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Not even squared, really - 55%

autothrall, March 8th, 2013

Well before Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega underwent their eclectic evolutions, France had always harbored a number of unusual extreme metal acts like the industrial-tinged Treponem Pal or the quirky progressive death/doom metallers Supuration. The latter of these very early adopted a unique approach to their niche which you would think more people might have appreciated over the years. The band's arguable cult classic The Cube (1993) never quite garnered the requisite attention to take them to the next level, and then they made an even more quirky transformation into S.U.P., an alter ego/separate project under which they've released most of their material thus far. Every so often, though, the 'brand' entity will revert back to Supuration, and they'll produce something along the lines of the debut, which leads us to CU3E, a sort of 'semi-sequel' to the original.

It's got the similar, minimalistic and abstract cover artwork (which even gives an infant passing nod to the band's 2003 sophomore Incubation), and that cheesy retrofuturistic logo font (though to be fair, it's better looking than their old, messy 'death metal' logo). I once had a friend describe Supuration as an alternative to late 80s Voivod with a guttural vocalist, and to be honest, it wasn't that far off the mark, but there's quite a lot happening in CU3E, even if it's not a technical or complex recording. The Frenchmen incorporate all manner of mathematical, discordant rhythms into driving beats, and then weave in all manner of sad and longing melodies redolent of doom or Gothic metal alongside the punchy death/thrashing of the guitars. As if Paradise Lost was composing its own Dimension Hatross. You get a very good balance of grooves and melodies, and in addition they implement some mid-register, nasally clean vocals alongside the blunt growl which is primarily responsible for tethering the band to the death metal genre. A lot of the guitars use these simple, staccato melodies to create a spatial feel to the material, and most of the riffing is concise and compartmental: which is, unfortunately, where I seemed to have lost most of my interest.

I admire this band's individuality, and always have, but its approach is not always synonymous with quality. Apart from a few predictable but emotional chord progressions, like that of "The Flight", the riffs are just not all that inspired, derived from fairly standard death/doom patterns with a little more uptempo pep than you'd find on some slower, crushing album. I guess I'm more partial to the glimmering, depressive open chords that they elicit on occasion, where the music takes on a more 'factory' like, semi-industrial sheen, but even there the note choices are somewhat less than stunning. Many of the rhythm tracks seem like they're interested in little more than seating the melodies, which are themselves not all that memorable. The same could be said for the vocals: after hearing a handful of the grunts, you've heard them all, and the cleans are merely present to add some contrast, or render them more avant-garde by the very virtue of their existence. Some of them are downright awkward, as in "The Incongruents" (I guess they are true to the title).

In terms of production, I think CU3E is actually decent. It's bright, percussive, and the guitars have just enough rip and coil on them to feel unique. The bass is voluminous, even if it rarely manifests in anything that deviates interestingly from the rhythm guitar, and the drums alternate between slower rock grooves or a more subdued mid-paced near-blast as in "Consumate". But in terms of musical architecture, this just doesn't feel as artsy, bizarre or 'experimental' as I would expect Supuration to be writing 20 whole years after The Cube, which remains their finest hour. Hell, I'd love to hear these guys flex themselves into something far more aggressive. Uncanny. Discordant. I realize that's not exactly their 'thing', but it'd be more appealing than this underwhelming, clinical, aesthetic tribute to the debut which doesn't strive for much more. A band as unique as Supuration will always have a place at my table, but I just wasn't feeling this selection of songs, either independently or as a closure to their longstanding trilogy.