Ulcerate
Everything Is Fire


5.0
classic

Review

by Jacquibim CONTRIBUTOR (57 Reviews)
February 28th, 2014 | 538 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Opaque perfection

Every once in a while, an album comes along that annihilates preconceptions of what can be done within a certain genre. Death metal’s complete saturation of aural brutality and morbid themes have left us desensitised what was once considered shocking and depraved. So for a band to fulfil their ambition and create sonic imagery that is aptly decadent is no mean feat, let alone one being able to effectively create a score the end of the world as we know it. Ulcerate’s musical output is often likened to catastrophic events of cosmic magnitude; stars going supernova, vortexes consuming worlds in their entirety, the very fabric of space-time shattering and totality of existence coming to an end. Such is Ulcerate’s proficiency that it’s difficult to put into perspective just how monolithic they really sound, and their sophomore album exemplifies this better than anything else they’ve done. To say Everything is Fire’s aural bedlam justifies its lofty title is a colossal understatement. This is the quintessential death metal album of its era, and the yardstick by which lesser efforts should be compared to.

From the instrumental coalescence of “Drown Within”, the strangely purposeful cacophony that is “Withered and Obsolete”, to the gargantuan climax of the title track, Everything is Fire is one of the most remorseless listens you will ever experience. Uncanny technicality delivered with a complete absence of ostentation lays the foundation of the musical insanity. The interplay within the polytonal guitar work produces a shape shifting aural environment, striking the perfect balance between atmosphere and uncompromising brutality. Rather than scalular riffs comprised of constant tremolo picking, Michael Hoggard prefers a frenetic mix of exotic chords and unorthodox progressions. When isolated like in “We Are Nil”, “Tyranny” and “The Earth At Its Knees”, the individual guitar lines feel fragmented and discordant, as if they lack the tonal foundations required support themselves. However, as the lines are woven together, consonance arises from the individually dissonant components in an otherworldly wall of sound. This approach means that even in the presence of colossal dynamic shifts, there are seldom any calming moments, exponentially building tension as one track succeeds another.

Jamie Saint-Merat’s drumming is not only stellar in terms of speed and agility, but superlative in technique. He makes a conscious effort – in spite of the music’s complexity – to avoid triggering all but his bass drum, so as the sense of speed is preserved along with the expressive power of the rest of the kit. You would be hard pressed to tell either way, however. The mixing on the drums is crisp but incredibly natural and dynamic. The cymbal work ranges anywhere from subtle ticks and hisses to huge crashes that can stand over the rest of the instruments at times, while the blasts and tom fills remain perfectly audible in all their surgically precise glory. Frequent tempo shifts and time signature changes are handled effortlessly, and while such a compliment is common in a genre where technical proficiency is a prerequisite, Jamie’s dexterity is truly staggering by any standard. But for all the aggression he brings, his technique is no less impressive during the breaks, providing an off-kilter rhythmic backdrop for Michael’s dissonant axe-work. Repetition is scarce and improvisation is plentiful, as Jamie works in the moment to create a frame that is resilient enough to support the accompanying instrumentation yet also malleable and ostensibly formless.

The brief hushes scattered throughout the album serve as both release mechanisms and atmospheric building blocks. This forms a perfectly congruent and unbroken journey throughout, with the musical intensity subsiding only when absolutely necessary. Everything is Fire virtually epitomises “density” in a musical context; compositions are intricate, the instrumentation is unyielding, and the sound engineering is exceptionally loud. As such, it is incredibly easy to mistake the album’s almost impenetrable nature for senselessness. Listeners will not be able to absorb the intricacies within one, two, three, five, perhaps even ten listens, because it’s in the detail where Everything is Fire truly shines. It’s a little bit of a shame that perhaps the album’s supposed disarray may be considered a detriment, due to its minutiae being lost on uncommitted ears. Seemingly disconnected chords reveal their worth over entire arrangements as opposed to between verses, and sparse feedback tones and textural nuances echo that – even in light of the virtuosity of the musicians – you’re experiencing a very human body of work. The album succeeds not just through instrumental and compositional mayhem, but its eerie communicability. Beneath the hellish aesthetic is a repertoire of emotion and sentiment, touching upon the more sullen regions of the human condition.

”Reject the innate
And no solace will prevail
Our bloodless tower over all
With their eyes full of god
They are blind to our dawn”

“With the coldest shoulder
The balance is broken
So with disdain you may burn me forever
In anti-human desperation
This is the horror that binds us all”

“Stand on the edge of abandon
And stare into the searing sun
Forfeit now
For nothing we know
Everything is Fire”


Paul Kelland’s lyrics, delivered via ferocious gutturals, are decidedly abstract, and explicit subject matter is difficult but not impossible to pinpoint. Although lyrics in death metal are equally renowned for their inaudibility as they are for their extreme violence, Everything is Fire is unusually poetic. There is a genuine sincerity to Kelland’s wordplay, with overriding themes such as the end of mankind, the inconsequence our existence and the resumption of a natural order free of humanity’s tyranny, greed and bloodlust. Indeed, every facet of the album has been meticulously crafted to instil as bleak a mental picture as possible, yet the execution feels so natural and uncalculated. The attention to detail that Ulcerate dedicated the album is something the genre hadn’t seen since Gorguts’ From Wisdom to Hate at the turn of the millennium. While unfailingly technical, the band went above and beyond with regards to timbral fine-tuning and the gradual development of even the minutest ideas. Upon repeated listens, no two bars will sound quite the same, as the music is in a constant state of both micro and macro evolution.

Everything is Fire is an anomaly; strangely charismatic and introspective, even in light of the band’s rather violent approach towards self-expression. As a technical achievement, it is in the company of some of some truly exceptional works, yet it is so much more than that. Everything is Fire has the ability to summon some of humanity’s most morose and final reflections, but is entirely open to interpretation. A modern classic, and a genuine expansion upon death metal’s musical scope, Everything is Fire is not only among the finest albums to grace us in the twenty-first century, but one of the finest of all time.

Perfect.



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user ratings (450)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
Ian W. (4.5)
Ulcerate has managed to craft a truly superb album combining atmosphere and brutal death metal...

Jordan F. (4)
Ulcerate takes a huge step up and crafts a crushingly dense and atmospheric album....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2014


14707 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

What do you mean by "fanboy"?

Anyways, wanted my 40th review to be something special, and I wanted to give this album the review it deserves.

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climactic
February 28th 2014


19365 Comments


metal livez

Digging: Flying Lotus - You're Dead!

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2014


16434 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Intro sounds like something I would have written in 2007 but yeah good review otherwise.

Digging: Swallowed - Lunarterial

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2014


14707 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah, perfectly aware my intro could come across as fluttery bullshit but oh well. Thanks anyways :D

Rowan5215
February 28th 2014


27199 Comments


You should make that first paragraph into a short story
Amazing review though

Digging: Vestascension - Breaching the Sound

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2014


14707 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Cheers Rowan, but a story would be unnecessary when this album exists.

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2014


18672 Comments


nah bro that first paragraph rocks

it honestly would be better though if the last sentence was just

"This is the end, Everything is Fire."

Digging: Execration (NOR) - Morbid Dimensions

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 28th 2014


16434 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

intro paragraph starring tom cruise

ShadowRemains
February 28th 2014


21040 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

WEEEEE

AAAARRRREEEE

NNNNIIIILLLLL

Digging: Execration (NOR) - Morbid Dimensions

Rowan5215
February 28th 2014


27199 Comments


This summer
Tom Cruise as Jacquibim
Russell Crowe as BigPleb
Clint Eastwood as KILL

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2014


14707 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks Hype, I think this was my first proper attempt at a... would "conceptual" introduction be the right term?

Glad you liked it.

Funeralopolis
February 28th 2014


11555 Comments


Intro is really over dramatic yea but I know you love this album a lot so I'll let it pass this time!

Digging: Quicksand - Slip

Gwyn.
February 28th 2014


15160 Comments


gd rev, album's gd

fromtheinside
February 28th 2014


18711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

if i had to choose between a jacket and an insecurity i'd choose the jacket; and i'm sure i speak for every one

Digging: Devin Townsend Project - Z2

Funeralopolis
February 28th 2014


11555 Comments


Just read review, pretty good. Convinced me to give it a listen.

"Listeners will not be able to absorb the intricacies within one, two, three, five, perhaps even ten listens"

No way is this a bad thing! If anything that makes it an even better album.

CaptainDooRight
February 28th 2014


29881 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Great review!

small fix:

'this something much more final'

*is

Digging: Impetuous Ritual - Unholy Congregation of Hypocritical Ambivalence

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2014


14707 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

@funeral, i know right?

@Cap, thanks, didn't notice that.

fromtheinside
February 28th 2014


18711 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

cum jaq

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 28th 2014


14707 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

cum where?

pedro70512
February 28th 2014


3108 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Wielding the Contrib hammer with some authority here! Album is already classic.

Digging: Enabler - La Fin Absolue Du Monde



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