In terms of musical genre categorization, death metal has always stood to form a wider umbrella over a broader pantheon of bands than the average music (or metal) fan would give credit for. Growl into a microphone something inaudible about zombies or human entrails, slap down some blast beats, some tremolo picking, and maybe even the occasional bass drop and you’ve got your self some death metal, right? Hardly. The genre has been ever expanding and experimenting since it’s earliest inception and there are still bands today that take the genre and bend and twist it to their will while still remaining “true” to their death metal roots, almost like a tree spending hundreds of years bending towards sunlight in a dense forest. At the top of that proverbial tree currently sits New Zealand’s Ulcerate.
Terms like ‘atmosphere’ often get bandied about when talking about metal bands. Every single type of music sets up a certain atmosphere, no? Some bands are just a little more adept at it than others. Certain artists simply want to pull from deeper recesses of the human psyche than their contemporaries. There’s nothing right or wrong with either approach to writing music in general but when you are trying to write music that is equal parts haunting and melodic vs. powerful and brutal then you better damn well make sure that you are creating the right atmosphere or what you wind up creating is something that will sound fragmented and forced. Ulcerate’s Relapse debut, Vermis, is anything but fragmented or forced. On the contrary, this is one of the most focused and accomplished metal records you’re going to hear in 2013. It’s a powerful and relentless record for sure. But it’s also an album that has a seething darkness to it that’s not unlike some of the atmospheric elements that a band like Neurosis would attempt.
While it may benefit us now to stray from applying labels like “best” to this album, one listen straight through is going to tell you that Vermis is destined for a whole bunch of year-end lists…and rightfully so. It’s not a stretch to already put this album in the same hemisphere as some of the cult classics of the genre – Obscura by Gorguts for example or None So Vile by Cryptopsy. This album at least shares the common thread of making music that’s at times both breathtaking in its technicality and unsettling in its delivery. To say that this one might go over the heads of some listeners would not be an insult. Much like their Canadian brothers-in-arms this album stands to potentially forge new paths come hell or high water.
Thanks to Relapse you can check out two tracks off the new album for free over at the Ulcerate Bandcamp page. Vermis hits the streets here in the US on September 17.