Sputtering from the depths of the sepulcher, Paul Kelland, Michael Hoggard and Jamie St. Merat are Ulcerate. This New Zealand based Death Metal trio bring from the grave their sixth studio album Stare Into Death and Be Still (released April 24th, 2020). Featuring Kelland's vocals, Hoggard's guitar and St. Merat's percussions, Stare Into Death and Be Still is their portrait of the concept of "death reverence".
The slow gradual march to the tomb begins with The Lifeless Advance, an introductory exposition to the themes presented in Stare Into Death and Be Still preceding Ulcerate's newest release with a mid-tempo chokehold of grim suffocation flying the banners of the essence of the experience to be consumed. Highlighting the miasmic vocals accompanied by the chugging onslaught of echoing harmonies and relentless percussive force, the opening track acts as a harbinger of the journey to come.
As the scene is set and the theme scrapes through, the smokes of conflict descend upon the narrative so musically displayed in Stare Into Death and Be Still. As every molecule of despair settles in, Exhale The Ash explodes from Kellands lungs in a smothering smoke. The listener is begged to repent, as finality is waved within. The buoyant and crisp drums of St. Merat batter the landscape with a pestilence of high volume drum breaks with crashes like mortars against the pastoral hills, settling in a cloud of dust.
The title track of Stare Into Death and Be Still gets down to business once the fields of life are mired by despair. Stare Into Death and Be Still confronts the listener with the bleak eternity by which they are doomed to be enveloped.
"Transpire, from order to chaos, the messiah of alienation, deliver us these ends we have dreamt," a lyric preceding the break of the most miserable melodic progression, cries into your chest the spirit of defeat in the plea of this conceptual cantor of demise. This tracks play of tempos from vivacity to burial are accentuated by Kelland's hopeless and cataclysmic gutteral wails. Wrapping you in the black blanket of damnation, this harmonious dirge lugs you through the dirt. The musicianship of Ulcerate shines in the narrative nature of the composition of this piece. Representing the dying nature of the flesh in an E flat minor melody, which will continue to ring as the descent pushes onward.
There Is No Horizon presents before you the bleak landscape overlooking broken furniture and shattered walls. A brief melodic prelude stares in disbelief as reality crushes you once more. Discovering the lifelessness of the loved one sputters in a palpitating percussive display by St. Merat as the heartbreak settles. A plea for revival echoes the E flat Minor motif as Hoggard writes across your ribcage the mire which will consecrate your being. The repeating respite serving as a glaring reminder of the inevitability of death, and scrapes rhythmically through your fainting coil.
Shifting tempos and melodic progression, Inversion presents us with the literal flip-side of the destruction of mortality. A dirge of awakening and the cross between worlds, the harmonic grooves of trudging through styx paint a portrait of the spirit as it descends into oblivion. The melodic reprise to signify the arrival to the spiritual realm presents itself in a contrasting B flat minor chorale. A ringing jump to an astral vastness, you are pulled into a spiraling starscape of revelation, Solidifying the motifs to echo throughout the journey of death, Ulcerate speaks through its compositions using the elements of key and scale to discern the position between the death of the body and death of the spirit.
Visceral Ends reunites with the decaying body, postmortem. The theme of the body resounds back to the previously presented bleak landscapes.This call back to the mortal cage shows a miasmic explosion of life force sucked into a vacuum of temporality with sputtering kicks from the percussions while the melodic riffs of the guitar write off the body as it reaches its last decay. A portrait of a corpse, lying lifeless on the decimated remains of its vivaciousness, is consumed by the earth in a grave envelopment by dirt and maggots.
We are then returned to the descent of the spirit on its journey in Drawn Into The Next Void. The everlasting wastelands of chaos are signified in the unforgivable echoes of the spiritual motif. An interlude of solace and harmony sleeps in the center of this track before dragging us back into the despair of destruction. The journey twists and warps as astral forces distort our memories, becoming one in a legion of nothingness. The motif of the spirit rings in the guitars of Hoggard reach and stretch towards the portal and float through nihil as the spirit is the entity which spirals in repeat for eternity.
Stare Into Death and Be Still concludes with Dissolved Orders, as we return to the buried corpse in the reprise of the motif of the body. Settling the desparity between the spirit and the corpse, the spirits motif meets with the melodies of the body. A chugging consumption joins the theme and retrofies the journey into one completed whole. The harmony and melody meet in a counterpointed end. Resolving in the demise of the resounding themes presented by Ulcerate. Hitting the nail right into the coffin, this album came forward with a clear and concise vision to present to the listener the bleak eternity of death in a conceptual collection of musicality and profession. The mastery of Kendall, Hoggard and St. Merat of the doom and despair brought forward in Stare Into Death and Be Still is not only readily apparent but brilliantly executed in an equally upsetting and calming narrative tale which holds dear relevance in a topical period of uncertainty, loss and hopelessness.