Review Summary: Sheer force.
I’ve always been under the impression that a label like Seasons of Mist can do no wrong. They house a variety of incredible acts from every reach of the Metal genre (Benighted, Ne Obliviscaris, Deathspell Omega, etc) and now Ulsect proves that statement even further. Consisting of members from well established acts such as Textures and Dodecahedron, one expects a level of finesse and confidence from the band, and they exert that confidence in a way that’s absolutely bludgeoning to the listener. Our Netherlandic crew have crafted a dark and oppressive soundscape with a balance of mournful ambiance and thick, heavy guitar riffs.
Amazingly enough however, amidst the slow and crushing dissonance there is an admirable level of technical proficiency, which is largely attributed to the drum work. It is relentless in its intricacy without losing the ability to sound primal and thunderous. Back this with guitar riffs that are as dense as the American public, and you have yourself an album that is as heavy as heavy comes without devolving into degeneracy. The attention to detail without sacrificing the blunt power this album exert is staggering, such as off of tracks like “Fall To Depravity” or “Diminish”, where some gnarly chugs transition into breakneck riffs and drum patterns.
Adding that extra bit of finesse to this record is some absolutely magnificent production. I’m normally not someone to fawn over production values, but I was actually somewhat taken by surprise when I realize that every crashing cymbal, every bass note and every guitar chord was crystal clear. The cleaner production really favors this album because it exploits the aforementioned attention to detail rather well, even during the much more basic, stripped down breakdowns. One of the most perfect examples of this would be near the ending of “Unveil”, where this thick, muddy bass line rises from the murky swamp that is “Ulsect”, sounding both unabashedly crushing whilst remaining clear and distinct.
Perhaps some of the credit could be shared with the mixing off this album, considering how the instruments and vocals seem to harmonize with each other perfectly. There is no dreaded “power struggle” that a lot of metal albums seem to have a problem with. The beginning of “The Ending” does an incredible job proving this, with a sweet balance between thudding drum patterns, tremolos and some rather abrasive, higher-pitch Death metal growls. Pair this balanced heaviness with some well placed atonal melodies, and you have a record that strikes a perfect balance of musical elements all across the board while still retaining a core sound it strictly adheres to.
With all this in mind, Ulsect are hardly rewriting the book on dissonant Death metal. However, they certainly tick all the marks that makes it great. Still, bearing this in mind, it can be hard to distinguish Ulsect from the rather large pool of bands playing in their particular style. This being their first record makes it forgivable that they seem to derive from their former acts as well as bands like Ulcerate and (to a lesser extent) Deathspell Omega, but it still leaves a decent margin for improvement. Until they recognize this, however, we are left with a monolithic slab of Death metal that will satiate the primal desire of anyone who wants something that is relentless, dark, and absolutely punishing.