PICK OF THE WEEK: Ulcerate crush convention, add new color into chaos on grim ‘Stare Into Death…’

If you have a good formula, why screw with it? Why run the risk of going in a different direction or even making some minor tweaks when you already know you have an effective thing on your hands? Easy as that sounds, not all artists operate in that manner, and that can result in boredom if they keep running the same path or wildly unexpected results if they veer.

New Zealand death metal stallions Ulcerate decided to take some different paths on their wild sixth record “Stare Into Death and Be Still,” their first for Debemur Morti after spending time with Relapse. This band already had a reputation for creating mind-bending pieces of work, though as creative as their music always felt, apparently they needed some fresh air. In comes this eight-track, 58-minute beast that, while you’ll definitely acknowledge this is Ulcerate right out of the gates, feels a lot different as well. The melodies enrapture, there are times it feels like they’re playing tricks with your mind, and the utter decimating pace is now and again tempered by different realities that give you a breather, but only until the next wave of chrome lava. The band–vocalist/bassist Paul Kelland, guitarist Michael Hoggard, drummer Jamie Saint Merat—recommit to their creativity and their smoking penchant for delivering bruising music and pump out one of the most original records on a resume full of open mindedness. I’ve already immersed myself in this thing multiple times, and each experience with it is different.

“The Lifeless Advance” punches its way open as spindly guitars open, and deep roars make their way into the mix. Melody bursts and slathers into hell while the drums dust skulls, and cavernous chaos opens and swallows you whole. “Exhale the Ash” begins with an energy surge, and the tempo blasts as the drums climb up and pulverize, and the guitars send body jolts. The growls you can virtually feel in your chest as the leads burst and add different colors, while the bruising floods, and the ends comes in a pit of punishment. The title track just melts open, tearing things limb from limb and entering into a world of madness. Monstrous growls crawl as the pain pours over you, at times feeling warped yet fluid. The playing grows scathing while the track gets more adventurous before everything is swept into oblivion. “There Is No Horizon” has a dark and hazy beginning as it simmers in shadows before tearing its chest wide open and mangling listeners in its gears. Cool guitar work drips through like leaking pipes before the leads explore the atmosphere, and the growls carve a path back to the center. The track begins to smash things all over again before subsiding and giving way to a thick, enveloping fog.

“Inversion” explodes immediately and lands blows as monstrous growls and devastating playing loosen screws. The guitars sting and feel like they’re pulling in alien transmissions while the playing swims inside your head, making you feel disjointed and lost before the back end of the song mashes in your head. “Visceral Ends” starts in a fog of synth weirdness that slowly awakens like sunbeams through the aftermath of destruction. As the song awakens, the growls crush and the guitars chew on frayed nerves before the leads glisten and shimmer. The drums pick up and add to the chaos while moody guitars slur, and we end with a heavy pummeling. “Drawn Into the Next Void” greets you with guitars at the gates following by trudging tempos and a feeling you’re being pulled under. The song has moments of humidity before things cool off after a long storm. But the knife finds its way back in as the growls bubble deeply within the fires, and the return of demanding temperatures finds its way into the void. “Dissolved Orders” is your closer, and it starts with clean notes that help the song slowly flow along until it meets up with a flooding and grisly growls. The pace tends to hypnotize in spots and freezing winds chill your soaked flesh, while heavy growls sound like they’re trying to digest you. The playing then engulfs as you’re stuck knee-deep in a tar pit as cold strains wash over you while the track washes away.

Ulcerate have built a massive reputation and a mighty sound during their nearly two decades together, and had they not tweaked a thing, no question their audience would have devoured “Stare Into Death and Be Still.” But they didn’t do that, did they? Instead, this band opened up and expanded their playbook and delivered one of their most inventive records in some time, which is saying something for a group that already stands alone. This is a massive, deeply destructive record that’ll feel entirely different every time you tear it open.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ulcerate

To buy the album (North America), go here: https://debemurmorti.aisamerch.com/

Or here (Europe): https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/12-eshop

For more on the label, go here: https://www.debemur-morti.com/en/