ulcerate-shrines-of-paralysis-coverGod is dead, but what can be done once the corpse is buried? Just to the left of nihilism, HP Lovecraft staked out a territory where divinity was absent and mankind insignificant, battered by forces beyond time and comprehension. Anti-christian, nihilistic, and cosmicist themes have all long been staples of metal, both lyrically and musically – but after decades the fear is gone; the well dry and the water stagnant. To reach ever greater extremes, these tropes must be transcended. Ulcerate did so. Their music reaches deeper than Lovecraft, whose fantastic god-creatures crumble before what they represent: reality. Since Everything is Fire, they have charted their own path, using music not just as art but, I would argue, as a philosophical exercise. Their art does not only transcend death metal; it transcends death, mixing Lovecraftian themes in death metal with the nature-reverence of Cascadian black metal towards a sort of naturalistic cosmicism. In Ulcerate‘s music, life itself is insignificant, not before alien gods, but before earth, light, and entropy. Shrines of Paralysis stays the course.

What strikes you first is the violence. “Abrogation” wastes no time slowly opening the gates; those familiar with Ulcerate already know what lies beyond – and that dawns on you next. The violence is a byproduct, and as “Abrogation” slows, the absolute vastness of Shrines of Paralysis becomes clear. Whereas Vermis was jagged and claustrophobically oppressive, its absolute spelean blackness as impenetrable as it was omnipresent, Shrines brings us back to the surface, where The Destroyers of All left off. In “Yield to Naught,” fragmented shards of melody flicker unevenly past the tumult like hapless sunbeams to scorch the barren soil below. “There are No Saviours,” pushes back out of that substrate, and after a lengthy introduction relapses into furor.

Vermis also suffered from a somewhat monotone mid-album, something that Shrines of Paralysis most definitely avoids. The title track writhes through a dozen ideas smoothly, pulling together fragments of melody into a desolate architecture that’s among the album’s greatest accomplishments, and “Extinguished Light” provides a more visceral reaction than any piece of music I’ve heard this year. Ulcerate‘s spellbinding compositions are at times fugue-like in their use of repetition, yet produce anything but complacency. In a darkened room, the highest points of “Extinguished Light,” bring one’s stomach to the throat, as a very real sense of dread and fear twist through the mind. It’s a feeling of existential horror that remains as powerful here as when I first felt it listening to The Destroyers of All.

ulcerate-band-2016

Though every Ulcerate album since Everything is Fire has been fantastic on a musical level, each has suffered from a compressed master that makes listening through the entire thing a chore. Such dense music begins to induce fatigue very quickly, and Shrines of Paralysis proved often difficult to sit through because of the sonic monotony. It’s confusing to me how a band with such a fantastic grasp of dynamics and contrast in their writing can crush those exact qualities out of the master, which definitely suffers for its lack of dynamic range. After Ad Nauseam demonstrated how incredible this sort of music can be when left rich and dynamic, Ulcerate‘s recordings seem just a bit more wanting.

In a way, Shrines of Paralysis is nothing more than what is expected; a densely written record that’s both technical and brutal, harrowing yet atmospheric. What we’ve come to expect from Ulcerate is far beyond that of other musicians. In its performances, writing, and scope, Shrines of Paralysis is a cut above, but in emotional impact, it’s paralleled only by the band’s previous work. These albums have rapidly disfigured the face of extreme metal and brought blood back to the surface; they are lofty in ambition and terrifying in scope, and though short of perfection will undoubtedly be seen as classics in the years to come. Whether as a musical statement or philosophical exploration, Shrines of Paralysis is an unqualified success.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: ulcerate.bandcamp.com | ulcerate-official.com | facebook.com/ulcerate
Releases Worldwide: October 28th, 2016

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  • The Nerd.

    Fuck, October has just been one great album after another. Can’t wait to get my greedy hands on this one.

    Great review as always.

  • Rob

    I came.

  • IndignantN00b

    Nice review. Ulcerate albums always get a bit monotonous for me because the dude has one vocal setting. It’s a good one, though, and sometimes when everything *clicks* I realize the monotony is maybe deliberate, part of the effect, like it is with Neurosis’ older material. Either way the pre-release samples sound slightly more diverse on that front, and I’m pumped to hear this.

    Any chance a Mithras review is on the way?

    • Kronos

      Mithras will come. Some of the staff are really into that album.

      • AndySynn

        Seriously… are we not doing “phrasing” anymore??

  • narrator

    I kind of hate this type of music. Good old Jorn…

  • When brutality of Meshuggah meets darkness of Behemoth.

  • Thatguy

    Oh, yeah. How can beautiful, ugly, glorious music like this be reviewed?

    Just like this. Masterful review and this album is one I have really been looking forward to.

    • The Unicorn

      Thats not really your picture, is it..

      • Thatguy

        Actually it is.

        That’s yours though, right?

  • Diego Molero

    So. Many. Reviews. I can’t keep up with all of this great music, I’m suffering.

    Another wonderful review Kronos, it really is a shame about the production, with Ulcerate it really bothers me, but will obviously check this album nevertheless.

    • The Unicorn

      HOW DOES THEY WRITES IT THEM SO FASTS??????

      • GardensTale

        Two words: oompa loompas. And here they come now!

        “Oompa loompa doompadee doo,
        I have some awesome metal for you,
        oompa loompa doompadee dee,
        If you’re not a pussy, listen to me.

        Sounds like this album is full of blastbeats,
        Shredding guitar strings at blistering speeds,
        Guttural growl, pummeled toms and high-hat,
        What do you think we’ll make of that?

        I think I like the sound of it!”

        • Kronos

          You and Steel should collaborate.

  • ricin_beans

    So are we going to get a ROTM for September or nah?

    • Diego Molero

      Nah

  • Zac Melvin-McNutt

    I definitely have to be in the right mood for Ulcerate. They’re a great band but they can be a bit tumultous and overly challenging to listen to at times

  • ElectricEye

    Yeah, it is a shame about the production. I felt the fatigue settle in half-way through the sample track. But, man, I was really enjoying the punishing music and vocals.

  • Tremens

    My oh my, what an incredible review. Only listened to Vermis a couple of times, but I’ll definitely give this one an attentive spin when the stars are right.

  • Treble Yell

    Fantastic review, Kronos. I also learnt a new word: spelaean! very nice.
    On another note: I feel we need to to be harsher on mastering/production quality that negatively impacts the enjoyment of the music.

    • Kronos

      Have you ever heard of a little band called Fallujah?

      • Treble Yell

        Heh, point taken.

      • Thatguy

        Ah, Kronos…I won’t bite, because this review was so good.

  • Baroqobm

    The way this review started, I was sure that this would get a five.
    Oh man, I can’t wait to hear this beast. Easily, my most anticipated record of the year.

    • Kronos

      With better mastering…

  • Necrocustard

    Very nice review. Will be looking forward to picking this up. So many quality releases lately. There just isn’t enough time…

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Alright, who let the fanboy out of the basement?

  • Mark Z

    Really liking this. Feels way more like Everything is Fire than their last two albums.

  • The Unicorn

    This album is absolutely ridiculous. This and the new 40 Watt Sun have me reeling.

  • narrator

    More or less AMG starts to become Pitchfork of metal music. i think it was the goal from the beginning, but i donn’t like it. but i suppose i’m the only who minds it, so who cares?

    • Diego Molero

      What does that even mean? Whatever it is that you are implying I don’t think that you are right…

      • narrator

        Pitchrork=dogma of todays music
        AGM=dogma of todays metal music

        sure not plan from the beginning, but AMG is very welcome of it. but he never admits, because he is wery selfish pussy to do it

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          lmao ok dude

        • Nag Dammit

          Lol a site that reviews Ulcerate albums kindly has sold out? It’s kind of an oxymoron don’t you think?

          Also, as far as I can figure out all of these writers hold down day jobs as well as pump out reviews on a ‘sometimes’ regular basis. So not sure the big bucks you speak of are real.

          Seems you are a troll from some other review blog who is butt hurt because you have to review your own CD collection rather than get sent promos by bands / labels who knowingly risk getting absolutely panned (see Amaranthe).

          • We don’t make any money at all from this site. We all hold day jobs and do this on the side because we love the music and enjoy writing about it.

          • GardensTale

            I must also add we get very motivated to hand in high quantities of high quality articles thanks to the shackles and threats of torture. I handed an article in late once. My poor urethra…

          • Akerblogger

            I hand my reviews in late on purpose ;)

          • Bandido

            Respect!!

          • Nag Dammit

            Obviously AMG keeps the big bucks for himself to fuel his penchant for rare NWOBHM vinyl and signed Europe merchandise.

    • All we aspire to be is the AMG of metal. That was, is, and always will be the plan.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      OMG just saw this in the enquirer!
      AMG himself caught by the paparazzi on a rare break from his leather working with paleolithic tools work shop. It’s believed he was in a secret meeting with the NPR producers of the ‘Feelings’ podcast… shop.http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/50d83d23eeb99f446aa3f8592e182ee906f263163d01a3d949e58b727a56196d.jpg

  • narrator

    I’m that troll: Hitler or the Nazies didn’t though of themselves as a bad guys. The same is with you: You have big influence in metal, maybe the biggests now, and you think your the same like years ago, but your not.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      Yea agree, the site has definitely changed. The Malmsteen quote banner is quite the ass move. And to think this site would have the audacity to review albums! It also doesn’t help that these reviewers sometimes have positive opinions; that is a right shame. RotM? More like SCRotM, it’s all click bait. These guys should aspire to be more like humble blogs (e.g Toilet ov Hell, MetalSucks, Forbes), because it is clear they have sold out to cash munnies. AMG is literally Hitler.

      • Scourge

        I see what you did there.

      • GardensTale

        I used to write for Global Domination, they used to have quotes from hatemail in their banners, a favorite being the nonsensical “You can’t take me by ass!”

        So I vote for “We have the biggests influence in metal.”

        • Nag Dammit

          I like “because he is WERY selfish pussy”.

        • Johan

          I remember you! I used to write for GD under the moniker The Abyss, though I might have left before your time?

          • GardensTale

            Weird, I’d posted an answer earlier and it got deleted… But I remember you too! I looked it up on the wayback machine and I got my start probably just a few months before you left, but there was definitely overlap. AMG actually referenced GD in his article on objectivity so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise running into some alumni.

            As a side note, reading my old reviews and trying super hard to fit in by cursing twice per sentence… *shudder*

          • Johan

            Well this is one of the best review sites on the web…

            I don’t think any of my reviews were left on the site thanks to Kenth getting drunk and deleting them one night. That site were way to dysfunctional to survive in the long run.

          • GardensTale

            Oh yeah, that much is true. It was K’s hobby project and he ran it as such. At least it was good practice!

            Check your disqus notifications btw. Got a question.

    • narrator

      when i’m drunk i go full philosophical. ok, i’m gonna stop drinking from this day because what i did write yesterday makes me wanna puke.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      “You have big influence in metal”

      And yet we still get 70 minute-long overly-loud DR5s…

  • Dobbie03

    Seriously, one of the best Death Metal bands around.

  • Dirty G

    oh yeah baby finally some good shit

  • Dethjesta

    Great review, Kronos. I heard some good things about this on the forums and have been listening to the currently released material the past couple of days; glad to hear the rest of the album stacks up.

    Definitely going to get this Friday.

  • Matthew

    In furious agreement with this review. I felt the production was definitely better than Vermis though – the vocals have more range and the very slight echo effect helps a lot too, and the sound overall is more organic and natural than Vermis.

  • narrator

    when i’m drunk i go full philosophical. ok, i’m gonna stop drinking from
    this day because what i did write yesterday makes me wanna puke.

  • jolly cooperation

    New Seputus record review when?

    • Kronos

      Soonish. Got left by the wayside but it’s worth a review.

  • flashgordon

    Very nice, reminds me so much of Krisiun…

  • Glutton4Punishment

    Instinctively clicked the review link as soon as I saw that (beautiful in a weird way) red cover on the homepage.
    This band is fucking painful to listen…but in an inexplicable good way, if that makes any fucking sense at all!
    Bring on the gut-wrenching dissonance!

  • Elton Chagas

    Avante Garde plus Progressive plus Brutal plus Death Metal… can we just call it Post-Death Metal?

  • Elton Chagas

    When a band does an original sound: 7 references to the own band in the review.

  • brklyner

    The compression really is a shame. I’ll get over it, and maybe it sounds better on vinyl, but damn this sounds flat.

    • Nathan McCain

      The vinyl has a DR 11 master from what I’ve read. Not sure about the quality as I haven’t heard it personally

  • Dudeguy Jones

    Really like this album, though I think I had built it up a bit too high in my head before its release, and thats sometimes a bane for things. I also had gotten the new Mithras around the same time and can’t help but compare the two, having so many sub genre term likenesses, even though they come out sounding entirely different.

    Either way, that album (Mithras) is awesome. And maybe you hit the nail on the head, this album is tiring because of its mastering. Maybe thats why I can’t raise it up as high as I’d hoped. I was really expecting much more dynamism.

  • TheTransmuted

    So that whole AMG = Metal Pitchfork thing got a little weird. Anyhoo, Jaime Saint Merat’s performance on this album is one of my favorites of the year. Up there with Haake’s VSoR insanity for me. Album is excellent.

  • bryce holcomb

    Thank you for taking a stand on dynamic range. I love Ulcerate and I can’t wait to absorb this album but I guarantee it would sound better at DR8 or 10.

  • Lou Daz

    Nice, this album rips. I’m glad someone else noticed the production quality, though.

  • sir_c

    This fucking rips indeed. I wonder how their vinyl masters are?

    • Benevolent Sun

      The vinyl master is excellent!

      • Kronos

        I’m thinking of buying it on vinyl, so this is good news.

      • bryce holcomb

        Is there any chance you’re able to quantify that in terms of dynamic range? It’s great if the vinyl master is clear-sounding, but for my dollar, if there isn’t more dynamic range, it’s not worth it.

    • Kronos

      Just got the vinyl today, so we shall see.

  • Benevolent Sun

    I’ve been playing this album all week. It might finally beat Vektor for my AOTY pick.

  • jersey devil

    “…fragmented shards of melody flicker unevenly past the tumult like hapless sunbeams to scorch the barren soil below” Damn–awesome review, by the way! This album (this band) indeed will be a classic, redefining death metal for all time. And have you checked out the lyrics to their songs? Unintelligible to hear, but as harrowing, pummeling, and horrifyingly beautiful to read as the music. I second the 4.5 rating here. Fucking hell.

  • Pedro Morini Mietto

    “Their music reaches deeper than Lovecraft, whose fantastic god-creatures crumble before what they represent: reality.”

    Absolutely fantastic statement. I’d like to believe that this was heavily inspired by the very music you were listening to.

    If that’s the case, we have another clear qualifier of a great timeless art work: inpiring.