New Zealand may be more known for hobbits and sheep than anything musical related but a glance below the surface of this green and pleasant land can lead to some nasty discoveries. One such hidden treasure is Auckland three-piece Ulcerate, who have been horrifying and confusing listeners in equal measure ever since 2003 with their terrifyingly abrasive riffs and avant-garde song structures. The band are set to continue this spread of aural madness with new album “Vermis”, their first for the mighty Relapse Records.
The sense of unease that emanates from the speakers immediately after hitting play on first track ‘Odium’ sets the scene for what’s to come. Dissonant notes ebb and flow, vocals roar somewhere in the distance, the sense of rhythm seems badly off-kilter. However, this is a mere taster for the flurry of discordant riffs and barrage of percussion that comprise the title track. This is death metal made by the truly damned; the closest comparisons one can make is to the nightmarish wall of noise of Portal, although the guitar lines here flow over you in a searing wave, rather than the skittish sawing of the aforementioned Australians.
Providing a track-by-track breakdown of “Vermis” is a damn near impossible task and one I won’t even attempt to make. The music, if you can truly call it that, is piped in from some hideous alternative dimension, a blackened kaleidoscope of skewered angles and boiling pits of black tar. Few bands are brave enough to peek into this hellish miasma of chaos and dissonance, and those that do barely make it out alive. Gorguts, with their seminal 1998 release “Obscura” captured a similar form of madness and it took them till this year to recover. “Vermis” taps into a similar vein of seething, angular riffs, scatter-gun percussion and bizarre time signatures and all we can do is sit back, try to absorb the cataclysmic fury and try not to go insane.
The unnerving melodies that sometimes appear on Deathspell Omega records are also present on “Vermis”, brief snatches of corpse-light on an otherwise dismal palette of vicious blacks and soulless greys, but for the most part, it’s a staggeringly dense and oppressive listen, an endurance test by any standards. Like being trapped on the Event Horizon, fending off attacks from the maddened, gibbering crew whilst hurtling into some ancient, Lovecraftian realm of immense evil. A journey few will be willing to undertake, but for those that do, the rewards are great.