Ulcerate return to dominate with Vermis, a serious contender for album of the year.
2013 is lining up to be a stellar year for death metal. With excellent releases already from Gorguts, Hypocrisy and Autopsy; new releases forthcoming from Carcass, Deicide and Brutality the playing field is stacked with incredible music. A band that should not be overlooked in that abundance of awesomeness is Ulcerate. Their 4th LP Vermis is due out in September on Relapse records and may be the best recording that you will listen to this year.
Nine tracks coming in a little under a full hour of music; during which Ulcerate will assault your senses in every wonderful way imaginable. The ambient heaviness of Vermis cannot be denied, and one can almost feel the crushing weight of the music bearing down on them. The layering of the instrumentation gives an incredible amount of depth, almost to the point of over-saturation; almost though as the band walks that line with perfection and never does the music become over-bearing. The guitar work from Michael Hoggard is varied and stunningly intense. Serious manipulation of the instrument and sound layering allows him to create an intense and almost surreal listening experience. Helping to temper the droning sludge are the frantic expeditions into the faster and more technical end of the death metal spectrum that give the band an incredibly diverse delivery. In an effort to out-perform Hoggard is drummer Jamie Saint Merat. I honestly do not think there is a writer capable enough to adequately interpret the performance put forth on Vermis. If there is beauty in death metal this is it. Intense and at times bordering on frantic the kit work here is a master class on songwriting. The fills are gorgeous and creative and all of the drumming sounds human and evil as hell. The bass and snare work has to be some of the best I have ever heard; like a boot to the back of the neck it holds the listener down while the sonic beating continues. To fill in the remaining pieces of the puzzle are the bass and vocal work from Paul Kelland. The first time I listened to this was on my pair of standard ear buds and I thought to myself “man this is killer, but where’s the bass?” It was not until I was able to give Vermis the justice (and headphones) it deserved, that I realized exactly how much bass there is here. Again, the wall of noise that Ulcerate creates is impressive. Buried just deeply enough beneath the structure of the songs is a deep and penetrating bass performance. Keeping in line with the music, there’s no noodle fret mongering here, just dark, dissonant bass that adds even more depth to an already deep and dark hole. Vocally Kelland delivers well, his monotonous scream is fitting for the music. While I appreciate singers/screamers that can hit different ranges of the spectrum, the performance here is wholly fitting to the music and works perfectly.
This is not an album of singles, no individual track is better served alone and in reality if one wants to experience Vermis in all of its dark and twisted glory they need to simply push play on and never look back. Fall to Opprobrium is one of my favorite pieces of this puzzle, it starts with a single guitar a discordant melody, slowly over the next two minutes the track builds, and builds and builds upon itself. At some point midway through the song the bass and some light cymbal work join in, but they are so buried beneath the crush of noise and distortion that it’s almost laughable. Listening to it is akin to watching an artist start with a blank canvas. At first there are some simple brush strokes, basic lines to set the picture. Then, as time wears on the artist starts slowly transforming, the stroke become heavier and more manic; at the end the paper is dark and smeared with hate misery. Then, as the following track kicks in the canvas is set fire and kicked into the ground to flame and die. After the ambient weight of Fall to Opprobium is the Imperious Weak and the build-up it receives turns this into something amazing.
One would be criminally denying themselves if they miss out on listening to Vermis. Even those that do not care for ambient/post death metal will find a lot to love here.
3. Clutching Revulsion
4. Weight of Emptiness
5. Confronting Entropy
6. Fall to Opprobrium
7. The Imperious Weak
9. Wait Recession