Saturday, February 15, 2014

Ulcerate - Vermis [2013]

Ever since the advent of their colossal third full-length ''Destroyers of All'', New Zealand's Ulcerate has been hailed as one of the leading augurs of the new technical death metal/post-hardcore or whatever you wanna call it movement, and I'm not sure if it was the overpraising, the excess commotion or just simply an adamant unwillingness, but I haven't listened to the lauded album to this day. ''Destroyers of All'' popped up in nearly every review blog or end-of-the-year list in 2011, channeling its imperious notoriety to the following year, and even though it was similar to the brilliant Flourish debut, or Deathspell Omega's engaging, estranged ''Paracletus'', I still didn't feel like giving it a listen. God knows why. Now, the group, hot on the heels of their cult classic, has come with yet another obelisk of ungodly, seismic tech-death, which is, to be sure, going to leave the ravenous masses drooling and ulcerated (you'll have to excuse the pun).

Maybe not so. Even though I'm fairly certain ''Vermis'' succeeded in encapsulating a certain circle of die-hard followers with wonder, I don't think it achieved half the fame of its beloved predecessor. Who knows, maybe two years changed our ever-mercurial metal society so much that the prodding, desirous sense to obtain and praise the cataclysmic, prehensile formations of that the group so seamlessly conveys didn't attract them any longer. That aside, I'll confide that I do have some serious catching up to do when it comes to post-hardcore or even the more metallic facet of this album by which so many other bands are delightfully toying with, but for all the sheer size, the megalithic density and the dark, inescapable atmosphere ''Vermis'' creates, I didn't find it quite riveting. There is a basic philosophy to this record that one could grasp from the very beginning, when ''Odium'' unfurls with tedious abandon and discomforting, disjointed riffs that I believe these technical/avantgarde metal purveyors are so well known for, stuff that I was inevitably drawn to in ''Paracletus'', but the riffs here come out in such banal, unimpressive orgies that I found myself drifting away from the album's core more and more as it tread forward, even though I was supposed to be elicited...

The busy, chaotic, brickwalled structure is something I can certainly appreciate, but apply it too often and too egregiously and it just becomes a chore to listen to. The guitars are wailing, wreathing serpents that coil like shapely buildings collapsing in a bombastic manner, the drums fairly clear and punchy, but to be honest in all the metallic tenacity of the album I only found a few moments that I enjoyed. As the notes continue to swell with the same frustrated patterns of repetition and sinewy monstrosity it feels as though the New Zealanders were deliberately poking my wounds, turning them sorer and bloodier every passing minute. I'll give it to them that the compositions are both stiff and strangely challenging, intricate as it must have taken them a great deal of time to pen them, yet, unfortunately, the intricacy of a composition, as myriad other examples have shown, does not necessarily bode well for its quality.  The fact that there were some really majestic, sweltering moments sporadically allocated across the album made me intermittently get my hopes high for the record, and the ultimate product wasn't really bad, but it wasn't all that good either. Hell, riffs like the pre-chorus passage on ''Await Rescission'' or the verse patterns on the title track were seriously titillating, even stellar builds, uproarious explosions of deluded chaos which the band unquestionably excels at. If only they had some more of those...

To add, the vocals were alright; I wasn't particularly impressed but I wasn't irritated either, in contrast to the wild fluctuations of the guitars. Like I said, ''Vermis'' is definitely not a bad album, but it feels like it's a bit stale in a world already crammed to the tits with similar material being ejaculated from countless different sources. It is, in the broadest sense, a death metal version of ''Paracletus'', - a monumental design of this particular sub-genre -  but it doesn't retain the masterwork's ability to encompass emotion and dread in so many different layers as acutely. It is, however, a highly florid if rigid output that, as said, fans will eagerly gulp up - at least if ''Vermis'' doesn't devour them first.

The Imperious Weak
Await Rescission 

Rating: 65%

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