Being a well on the way to aging angry metal nerd, I have a stomach that is not quite as leadbellied as it used to be, and many of my friends and acquaintances are under similar circumstances. There’s only so much beer and whiskey a stomach can handle before it gets a little acidic (although I continually go back to testing the limits every now and then). Hence I’ve been quite amused by the band name Ulcerate since they stormed the realm of heavy music with 2009’s Everything is Fire, which was one of my favorite albums of that year. The title track of that album was very impressive (one of my favorite metal songs of recent memory), as well as the rest of it (that album is nasty!).
Ulcerate decide to throw the rulebook out the window to some extent; they convey the slow side of metal, with Neurosis-like sludge covered bass lines and thick metallic riffs. But instead of tribal drumming, they throw in some of the fastest, most precise and intricate drum blasting I’ve heard (Morbid Angel comes to mind). This style is offputting to some, but I like new directions, and Ulcerate pull it off with aplomb. One complaint I’ve heard (from a drummer friend) is that they use triggers on the drums. While I have no idea if this is true or not, the drumming sounds pretty damned amazing… don’t really care if they use triggers or not I must admit. [And, honestly, there are very few bands that don’t trigger these days. Quantizing and triggering is pretty much industry standard for metal records in the modern era – AMG]
The Destroyers of All is dense listening, full of the style that Ulcerate made their trademark in 2009 (they recorded music before then, it just wasn’t congealed into its current deadly form). The album opens with some soundtrack-like abstract sounds, then proceeds to rip off the listener’s head. An early impression I had of the album, which I broadcasted in “tweet” form, was “this album is ripping my brain apart.” Part of the reasoning behind that is that it is so goddamned dissonant and complex. This is not always the mark of a great album, but Ulcerate make the sound their own.
One of my favorite moments on The Destroyers of All takes place during the song “Dead Oceans”, where the drums bissect and clip into the hyper-sustained guitar part, creating a beating effect on the guitars (making it sound like the guitarist is playing much faster than he is). This section shows their genius and attention to detail, leading me to believe they may be part mad scientist. [Not to interject too many times, but this may also be the side-effect of a heavily compressed and dense production job. Many people frown upon having such dense production and it is largely a matter of taste as to whether or not this is good or not. I, however, find the density to be claustrophic and crushing in a most excellent fashion. – AMG]
The Destroyers of All is a pretty challenging album to listen to, as the songs are long and grueling. Listening to the album all the way through is like running a gauntlet, but the superb drumming and unique guitars are interesting enough to keep my attention. I’m not at liberty to say whether or not this album is “better” than their last (which would be a great achievement!) but it serves as a fitting sequel to Everything is Fire… although I don’t think it is officially so.
This is my one criticism: the guitars are constantly ultra sustained and reverbed out (especially on the higher register parts, which often are very modal and extended), which gives a sense of immense depth. It makes me think of clawing at the stars, which is cool, but reigning in that distance would give an even greater sense of depth and creativity. For now though, their blueprint is working quite effectively. That album title might be the most METAL of 2011 (perhaps the one somewhat comedic moment on the recording).