Ulcerate "Shrines Of Paralysis"

It is hard to quite put into words the monstrous fury of Ulcerate.  The difficulty largely lies in the fact that for every bludgeoning riff, hammer blow drum hit or swirling wall of noise that the New Zealanders strike the listener with, there's a remarkable amount of deftness and skill in the calculations they invoke to deliver their assault.

There were times when I listened to "Vermis" (the predecessor to "Shrines..." for the uneducated reader) and that precision was off, albeit very minutely.  The vocals for example on the bands 2013 opus felt some how lost in the mix and at times there was a sense of not actually being aware whether they had begun or not.  They are some of course who thought this a clever use of the mixing desk to create that folly deliberately, but for me the storm of Ulcerate's sound needed that extra bit of definition vocally to turn a great album into an absolute classic.

Thankfully, here on the band's fifth full length offering, the vocals are prominent and whether you deem them visceral or based on intellect they are very much a centre piece of "Shrines Of Paralysis".  Yeah, there's occasion when they do go under the churn of riffs, drums and bass but thankfully these are rare and do not distract.

As well as Paul Kelland's lyrical exploits being a point of particular note, the listener cannot miss the frankly fucking amazing performance of Jamie Saint Merat on the drums.  They are powerful, punishing and utterly fucking relentless.  The clever bit being that every other instrument is allowed to breath around them without any one detracting from the other.  In a tornado of sound like the brand that Ulcerate stir up to say you can pick out the bass is testimony to their technical excellence at not just performance but at actual songwriting also.

Hoggard's riffs are of course merciless too. They are like being stabbed by a surgeon, with each slash designed to incapacitate whilst also make you nod in complete appreciation.  There's geologists probably queueing up to take abrasivity tests on Ulcerate's riffs and they know the scores will be off the motherfucking chart.

Things get off to an explosive start with opening track "Abrogation" as it bursts out of the speakers like a soul of hell clawing for freedom from the burning fury of Hades itself.  As "Yield To Naught" continues in much the same vein it is here I first start to note the clever use of melodic components of the tracks.  These are there most of the time but instead of being drowned out by the thunderous roar of the band in full throttle, they are more marshalled by the riffs and percussion as if being constantly reminded of their place even though they are key still amongst all that is going on.  Throughout the pulverising violence of the bodily harm inflicted you are never far from an atonal stab or dissonant tranquility as they bob atop the tide of the endless churn.

To have all that going on must require an almost military precision as never does anything seem confused or chaotic.  Even at their most furious Ulcerate show clarity of structure and planning.  The title track with its progressive build and eventual unleashing of all living fury proves this point perfectly.

One thing that is obvious throughout is the layering of the experience.  "Extinguished Light" is like unwrapping a gift and finding exploding candy in each layer, each variety giving a different flavour and texture experience to the last.  

To sum up "Shrines Of Paralysis", it is like an in depth documentary on the mechanics of Technical DM.  As well as exploring the intense fury of emotions involved, it takes opportunity to delve into the skillset required, demonstrating along the way a work of real dark art done by true masters of the genre. 

Last time Ulcerate and Gorguts released an album in the same year was 2013 and they both blew me the fuck away, with "Colored Sands" edging "Vermis".  In 2016 they've reversed it for me.  "Shrines Of Paralysis" is nowhere near as dense as "Pleiade's Dust" in content and style but it takes the raw emotion of the genre and hones it into an explosive, purposeful and memorable DM experience.


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