Ulcerate
Vermis


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Newton USER (46 Reviews)
August 28th, 2013 | 908 replies


Release Date: 2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: In combining the finest elements of its previous works, Ulcerate reaches terrifying new heights.

There may not be a more convincingly apocalyptic band than Ulcerate. Death metal groups constantly promote themselves as “brutal” or “heavy” or “crushing,” but this New Zealand trio has mastered the art of soul-withering songwriting by honing its craft on a deeper level. Fitting together layers of dissonance in a way that makes sense is a difficult task, since it often goes against established musical paradigms, but it’s what Ulcerate thrives on. Due to the fact that every line on Vermis builds off this foundation, the album is fundamentally saturated with intense emotions of utter dread and bitterness towards a crumbling world. Welcome to Ulcerate’s perfect musical hell.

Ulcerate is the brainchild of drummer Jamie Saint-Merat and guitarist Michael Hoggard, who have played together since high school. The duo formed Bloodwreath in 2000 before rebranding as Ulcerate three years later (a moniker they admit seemed like a better idea at the time). After the band’s 2007 debut Of Fracture and Failure, bassist Paul Kelland took up vocals and the band released its breakthrough effort Everything is Fire two years later. With Kelland as the frontman, grindcore shrieks gave way to guttural roars, there came an increased emphasis on complex and unpredictable song structures, and the band’s trademark sound began to crystallize. 2010’s The Destroyers of All was another change of pace, as the album introduced post-metal stylings; each lengthy song contained moments of unbridled fury, but also more restrained sections of sparkling cymbals and sparse, resonant guitars in equal measure.

Vermis falls somewhere between the unrelenting fury of Everything is Fire and the smoldering coals of Destroyers. “Clutching Revulsion” harbors some of its most memorable guitar work, threatening like a storm front for six minutes via unresolved chord changes before finally bursting into a sweeping diminished riff over Saint-Merat’s stupid-fast single-hand snare rolls. It’s fairly safe to say that Jamie is one of the few stickmen capable of marrying such delicate and eloquent cymbal work with precision blast beats. He often fills with light snare rolls and ghost-note cymbals, trading speed for dexterity and lending the subtler moments a more human touch. On top of the music are Kelland’s mouth-of-hell vocals, which are generally more percussive than lyrical. Even if many of the lyrics are indecipherable, enough can be gleaned to give a window into Ulcerate’s thematic vision; take the ending of “Confronting Entropy,” in which Kelland declares that, “What is ignored in the present / Will be resurrected / The forsaken confront entropy / Alone, helpless, wandering toward demise.” Pretty bleak by any standard, but such ideas fit in with the band’s overall canon, particularly The Destroyers of All, in which the titular destroyer is mankind itself. In the words of Saint-Merat, “the heart of all our themes is really the insignificance of man in the greater scheme of things.”

Of course, Ulcerate isn’t the first band to base their music in intricate disharmony. As Saint-Merat points out, “Immolation and Gorguts really opened our eyes to what can be done with a guitar in a death metal context,” and there are indeed moments that bring to mind the works of those legendary outfits. The crawling call-and-response guitars of “Confronting Entropy” have a foot in Demilich’s otherworldly backyard, while closer “Await Rescission” picks up where Close to a World Below left off thirteen years ago. There are times when the band trades adrenaline for introspection – see the extended lulls during “Weight of Emptiness” – but Ulcerate generally keeps you on your toes with almost-countable time signatures and soaring harmonic riffs. The title track, which happens to be the shortest full song here, has two tiers of guitar going at all times: a rhythm line that compliments the manic drumming and a higher register that slashes through the chaos an octave above. This approach allows for both claustrophobic hammering and eminently recognizable licks to coexist (though ‘peacefully’ is out of the question).

With regards to its back catalogue, Ulcerate hasn’t really changed the game plan so much as ironed out the kinks and come away with its most cohesive album to date. Vermis avoids the overwhelming nature of Everything is Fire, generally considered the band’s magnum opus, while still having more than enough horsepower to satisfy the most brutal death metal mongers. If they’re going to carve out a real legacy, then Hoggard, Kelland, and Saint-Merat will inevitably have to change things up as all the greats do. For now, however, Ulcerate has something special going and is running away from the pack with their third phenomenal effort in a row. We may all be only dust in the wind, but for just under an hour, Ulcerate are giving us something with which to rejoice in that wondrous desolation.



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user ratings (338)
Chart.
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Comments:Add a Comment 
pedro70512
August 28th 2013


4111 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yes, this has leaked (though I got the promo copy). Ulcerate has posted a number of reviews on their website and Facebook.



First posted on MuzikDizcovery.

Keyblade
August 28th 2013


16030 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Rules

NocteDominum
August 28th 2013


7205 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Ulcerate reaches terrible new heights.




Word Choice? Dizzying, fascinating? Terrible...



Sput wants a stream though, promos here don't matter unless your a sput staffer.

Gwyn.
August 28th 2013


15564 Comments


"Ulcerate reaches terrible new heights."

Uhhhh hmmmm

Album rules

pedro70512
August 28th 2013


4111 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Perhaps my use of "terrible" is a bit antiquated. Terrifying, that's a good alternative.



I'll try to find a stream from the band. Otherwise I guess someone will delete it and I'll repost it when one comes out.

PunchforPunch
August 28th 2013


6279 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

album fucking rules

PunchforPunch
August 28th 2013


6279 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Confronting Entropy is my fave

oltnabrick
August 28th 2013


32780 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Whoa a review cool. Album is sweet

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
August 28th 2013


51209 Comments


Try not to get an ulcer when the meds take this down

Digging: Hop Along - Painted Shut

MO
August 28th 2013


19507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

albums good

pedro70512
August 28th 2013


4111 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I await rescission from said mods and hope not to fall into opprobium with the site.

NocteDominum
August 28th 2013


7205 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Try not to get an ulcer when the meds take this down

[2]

pedro70512
August 28th 2013


4111 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Point them out please? I proofed it but MD likes bands to be singular so sometimes that throws me off.

Ignimbrite
August 28th 2013


5562 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

My AotY so far. Solid review, but yeah, it'll probably be taken down.

Digging: Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell

ShadowRemains
August 28th 2013


22114 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album fucking slays

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
August 28th 2013


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

My hand has been shown.

Digging: Peste Noire - Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor

FrozenVain
August 28th 2013


2579 Comments


I must jam. Now.
Great review, pos'd.

climactic
August 28th 2013


20361 Comments


holy shit need this

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
August 28th 2013


16089 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh and superb review.

liledman
August 28th 2013


3826 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fitting together layers of dissonance in a way that makes sense is one of the hardest tasks in music




Do you mean that the layering of voices which are in and of themselves dissonant is such a task, or that a dissonant counterpoint of individually consonant voices is such a task? Could you elaborate on what would 'make sense'? In either case this is a broad claim that would perhaps be better replaced by a more appropriate comment on their dissonance and/or counterpoint. An exploration of the evolution of their contrapuntal style over the last few albums would also be interesting, as it has no doubt changed, not in the least now I think because of their increased focus on being a trio on stage as well as in studio.



After the band’s 2007 debut Of Fracture and Failure, bassist/vocalist Paul Kelland was brought aboard to complete the current lineup,




Kelland played on that album, only he wasn't yet the vocalist.



there came increased emphasis on complex and unpredictable songs, and the band’s trademark sound began to crystallize




I would say that the complex and unpredictable nature of their songwriting was apparent from their debut, and they proceeded to tone it down in places on EiF and especially on TDoA.



post-metal stylings; each lengthy song contained two or three furious peaks, but also bridges of sparkling cymbals and sparse, resonant guitars in equal measure.




I don't particularly like that post-metal or atmospheric-whatever is brought up with that album, but either way I don't really see the idea of multiple peaks bing used in their songwriting; generally they stay at a high intensity, every now and then reaching an even high intensity, though more often dipping back to those spare moments you mention. However, I would not use the term 'bridge' as it makes it sounds like the change of pace was from 'complex and unpredictable' to some kind of verse-chorus arrangement.





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