Review Summary: These beastly boys are back.
The many faces of death metal have changed over the years; that much is undeniable. Whether it’s the pioneering moments found in the 80’s and 90’s (discluding the genre’s foundations as early as the 70’s) or the slow shift of sound into trends that lead to innovative amalgamations and bastardizations within a scene, metal has just about explored every nook and cranny conceivable to itself. The main problem the genre faces now is in saturation; whether that be in sound, influences or the access to new music bands these days are finding it harder to innovate and in turn, stick out from the mountains of new music being dropped every week. As listeners, we are basically taking new music for granted in this modern age. Our access to music is dependent on a few simple clicks with a mouse, a quick clacking of a keyboard or a thumb on a handheld screen. By simply having an internet connection we have access to a literal world of music - and with just about any medium, it’s quality varies. In this manner deathcore itself has had a rather rough time of things looking back at the genre’s last couple of decades. Apart from a few gems, shining from the rough, the genre itself has rather stagnated into a merry go round of trend hopping, yet completely stereotypical releases. Sure, we see this line of thought all too often these days, but it’s important to put the scene into perspective when analysing albums that do
shine above the murk of a saturated genre - not because it’s an impossible feat. but because we should celebrate triumphs when and where they occur.
Hailing from the U.S., Ovid’s Withering have become a brand within themselves by taking symphonic elements a la SepticFlesh and combining with a low end focused, djent-y riff-centric instrumentalization. On paper, the formula is quite simple; write some technical deathcore and slap some symphonic elements into the mix - but instead of simply riding this trend, Ovid’s Withering takes a combination of sounds and transforms it into their musical identity. Terraphage
itself feels like an expansion of the band’s previous efforts. The group’s debut EP, The Cloud Gatherer
was itself, a sort of explosion of over-polished death noise; but the bare bones for the first full-length (especially considering the fact that the album featured tracks from the EP) were dropped well into place before the release of Scryers Of The Ibis
. From this foundation, Terraphage
steps up with an effort bolstered by intelligent songwriting and a production to match the album’s larger than life soundscapes.
In many ways Terraphage
’s opening piece, “Oracles” sets this hour long slab of modern deathcore into a world of high expectations. But a few hitches emerge early; namely in the spoken word/demonic voices that usher in the closing of the track border on cringe, while some of the song’s transitions could be a lot smoother in comparison to how well the album is actually put together. Largely, Ovid’s Withering puts it all on the table within the album’s opening moments - warts and all. “Godless” however, is especially fierce and despite being dominantly chug reliant it’s here where Terraphage
begins to excel. After a quick burst of frenetic energy the track relaxes into a groove, allowing for the band’s more symphonic elements to build on the atmosphere and bulk the overall sound out. That’s not to say the blast beats and vomit riffs become absent in the Ovid’s Withering design (in fact it’s quite the opposite), but the songs main elements have become more balanced here when compared directly to the debut.
progresses, some of the tracks begin to meld together. The piano led “At The Dreadlord’s Behest” is slightly too grandiose for its own good, but slams the listener with a “now” too similar soundscape, noodling its guitar leads around down-tuned guitar strings and rumbling drum sections. Similarly, is that of “Ballad Of The Lycan” which takes the symphonic atmospheric nuance of the album, pulling at the seams of a crescendo - before breaking off into the album’s more melodious offering, “Bloodscape”. By the time the Filip Danielsson (vocalist for In Reverence) and Jeffrey Fisher featured, “Tholg” comes into being, the listener is already showing the first signs of ear fatigue. In short, Terraphage
could do with some light trimming; losing some of the belly fat in order to show off the album’s more chiseled abs.
The album’s clinical two part closer however is intrinsic to the album. In no small way would the album be the same without it. The band’s use of symphonics are ramped up, building an atmosphere that begins to suffocate - that is until the smooth female-led cleans open the tracks up, breathing in, and out, before “Corpsemover” falls back into the djent-y deathcore that’s so far defined Ovid’s Withering’s music. “Corpsemover” also brings back some standard song structures; because of the track’s underlying simplicity, the listener can fall quickly into a headbanging groove, reminiscent of a faux-Meshuggah, while being swept into the track’s [second part] now ravaging atmospherics. It’s a shame that the album’s use of spoken word rears its ugly head up in dying moments of the record, but apart from a few contextual imprints they fail to achieve the intended effect. Fortunately Terraphage
’s overall aesthetic value outweighs the small blights on the record’s otherwise impressive sophomore. Sure, Ovid’s Withering are not the most innovative act this side of the 2000’s, but the band has found the style of music that will further define their identity moving forwards. Terraphage
isn’t perfect; but it is a nominal release for a group looking to capitalise on the foundations found in other releases.