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Album Review: ULCERATE Cutting The Throat Of God


As they approach two-and-a-half decades as a band, Ulcerate has developed into a rare case where a death metal band can include elements of multiple strains of the genre without getting bogged down in the minutia. Abstract, yet riffy… melodic, yet dissonant… Ulcerate treads the line between death metal’s experimental frontier, and its savage foundations.

With a title as anti-theistic as Cutting the Throat of God, a turn for black metal. But again, blackened death metal is just another shade of the genre these guys seem intent on traversing in its entirety with their music. This album comes jam-packed with all manner of aural wickedness, brutality, and technicality founded on atmospheric depth.

Ironically, the 7-minute “To Flow Through Ashen Hearts” is the shortest track on this album. Ulcerate’s approach remains dense both in concept and execution, as a multifaceted guitar lead directs the song from delicate meditations to a cavalcade of bombastic chord changes and beat switches. It comes off like the newer Katatonia albums with extreme vocals, as the riffs glide so effortlessly alongside the drums from tremolo flourishes to gnarled chugs.

This is a rare example where the jazz comparison makes sense for drummer Jamie Saint Merat. He manages to bring genuinely spontaneous rhythmic interplay to his performances, which helps a track like “The Dawn is Hollow” wind its way through a myriad of unique chord voicings and chilling melodicism. While certainly challenging, rafts of memorable heaviness remain intact to quench the thirst to headbang.

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Comparisons to Tool might not be so outlandish, considering how immersive and transient Ulcerate can become within a progressive structure. It’s just as easy to get lost in the sonic mazes of “Further Opening the Wounds,” as it is to obsess over every drum fill or guitar lick. It’s also here where the album’s black metal element rears its head, with frigid minor-key refrains stabbing through the jagged intensity.

For all Merat’s off-kilter grooves, and guitarist Michael Hoggard’s mad-scientist approach to riff writing, it ends up coming off more like a bizarro take on Dissection-style blackened death metal. The eeriness within the initial crescendo of “Transfiguration In and Out of Worlds,” while palpable, also carries a constant drive to keep the listener guessing. Rhythmic syncopations and acrobatic fretwork flow naturally from the band’s expression, meaning the songs don’t fall into the trap of sacrificing taste for showmanship.

Surely, Ulcerate could write 9 minutes of shredding wankery, but their MO has always been to build a world with sound. The term “post-death metal” has yet to trend, but that’s the real magic behind cuts like “To See Death Just Once.” Perhaps this comes from the black metal leaning, but these guys use blistering speed and discordant mayhem the way a band like Isis uses reverb swells. Attention to dynamics is certainly important, but also cohesive modulations and melodic lines worth repeating. The 9-and-a-half minute mammoth “Undying as an Apparition” reaches the threshold of Ulcerate’s approach. Whether they go for the jugular or weave tapestries of spooky murk, they always find their way to cathartic arrival points. Complex, yet transfixing, few bands have achieved a balance like this.

As the album closes with its title track, Ulcerate reaches some of their most accessible songwriting to date. No, bassist and vocalist Paul Kelland isn’t singing harmonies. But it’s hard to deny the more elating chord voicings that find their way out of the never-ending whirlpool of shrill tremolo lines and unpredictable drumming. The fact of the matter is, that incorporating melody into a sound with this much depth doesn’t have to take away from the extremity or the darkness. Indeed, the amount of ideas presented on Cutting The Throat of God shouldn’t result in an atmospheric experience, but that’s what truly elevates this album above most weird death metal bands.

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