Review Summary: Ulcerate takes a huge step up and crafts a crushingly dense and atmospheric album.
Ulcerate, hailing from Auckland New Zealand, have been a rising star in technical death metal. 2006 saw the band’s release of their first full length “Of Fracture and Failure”, a blistering assault of precise and twisted death metal. It was easy to see the band had some unique ideas going on, especially for the genre. “Everything is Fire” takes some of their more abstract and atmospheric themes and refines them. When you think of technical death metal, atmospheric is not usually a term that comes to mind. While there are some points that bring to mind Isis and Neurosis, most of the atmosphere feels closer to that of a Deathspell Omega album. Mixing the bleak atmospheric refrains into a swirling maelstrom of mind melting blast beats and discordant riffs, the band treads on new ground. It’s like watching the world slowly, violently pulled into a massive vortex.
Drown Within begins with a huge stomach churning; lumbering riff that slowly builds up to chaos. The totally unpredictable patterns of the riffs, drums, everything in general is very oppressive. With more listens you catch the infernal beauty of what is going on. This is not something that can be digested in a few listens. Most tracks are in the 6 minute range and have insane, monstrous structures that can challenge the listener. The production has a rawer and hazy sound to it than their previous effort but all of the instruments and vocals still mix together well. The vocals serve their purpose but don’t have much range. They might bore some listeners eventually or take some getting used to. The deep, grating vocals fit the bands dense sound well.
Caecus and Everything is Fire are the stand out tracks on the album for me. Caecus wastes no time by beginning with one of the most relentless assaults on the album. After the two minute mark, the firestorm begins to subside and the listener waits for the next wave. Everything Is Fire features a black metal inspired intro riff that soon dissolves into total dissonance as the vocals growl “We are lost without fate, Reap what we have sown, We diminish, all nameless.” The lyrics are just as crushing and bleak as the music, painting a burning, smoldering landscape of oblivion. While hardly unique, the lyrics still bring something a little more thought provoking to mind than some of their blood soaked peers.
“Everything is Fire” will probably not receive the recognition it deserves. I stated before the album requires some focus and time to completely enjoy. Not everybody listens to death metal for a challenge. Regardless, this album is one of the top death metal releases this year and has held my attention much longer than most technical death metal bands can. Ulcerate have taken a step big forward and created something unique. Hopefully they will be rewarded for their exploration into sonic oblivion.