SUNLESS — Ylem (review)

SUNLESS — Ylem album cover Album · 2021 · Technical Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The Willowtip Records label has been killing it in recent years by becoming one of the major players for crazy technical, brutal and progressive death metal world with its biggest successes emerging from Ulcerate, Gorod, Gigan, Slugdge, Mithras and others including today’s band of focus SUNLESS. This Minnesota band has been around since 2014 but only released its debut “Urraca” in 2017. For its second coming, SUNLESS has returned to delivery another dosage of darkened days, jagged surreal soundscapes and dissonant brutal atonal extreme metal bombast in the vein of classic Gorguts.

SUNLESS was seriously smitten with Gorguts worship on album #1 and the newest release YLEM which refers to a form of matter that is hypothesized by proponents of the Big Bang theory which is thought to have existed before the formation of the chemical elements is a huge step out from that unfortunate situation. Gawd, you gotta love tech death metal. Just for the fact you can improve your vocabulary in the English language if for no other reason! Well with such a title and concept it’s no surprise that SUNLESS does indulge in the abstract musical equivalent of the formless YLEM concept however the Big Bang references seem to apply more to the head banging brutal avant-death metal grooves forged in the fiery pits by the power trio of bassist Mitch Schooler, guitarist / vocalist Lucas Scott and the newest drummer in the SUNLESS family Taylor Hamel who replaces longtime member Ben Iburg.

This is a no nonsense type of tech death and unlike other 2021 tech death powerhouse bands such as Ad Nauseam doesn’t fuck around with swirling synth intros or non-metal ambience but rather YLEM erupts into a ferocious fury, cutting to the chase and delivering the tech death goods right from the getgo. Supposedly the second part of a conceptual trilogy (wow, does anybody really care about themes with growled lyrics sounding more like uncontrolled body functions than poetic prose?), YLEM tackles existential quandaries and universal paradoxes. Even if you cannot assign linguistic value to the tortured dungeon growls, the track titles will give you a clue as to the heady, abstract nature of this exhibition in mental and noisemaking gymnastics.

While “Urraca” was indeed a competent album, for my tastes SUNLESS’ first release was a bit too Gorguts by the books. YLEM corrects that problem and while still clearly in the same camp as Gorguts, Ulcerate, Pyrrhon and Ad Nauseam, this time around the sky with no sun, SUNLESS seems to have found its own style of avant-groove that sorta evokes a more sludgy effect of the tech death world. The drums for example are more akin to the simplified punctuated time keepers of bands like Eyehategod for much of the time but make no doubt about it, technical jazzified percussive workouts are littered throughout this cacophonous uproar of eight tracks that swallow 39 minutes of your life force.

Sounding something like a stampede of angry horses, YLEM is a relentless barrage of sound that has more of a focus than “Urraca.” It’s all very subtle in how everything was tightened up but the compositions are more refined, the jagged guitar riffs are more centered which allows more violent upheavals with the added abstractness of progressive sprawling time signature attacks. Rare moments of down time such as on “Altramentous” (another fun word meaning similar to or as black as ink!) when a few slower dissonant guitar riffs are allowed to chill out. This is an ominous ride for sure like a vacation on a quantum horizon where the fabric of time and space are seemingly unstable and ready for complete annihilation. Ah, tech death, you either love it or run to the hills. For a 2021 release, SUNLESS has done an exemplary job of upping its game.
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Nightfly wrote:
52 days ago
Only listened to about half of this but was very impressed so far. One I'm going to spend more time with.
siLLy puPPy wrote:
52 days ago
Thanks! Yeah, much better than the debut although that wasn't bad
53 days ago
I'm a huge fan of this one already - nice review as always

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