Ukraine’s Blame might only be in their infancy, but that hasn’t stopped them from releasing one of the most impressive slabs of punishing, grove-driven technical death metal in recent memory. Almanac is the second of two EPs which constitute the band’s entire discography to date, although it comes off like the work of seasoned veterans. The songwriting and instrumentation here are incredibly precise, but there’s something about the urgency of the performances that gives it a distinctly human appeal as well. Oh, and having George Kollias, of Nile and Contrarian (but mostly Nile) fame, behind the drum kit doesn’t hurt either.
Like Plague Father before them, Blame appear to be fairly minimalist affair. The outfit is centered around guitarist Valeri Golub and what seems to be (this far) a rotating cast of contributors, with vocalist/lyricist Anich Andrew and Kollias pitching in for their sophomore release. The EP’s cover recalls that of Immolation‘s Majesty and Decay (2010) (except if it was by Northlane), and that era of the New York legends’ catalogue – along with 2013’s Kingdom of Conspiracy – really isn’t a bad point of reference for the type of thing Blame are doing on this release. The brand of death metal they practice is certainly technical, but its appeal lies not in flashy displays of mechanical brilliance, but rather in the variety of pummeling grooves such elements can be molded into. In that way too, it also bears resemblance to The Schoenberg Automaton‘s similarly-adorned modern tech-death opus Apus (2016); so if Almanac looks like something you’d enjoy, don’t hesitate to check this one out.
The more brutal and technical sides of death metal can be some of the most difficult to immediately grasp on first listen, but there’s something about Blame and Almanac that is instantly compelling. Kollias’s precise-yet-boomy sound provides the perfect backdrop for what Golub and Andrew are laying down, and the intensity of his performance, along with an outstanding and extra-punchy mix, makes Almanac one of the more impactful death metal releases in recent times. There isn’t a huge amount of variety on display here, amid all the scattered bass chords and pummeling staccato rhythms. However, there are a few departures to be had along the way. The apocalyptic conclusion of “Chalice” provides an almost atmospheric departure from all its preceding chaos, in a manner not dissimilar to Ulcertae‘s more restrained moments, while distinctive closer “Victory” openly flirts more with melodic territory. Yet, for the most part, Almanac stakes its claim by doing one thing, and making sure to do it damn well.
Pushing play on Almanac is like strapping yourself into one of those roller coasters that prides itself on the sheer velocity with which it catapults you through its many twists and turns, rather than the intricacies of the loops it puts you through. This is a tech-death record based upon sheer exhilaration, and one which will have you lining up for more as soon as its done. While certainly an intense experience, the EP’s short running time prevents it from ever getting too oppressive. Although, given the flawless craft and execution displayed on these songs, that’d likely be the case with a full-length effort anyway. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too much longer to find out.
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Pick up both Almanac and Blame’s earlier EP Dark Eyes (2014) over at their bandcamp page.