The Destroyers of All
01. Burning Skies
02. Dead Oceans
03. Cold Becoming
05. The Hollow Idols
07. The Destroyers of All
Woah, what am I doing reviewing a record that not only came out at the beginning of the year, but we once reviewed already? Well, with their recent signing to Relapse Records bringing Ulcerate back into my field of view and my discontent with the negative (yet valid!) score they received, I felt compelled to give their most recent album The Destroyers Of All a shake from my side of the aisle. If you’ve never heard of these New Zealanders before, their sound is characterized by creeping dissonant guitar lines and blistering fast and technical drumming. It’s all absolute chaos that challenges the status quo of not only in the realm of death metal, but progressive metal and sludge as well. Hell, I even raised the question earlier this year about their categorization as “Post-Death Metal.” Sound interesting enough? It should.
The fittingly titled album The Destroyers of All is a hard record to talk about because of its very nature. Practically inaccessible and devoid of melody through much of its runtime, this record is a cacophonous monolith that challenges not only the ears, but the mind. Ulcerate’s sound descends from the likes of Portal, Deathspell Omega, and Mitochondrion, each band famously utilizing an almost avant-garde dense atmosphere and utter brutality that pushed death metal and black metal into new extremes. Ulcerate follows these footsteps, but does so in their unique fashion.
Ulcerate manages to teeter between progressive death metal, tech death, and post-metal throughout The Destroyers Of All. Each of the album’s seven songs go over 6 minutes in length, which gives the band plenty of room to play with challenging brutality and awe-inspiring stretches of ominous instrumental soundscapes. “Omen” in particular is somehow strangely breathtaking. Where Isis‘ music painted flourishing pictures of ocean-front landscapes, Ulcerate’s music inspires metal images of barren landscapes permeated with fog and drought.
Instrumentally, Ulcerate has a lot going for them. The guitar work from Michael Hoggard is downright terrifying. Hoggart’s contorting guitar lines are enigmatic and trance-inducing, showing that one can manage being technical without the blistering speed. Bassist/vocalist Paul Kelland isn’t playing second fiddle, either. His sludgy low bass is always present under the spiraling guitars. His intimidating low growls aren’t to take lightly either; his vocal work is monstrous and absolutely brutal.
Drummer and producer Jamie Saint Merat is definitely the star of the show. The production work on this record meets a compromise of polish and raw and gritty tones that compliments the band’s sound well. His drumming is absolutely phenominal as well, using intricate cymbal play against intense blasts of double bass to help build up this frantic atmosphere. He can easily go from atmospheric grooves to in-your-face technical drumming in a matter of moments in any given song. Coming from a person who doesn’t emphasize drumming as much when listening to music, me saying that Marat is a fantastic drummer is really saying something about his talent and ability.
Glowing positivity aside, this record is definitely not for everyone. This album is massive in sound and runtime, and an hour of this music is certainly testing, not to mention off-putting entirely for some listeners. Despite this, The Destroyers of All is easily one of the most intelligent, intense, and brutal death metal records released in 2011. Ulcerate are putting New Zealand on the map as being a credible source of extreme metal; it’s not all hobbit holes and sheep out there. Apparently something twisted is going on in that environment that is fostering this incredible sound, and may it forever writhe in the uncomfortable tones of Ulcerate.