Everything Is Fire

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New Zealand's pretty small, so it's no surprise that its metal scene is proportionately intimate. That being said, Ulcerate are competitive with the best bands from anywhere on the globe. Viva globalism! Their music combines the brutal, downtuned riffing of traditional death metal (think Immolation or Morbid Angel) with the dissonance and shifting time signatures of Gorguts and the slow, atmospheric passages reminiscent of Isis. None of the eight songs are less than five minutes long, and the album-closing title track nearly hits the eight-minute mark. The track titles, for the most part, tell a story not of gore but of fatalism and disillusion ("We Are Nil," "Withered and Obsolete," "Soullessness Embraced"). Bassist/vocalist Paul Kelland declaims in a guttural roar that's more subtle than the usual monster noises, and his rhythm section partner, drummer Jamie Saint Merat, combines the percussive intricacy of Isis with the ability to blast the listener through the wall on a tidal wave of double kick drums. Meanwhile, Michael Hoggard and Oliver Goater sculpt one intricate scaffold of jagged, art-metal guitar after another, avoiding whammy bar excess (and, indeed, traditional solos) in favor of almost post-punk discipline. Their use of repetition seems to owe as much to Shellac as to Suffocation, and their ability to move the music forward at what seems like a crushingly slow pace while in fact playing quite fast is hypnotic. This is a seriously impressive album by a band that deserves an audience far beyond their tiny homeland.

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