would have thought that the French could put out something that borrows a bit from the old and a bit from the new and produce a grim medical journey unlike any I've ever taken? Who knew they were this angry. After being mauled by the YYRKOON horde, your twisted corpse will begin twitching, then slowly start crawling on its belly in search of the next vicitim - whichever metalhead happens to come across this piece of art.
Let me begin by saying “perfection” isn't a strong enough word to describe this band or this release. This is by far, in my opinion, their strongest, most mature album to date. And might I add that they take the theme of the mad doctor to new and horrific heights. Before you give this album a spin, you should forget about any Death Metal standards you once knew, because this bulldozes them. No band even comes close in my books to what they've accomplished this time around, not Decapitated, Aborted, Psycroptic, none of them compare to the mighty onslaught that is Yyrkoon. Every riff is razor sharp, the bass-lines roar in suffocating peril, and the drumming will shatter you eardrums at dizzying velocities.
The short, although powerful intro sets the tone for the album with malicious flesh feasting sound effects and quick ravenous blast-beats in the background, moving swiftly into the punishing Doctor X, not letting go of your throat as it throttles you for the next three tracks. The only breath you will get comes in the title track, only to give you time to listen to your pulse on the heart machine, just so you know you're still alive. Just when you think you've survived through the worst of it, you realize it was only the eye of the storm. Reverent Horde pummels you deeper than you were before, viciously assaulting your ears. The ferocious bombardment only intensifies as the album progresses, choking every pathetic ounce of hope out of you, until there is nothing left. When the dust settles, and the mighty beast that is Yyrkoon relinquishes its forceful grip, only then does your acrid blood flow again. You let out a stale, dry breath of confusion, terror, and utter bewilderment, staring at your CD player, wondering what just has happened. Then you slowly but surely realize that you've just experienced one of Death Metal’s most important releases in the past five years at least. A new benchmark has been set, and will not be surpassed with any amount of ease.
Osmose has a real gem on their hands here, perhaps the best band they've ever signed. Yes that’s right, better than Angelcorpse, Enslaved or even Impaled Nazarene. Yyrkoon are the new Gods of Death Metal, the leaders of the new revolution changing the face of this mighty genre. I can't even imagine what they will sound like next time around, I can't fathom what improvement would sound like! Is it possible to be better than this? Until someone proves me different, I think not. (Jason Carnage)
*Origionally done for Hyperblast Metal Webzine*
Due to the vagaries of my local postal system, Yyrkoon’s latest disc disappeared into the ether and never arrived in my box when it was released last October. In the ensuing four months since, I’ve not only read countless praiseworthy reviews, but also witnessed many end of year polls claim ‘Occult Medicine’ as the best death metal album of 2004. This was obviously an album I needed to hear. A prompt reminder to my good friends at Osmose Productions quickly rectified the situation and although somewhat belatedly, finally, here it is.
Yyrkoon is another of those bands you’ve always read about but never quite got around to hearing. They’ve been busting their metal chops around the French countryside since 1995, pursuing various styles of aggressive music (they were once a serious keyboard drive black metal act) before finally nailing the death/thrash style that we have come to witness on ‘Occult Medicine’. This is album No.4 for Yyrkoon and clearly, right from the first listen it is a major step up in quality compared to their previous albums. Yyrkoon have always been fairly creative, but are one of those bands that needed a stellar production to really capture their mood and style. ‘Occult Medicine’ has that in spades.
Having experimented with a few styles over their near on decade of existence, we could say that Yyrkoon have finally stumbled upon a fantastic mixture of them all. And that’s probably the best thing about ‘Occult Medicine’. This is labeled as Death Metal album (which I wholeheartedly agree with), however intertwined within the whole deal you will spot ample Black Metal histrionics, classic metal tones (particularly the phenomenally sublime lead work), classic Thrash rhythms and subtle modern stop/staggered riffing. Probably the best description I have seen given to this band is 1 part Carcass (circa Heartwork era), meets ‘Pestilence’ (circa ‘Testimony of the Ancients’) and just maybe some early era ‘Fear Factory’ (without the clean elements). It may not cover the full gammet of influences on this, but as an initial reference point, they’ll certainly suffice.
‘Occult Medicine’ is a very well written, well-constructed death/thrash metal disc. Their use of the thrashier style riffing hit the hardest for me as do the wicked lead solo’s that recall a real old-school classic metal vibe. With a killer production laced with warmth and heart, ‘OM’ has a fantastic epic like atmosphere to it. Everything sounds really balanced and strong throughout.
Clearly, Yyrkoon decided not to make just ‘another’ Death Metal album. To me, considering their status prior to ‘OM’ (which was virtually nil), these songs sound like they have been rehearsed and re-written over and over until they met the bands newly found high standards. The hard work seems to have paid off. All the positive vibes about ‘Occult Medicine’ are well and truly deserved. Certainly, it comes as a major, major surprise in the death metal scene – I don’t think anyone would have laid odds on such a strong release coming from this band, let alone from France. Incredible really. If you love well-constructed aggressive music, you need this.
Krozza: for www.pyromusic.net and walls of fire
Whereas "Dying Sun" was an absolutely brilliant release, this is extremely pedestrian. For some unknown reason Yyrkoon has chosen to distance itself from the unique style they had developed on DS and devolve into just another thrash/death metal band. Within the context of a thrash/death CD, "Occult Medicine" is a decent piece of work. This is a crowded field however, and OM simply does nothing to rise above the pack.
The musicianship and production are excellent. The songs are brutally heavy and fly by like jackhammers with the precision of surgical drills. All are capable; none are standouts. And each track is so similar in pace and style that redundancy sets in very quickly.
To sum it up, OM fails considerably where DS excelled; the memorability factor. Don't buy this if you are expecting "Dying Sun II" or you will be sorely disappointed. If you are a thrash/death metal completist with money to burn you may wish to add "Occult Medicine" to your collection. It's not a terrible record, and certain parts of it are likely to grab your attention. As for the rest of us with more limited resources and an ear for something with staying power, there are much worthier options for which to part with your hard earned cash.