Review Summary: A great debut, with an intensity few can match.
When trying to play brutal or technical death metal, so many bands fail at being anything more than just the subject for comedic reviews by Internet dwelling elitists. It seems as though most bands out there that fall into redundancy don’t put out albums as such, but exercises in excess. Whether trying to be as brutal as possible, or as fast and technical as possible, bands just forget how to write a song. Of course, for all of the excess that is generated by bands these days, something good has to come of it, right? Well, yes. For all of the barrier breaking brutality that modern death metal practitioners have released, tasteful or not, it leaves room for the few with a little more self-control to harness these ideas and craft something brilliant. Ulcerate’s debut is one such example of this.
On Of Fracture and Failure
, Ulcerate utilise huge walls of dissonance and blistering riffs to create an album that is both crushing and unusually melodic. The riffing on this album lies somewhere between the dense texture of Immolation, and the off-kilter technicality of Gorguts, though it never sounds purely derivative of these influences. The huge sound is mostly attributed to the highly contrapuntal and busy form of riffing which the guitarists display, as much of the low end chugging and temolo picking is accompanied by droning higher pitched notes and fluttery riffs.
What is most apparent throughout the album is the immense talent that all members of the band show, though their display of technical proficiency is never mindless. The powerhouse duo of drummer Jamie Saint Merat and guitarist Michael Hoggard are a force to be reckoned with, and the fact that those two basically write everything (save for the lyrics) and run everything else about the band, explains the great chemistry between the drums and guitars on this album. All of the swirling dissonance sent forth by the guitars, is complemented by fantastic cymbal work and a large variety of relentless blast beat and double bass patterns.
Further adding to the intensity, and often times the feeling of unease throughout the album, is vocalist Ben Read. Most of his vocals range from a harsh mid-range, to a high pitch screech, though really they are just all over the place; matching the ever changing riffs. Lyrically, he achieves the same bleak and misanthropic feelings generated the music. Read displays a certain sense of urgency, which goes hand in hand with the pace of the album, and although his grating voice may not be suitable in some eyes, it is definitely refreshing to hear. Between all of the members, a thick and harsh texture is created, and along with the ballistic approach to song writing, absolute cacophony is achieved.
Cacophonous song writing can be both good and bad though, as when the intensity never seems to let up, it can become a tiring listen, as this album sometimes does. Thankfully it seems as though by the end of the album, Ulcerate had matured a little more and the last few songs display a more flowing and well thought-out structure; a slight reprieve for those who have been relentlessly pummelled for the bulk of the album. The mostly instrumental track ‘Failure’ demonstrates Ulcerate’s ability to relax for a moment, building a dark atmosphere which although may not be as intense as the rest of the more ridiculous riffing found on the album, it still carries a sense of unease. There are other similar moments of the quieter, more ambient riffs throughout the album, although this dynamic range is definitely not as pronounced as it is on their second release, Everything is Fire
While a little less refined than their later work, Of Fracture and Failure
is a fantastic example of dense and crushing music, carried out by brilliant musicians. Undeniably harsh and intense, this is definitely an album and band worth your time.