Critics seem to adore ULCERATE. Thus far I've paid little attention to the New Zealand band's albums. Having lined up "The Destroyers Of All" for review, I decided I'd give it multiple attentive listens and make a determination of the act's worth to the world of death metal. And multiple listens is what it took since the first couple left me unmoved. The very first impressions had me thinking "The Destroyers Of All" sounded like a more atmospheric, fluid, and "out there" version of IMMOLATION… well, kind of anyway. It's that "kind of" part that should be the red flag for any discerning listeners, as it is indicates that layers exist beneath the surface that may tell a more complete story.
Once the ball gets rolling you'll listen in rapt attention and find it difficult to switch gears to a more traditional strain of death metal. The arrangements expand and contract, but hold together in a cohesive sense. A creative approach to guitar that is cold and incendiary at once relies less on conventional ideas of "riffs" and more on utilizing the instrument to emit waves of dark human emotion. It's all in the ebbs, the flows, and sounds created; all that clangor with varying levels of dissonance with purpose. "The Destroyers Of All" is perhaps best summarized by a single line from the title track: "Cold blooded and callous, it does not grieve". Accents seem to morph into integral arrangement segments at will and recede back into subtler forms. Drums keep time, but do just as much to punch and pull against the bass and guitarist as bassist Paul Kelland's ungodly, cavernous vocal treatment works to sink the whole thing even deeper.
"The Destroyers Of All" is also one of those steady exercises in listener envelopment, even as aggressive opener "Burning Skies" swarms and overtakes. "Dead Oceans", "Cold Becoming", and "Beneath" are anything but run of the mill, but it is the last three lengthy songs — "The Hollow Idols", "Omens", and the title track — where the crush of the tonnage involved leaves no chance for life. Like when that sore, reddened area about which you've been bitching swells to shocking proportions and becomes infected, those 25 minutes equate to a twisted metaphorical amalgam of light headedness, excruciating pain, and overwhelming fear. The songs are written to jolt just when things approach calm, such as when the relative breeziness of "Omen" (a real epic bastard) erupts in violence at the 3:30 mark or the way that the title track seems to become a vortex of metal shavings and bits of broken glass. The lyrics fit so well to the music too. Take this line from "The Hollow Idols" for example: "The marred hands of our leper idols wring us of all hope". Deep as it is dark for sure.
The most erudite of our tribe might refer to "The Destroyers Of All" as some seriously heavy shit on several levels. If you've ever viewed images of burned out areas of Detroit, then consider "The Destroyers Of All" for your next trip there; the soundtrack is so frighteningly fitting as to be almost unreal, especially coming from a trio of New Zealanders. Better yet, pick up a copy of the Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre photographic art book "The Ruins of Detroit" and page through it as this album plays at full volume. By that point you'll experience the metal as both a taste and a smell. Suffocating, tormenting, limitless…