After five albums, Ulcerate brings a new standard to Death Metal with Stare Into Death And Be Still, a reverent awakening of crushing thunder.
From New Zealand, Ulcerate is Paul Kelland (vocals, bass), Michael Hoggard (guitar), and Jamie Saint Merat (percussion). The band has been around for about twenty years (initially known as Bloodwreath), and the current lineup has been in place for more than a decade. The confidence their experience gives them permeates the seven- and eight-minute songs of the new album. The music is never rushed and is always sure-footed.
Stare Into Death And Be Still has a different feeling to it than Shrines of Paralysis (2016), or even Vermis (2013). It is more reflective, and its thematic approach veers into an examination of witnessed human reactions to death. That manner of emotion permeates the atmosphere of the songs throughout the entire set.
Beginning at the end, “Dissolved Orders” seems to have a message for us in this time of isolation and viral fear: “No halting the flood’s advance / Let it wash over / No halting the flood’s advance / See it through to the end.” It is probably just a coincidence since this album was recorded late in 2019, but it does make you think. And the music that goes along with these lyrics is tectonically somber, funereal on the ninety second lead in, then deadly serious, fierce. There is a break at the apex four minutes before the end, but it does not give respite. The story continues and it is the story of a struggle, the music shows; an epic, defining menace that must be overcome. How did we get here? That part of the tale was posed and told at the beginning with “The Lifeless Advance,” “Exhale The Ash,” and the title track itself. Ulcerate have created a complete arc that is not so much about the story and meaning of life but is instead more about the way we are affected by and way we react to death, especially as it plays out right in front of our eyes. This perspective is specific and unique. The musical compositions are expertly crafted to express these views and observations in a way that no other band has. You experience this music as you listen to it and it requires your attention.
The full album drops next week on April 24, 2020 through Debemur Morti, and of course Bandcamp, Spotify, and the like. Stare Into Death And Be Still is one of my favorite albums of the year so far. Highly recommended.