Reviewed: [June 2020]
Released [2020 Debemur Morti Productions]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
A common compliment applied to New Zealand’s Ulcerate is that “they do death metal right.” And it’s hard to argue otherwise. Over five previous albums, the trio’s clamor has become the total package, masterfully blending technicality, brutality, grace, scale and atmosphere with unorthodox melody and a cascading delivery that is all consuming. Not to mention awesome.
Stare Into Death And Be Still follows suit with abandon. A move from the higher-profile Relapse Records to the more boutique French label Debemur Morti Productions has not impacted the band’s sound – or production values – in the slightest. Indeed, Stare Into Death may be the band’s biggest, cleanest sounding album – though it is by no means slick. Instead, it is every bit the titanic, enveloping work one would expect.
From Jamie Saint Merat’s relentless battery and Michael Hoggard’s corrosive, tumultuous guitar to bassist/frontman Paul Kelland’s grinding thrum and attack dog vocals, Ulcerate pushes you into a corner from the get-go with “The Lifeless Advance” and its menacing wall of sound and then pounds away, largely without let up, until things wrap with “Dissolved Order.” Imagine Morbid Angel without all the bullshit and pretense and you’ve got Ulcerate in something of a nutshell.
The band’s challenging, complex compositions are countered by their purposeful and utterly fearsome delivery. Though the eight songs here average better than 7 minutes each, never do they feel bloated and rarely does anything seem to drag, as the intensity is maintained throughout. There is little in the way of soloing or dramatic forays – save for the moody opens to “Visceral Ends” or “Dissolved Order” – as these guys are all business, all of the time.
Indeed, if there’s one nit to pick about Stare Into Death it’s that it leaves so little room to come up for air, or escape the battering. In most cases, that wouldn’t be an issue, but with an hour’s worth of music here, it can make for an exhausting – though unquestionably exhilarating listen.