ULCERATE — Stare into Death and Be Still (review)

ULCERATE — Stare into Death and Be Still album cover Album · 2020 · Technical Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Having formed as far back as 2002 in the northern New Zealand city of Auckland, the technical metal wizardry of ULCERATE has become an extreme metal lover’s paradise of thick caustic guitar riffing dissonance that dishes out some of the most hellish and demanding tech death meets sludge metal that rode the wave of the surreal tech death craze that included bands like Gorguts, Portal, Mitochondrion and Pyrrhon. Add to that the jangly blood-curdling guitar sweeps found in progressive black metal acts like Deathspell Omega and you could be guaranteed to scratch that tech death morbidity itch with any of ULCERATE’s output which began with 2007’s “Of Fracture And Failure.”

Following the band’s last album “Shrines of Paralysis” which saw the light in 2016 comes the aptly titled (for 2020) album STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL and considering the album was released in April of 2020, it’s unlikely the album prognosticated the tumultuous chain of events haunting this calendar year with the most noticeable headache being the Covid-19 global pandemic. Like many such tech death acts that strive to unleash the most fiery caustic acrobatics of complexity and detachment possible, ULCERATE has found a new lease on life by crafting a less suffocating album that walks a tightrope between the heavy bombastic dissonance and downtuned dread of the previous offerings and adds a bit more atmospheric prowess in the form of melodic counterpoints and production clarity.

STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL in many ways is business as usual with that brutal atmospheric tech death scourge of midtempo sludginess with percussive laziness alternating with mind-numbing drumming wizardry but something seems more focused on this sixth album by ULCERATE, a band that i have never quite wrapped my head around despite owning the majority of their discography and giving proper attention for the clicking process. Something about this band has always turned me off whether it be the cadences of the dirge-like plodding of the martial rhythms, the depressive chunky riffs or the brutal bombast of the metal pummeling the senses with dissonant bleakness after a nuclear bomb drops. STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL is the album for me that final appeals to my tech death sensibilities and it seems the extra attention to the atmospheric counterpoints of the wind-swept guitar sweeps and fine-tuned compositional constructs are just what the doctor ordered. I can relate to this one unlike the ones prior.

One of my major hurdles regarding the appreciation of ULCERATE’s tech death has clearly been the vocal style of Paul Kelland. For no clear reason his growly vocal style has rubbed me the wrong way like an infested sore filled with hatching maggots An irritating and enervating factor which while unexplainable still provided the wrong “frequency” of death metal vocal bliss for my ears to appreciate but that too has changed on this one.. Something shifted on STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL where all the elements of ULCERATE’s prior musical style have aligned like a rare syzygy of astrological bonanzas that offer a bright future as shown in the cards. The clouds have lifted and although a bleak depressive sky still exists beyond the veil, its’ the kind of turbid orotundity that fires on all pistons thus showing how the tiniest of details in a band can be enough to make you a hardcore fan or a diehard deserter. For all my efforts ULCERATE has been the latter until this release reversed that course.

Hovering around the same hour’s playing time as the band’s previous efforts (save the debut), STARE INTO DEATH AND BE STILL finds the band maturing in a way that allows the sum of the parts to see a much bigger picture and how one musical methodology was tweaked to allow a much clearer synergy of the cast of caustic characters behind the wheel. At long last, despite my best efforts i can now say i’m in the ULCERATE club with this new album that so very much encapsulates the zeitgeist of the contemporary madness the world collectively experiences in this most surreal of calendar years. ULCERATE trods on like a sober observer of death and destruction delivered through the seasoned musical sounds of the guitar, bass and drums. In a world where this style of murky, atonal tech metal seems to be overplayed, somehow ULCERATE has surprised me and crafted an album that takes the band into higher levels of competence. Nice!
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