December 4, 2013 | , | 4.25

Ulcerate, Vermis

Ulcerate: Vermis

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “I’m not a smart man… but I know what love [metal] is.” Well, Forest.. you can take your preconceived notion of metal and beat it mercilessly with a rusty, well used crowbar. The death metal on Ulcerate’s latest full-length, Vermis, is unlike anything else you’ve heard in a long while. The music here is violent, grating and more dense than the useless brain matter between Mr. Gump’s ears.

Ulcerate have masterfully tamed a combination of technical death metal explosions and churning old school mayhem with this, their fourth full-length. Amongst the layered and dense churning mass are moments of stop and go ferocity that will have craniums bruised and vertebrae shattered. The guys just seem to have found that happy medium between glacial riffage and frenzied blasts — they deliver both, often times simultaneously, without losing any momentum that they’ve spent the time to build.

With the instrumental-like album opener and interlude “Fall to Opprobrium” aside, each track here weighs in at an average of of nearly seven minutes in length. The band has spent their time crafting each note to hit at the right time, each eruption to burst through your speakers at the just the right time and each moment of peaceful clarity to sooth all the while maintaining an unrelenting forward progression that’s fueled by drummer Jamie Saint Merat and bassist/vocalist Paul Kelland. Add in Michael Hoggard’s heaving and twisted guitar work and you have yourself an easy contender for any “best of” list at the end of the year.

After the churning, atmospheric album intro, the title track hits forcefully with some seriously heavy material. Thick, monolithic guitars and barbaric, yet fluid drum work fill the air right from the start as the guttural vocals do more to accentuate the music than dominate it. There’s a great deal of technical mastery evident here, but it’s not thrown in your face — it’s smoothly presented and continuously pushes your forward. If I were to have one complaint about this song (or any other on the album truth be told) it’s that the vocals and music sometimes feel to be on two different plains, doing their own thing without much communication between the two.

“Clutching Revulsion” highlights the band’s ability to not only blast frantically, but also give into the ebb and flow with slow-burning moments that present a solid balance to the fury the album is full with. As the longest track “Weight of Emptiness” not only claims that title, but also presents a more morose air as this New Zealand troupe slowly burn their way through material that evokes feelings of despair and melancholy. The change is not abrupt, but it’s enough for you to take notice and the band does well with moments like these in an effort to keep the listeners’ heads just above the surface of their churning, malevolent sludge.

The raw destruction continues with the bruising “Confronting Entropy.” This song marches forward relentlessly, chewing up earth as it progresses. Album closer, “Await Rescission” is another monster of a song that eats up all in its path with little effort — all the while throwing off-kilter guitars and rapidly shifting at your skull with a direct, malevolent purpose.

Vermis is a standout album of 2013. It’s dense, violent, emotional and well performed. I haven’t heard an amalgam of technical death, sludge and an overall rawness like this in quite some time. Ulcerate are in route to becoming one of those bands from whom we will continue to expect big things.