Ulcerate: Shrines Of Paralysis (Relapse Records)
Ulcerate are one of those bands that I have heard nothing but universal praise for but for some reason I have just never got round to checking them out. Now is the time to remedy this with the release of their fifth album Shrines Of Paralysis. Ulcerate play a unique variant of technical death metal. Unlike the deluge of masturbatory guitar widdling that plagues most technical death metal bands today Ulcerate's focus is on atmosphere kind of sounding like a cross between Gorguts and Neurosis.
From the moment you hit play you are plunged headfirst into a swirling abyss of chaos and bombarded by a whirlwind of dissonant guitar riffs and disgustingly guttural vocals all held together by some incredibly complex drumming. There are moments where the eye of the storm passes over and the music takes a calm yet atmospheric turn which allow you to take a breath before the storm whips you back up and throws you back into the pandemonium. It is difficult to pick any stand out tracks from the album as Shrines Of Paralysis works better when listened to as an entire album instead of cherry picking certain tracks.
The album flows so perfectly that at times I did not even know the track had changed. It can be an endurance test to listen to the nearly hour long album in one sitting though. This is not music for the faint of heart or mind. Shrines Of Paralysis is a masterclass in modern death metal and the only minor criticisms I have would be is that the length of the album is slightly excessive and could be reduced a small amount and it can be a bit repetitive throughout but overall this is essential listening for any fans of extreme metal. I will definitely be checking out the Ulcerate back catalogue. 8/10
The Von Deer Skulls: The Rest Is Silence (Wraith Productions)
The Von Deer Skulls are a French based band who play an interesting mix of doom metal with prog and post-rock influences and some avant-garde leanings. It's a sometimes overwhelming listen but the band just about pull it off on their latest release The Rest Is Silence. Instruments such as bow and bagpipe are combined with guitars, bass and drums to create a twisting maze of doom-laden riffs and atmospheric post-rock passages whilst the heavily accented vocals of frontman Peter range from throaty spoken word passages, gravelly cleans to savage screams.
Some songs have a very psychedelic feel to them albeit drowned in darkness with the highlights include the more riff-driven Twilight Of Innocence and Tabula Rasa. This is an enjoyable if rather disjointed album. There is so much going on throughout that it is difficult to consume it all in one sitting but fans of experimental metal should find much to love about this album. 7/10
Skyliner: Condition Black (Limb Music)
Skyliner are a Florida-based progressive power metal band and Condition Black is their second album. Progressive power metal is a genre awash with a million Dream Theater soundalike clones which is where Condition Black is pleasing as it's influences seem to come more from the thrash influenced U.S. power metal scene and also from some modern day technical death metal bands. It's a refreshing change but unfortunately what lets this album down is the distinctly average songwriting.
There is much fat that could be trimmed from this album with way too many pointless instrumental interludes and a lot of aimless meandering on some of the lengthier songs. The songs that really work on here are the shorter more direct ones such as the impressive title track and my personal highlight the energetic Starseeker. Performance wise frontman and guitarist Jason Becker is the standout with his nicely varied vocals ranging from a mid to high range very reminiscent of Warrel Dane to death metal growls which thankfully are not overused as they do not really fit in with the music. Condition Black is not a bad album by any means but with a reduced running time and more focused songwriting this could have been brilliant. 6/10