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You Take 6d6 Necrotic Damage - 73%

iamntbatman, June 10th, 2017

Here's something unexpected: a couple of Ash Borer members team up with the guy from Mizmor, but instead of being the sort of evil, droney swamp version of Ash Borer's trademark Cascadian tremolo-clad forest rituals, we're instead treated ( seems really wrong to use that word here) to relentless riff-driven savagery. For some reason I've seen this band lumped in with punkier outfits like Ildjarn or Bone Awl, and perhaps they drew from that well more on earlier releases, but by this album most of the overt punkisms have been ground against stone long enough to become tainted with the same blackness that pervades the entire album.

Nah, it's furious, clattering blastbeats and bloodsucking powerchords just hammering on riffs that are more often than not just a single chord sawing back and forth against the bone, with cycle-ending melodic flourishes in miniature. It's actually not too far removed from some of those more ritualistic, primitive doom or sludge bands, albeit at about double or triple speed and backed by even faster drums, and narrated by two different vocalists - one a rich, throaty bellow and the other burning turpentine - torching the whole thing with a double dose of hatred. Even when the band does abandon this approach for a more energetic stomp ("Bellisunya") that even has a bit of playfulness to it, there's always a sense of unease generated both by the huge rumble of the guitars and that ever-present dual vocal assault that keeps things menacing and ugly all the time.

Still, it's a whole lot to ask of an album to have interesting vocal interplay carry the dynamic load while the instrumentation just bashes out pitch black exercises in primitivity. Often enough, they don't have to, as the dead-simple riffs can sometimes be real ear-worms. The really loud but very organic mix has a high "sounds projected from the stage" factor, which helps to construct mental imagery of experiencing this stuff in a live setting, something which, no doubt, would probably do this simple music more justice than simply listening to it on headphones in an apartment, hunched over a computer. Putting you into an imaginary concert experience is a hell of a lot better than leaving you scratching your elbows, thinking to yourself that this is one of those bands that's probably better live than on record, that's for sure (even if it is true).

(Tuvok voice): However, the riffing patterns are very limited in variety, very predictable, and always, always very simple. Each song only has a couple of them, and since so many of them revolve around bashing one chord a whole lot, fifty two minutes of this stuff does start to wear on you after a while. I don't think the songs themselves are in need of editing, but fewer of them or the inclusion of a few more of those really dismal slow bits (the absolute best are in longest track "Gravvivek," which is also hands down the best song here) would have served well to break up the momentum of these bone-black cave troll-on-meth riffs. I know this is meant to be stone age stuff, but I think the aesthetic would've been left fully intact, or maybe even amplified, had the band opted to have way more of this stuff even within the space of individual songs, letting the adrenaline-soaked riffs crawl up out of the morass to wreak havoc.

Could be that the band is on their way to such songwriting refinement, since even writing a track like "Gravvivek," let alone putting it in such a prominent position at the album's climactic point, indicates to me at least that they're aware of the power of a more dynamic touch. So, hopefully, we'll see some more consistently compelling material from Urzeit, but in the meantime they're still absolutely a band I would not want to miss in a live setting, were that ever something I could see.