Reviewed: [June 2021]
Released [2021 Nuclear Blast Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Alluvial has morphed from something of a solo project by ex-The Faceless/Black Crown Initiate guitarist Wes Hauch into an extreme metal super group that has brought together current The Merciless Concept/former Suffocation touring vocalist Kevin Muller, Entheos touring bassist Tim Walker and Aegaeon drummer Matt Paulazzo who has toured with a slew of other acts. Now a proper band, their new second album marks an aesthetic and stylistic departure from the all-instrumental 2017 debut The Deep Longing For Annihilation.
Annihilation was essentially Hauch and second guitarist Keith Merrow dueling it out over the flailing drums of Ne Obliviscaris’ Dan Presland. And as such, it ended up being a showcase of musicianship more so than song craft, as instrumental albums tend to be, even though the material written with vocals in mind.
While still displaying a degree of technical razzle-dazzle – especially on the lithe instrumental jam “Sugar Paper,” with Hauch and Walking trading licks this time – Sarcoma is different beast altogether. It is certainly more song-oriented, with imposing melodies, thundering hooks/breakdowns and Muller’s roaring vocals given plenty of room to operate around often elastic arrangements and Hauch’s spry guitar work.
Alluvial here offer something closer to the band Hauch has played with, generously mixing together brutality and dexterity and flavoring it with melodic or dramatic flourishes so that no matter how heavy things get there is a certain element of catchiness. And it is concussively heavy much of the time, with a bruising mix that maximizes pretty much everything. So if bombast is your thing, look no further.
Yet even with Muller’s burly vocals topping it all off, tracks like the opener “Ulysses” and the crunching “Thy Underling” are buoyed by grand choruses, subtle clean vocals and bits of flighty, djenty whimsy. The title track marries Meshuggah-like poly-rhythmic eccentricity with more typical metal structure, as does “Exponent” but with some added keening industrial riffs. Only “The Putrid Sunrise” charts a prototypical death metal path, with screamier/guttural vocals tossed in and a particular bracing tempo.
“40 Stories” and “Sleepers Become Giants” are the two true outliers here – unless you also count the creepy electronic/robotic segue “Zero.” “40 Stories” contrasts ethereal, almost jazzy verses and soaring choruses with dueling cleans/growls, a blast-beaty lead break and brief jarring sprints. “Sleepers” blends post-metal melodrama with heaving, elephant march tempos to provide some of an already monumental album’s heaviest moments.
Sarcoma can take a few listens to fully uncoil, as the pacing – though often turbulent – is somewhat deliberate and truly furious moments are few. But it grows more resonant and rewarding each time out. Though its sonic flavors are familiar, their unconventional presentation transforms into something unique and occasionally transcendent.