Ulcerate's 'Stare into Death and Be Still' Is a Pensive Evolution of Their Tech Death Sound

Ulcerate's 'Stare into Death and Be Still' Is a Pensive Evolution of Their Tech Death Sound
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Ulcerate are one of those technical death metal bands that inspire debates about whether or not they're a technical death metal band. The Auckland, New Zealand, trio eschew genre clichés for cathartic big-brain riffs in the vein of Gorguts and Deathspell Omega. Experiencing their music at their best is like hearing a lecture on Nietzsche while playing Dark Souls on drugs. For many, their first taste of that was the band's 2009 sophomore album, Everything Is Fire, unmatched in their discography until 2016's Shrines of Paralysis.

Stare into Death and Be Still is not only the latest album from the band, but also an ideal follow up to Shrines. Rather than trying to match the aggression that made its predecessor so powerful, Ulcerate dial it back on Stare, resulting in an album that's more melodic, melancholic and mature. If Shrines was a bomb going off, then Stare is the ashen aftermath, adding shades of black metal and sludgy post-metal to the band's palette of tech death. You hear it right from the start in the grating guitars and grim melodies of album opener "The Lifeless Advance." "Exhale Ash" and "Drawn into the Next Void" carry on that blackened sound, but there's also an epic side to this album, with sullen head boppers like "Inversion" and the title track.

There are several clean sections that help develop the album's ambience as well, but it's Paul Kelland's anguished growls that really drive it home. This album is still tech death at heart, however, and drummer Jamie Saint Marent ensures you don't forget it. The drums on Stare are consistently spectacular, whether it's the groovy double bass work in "Visceral Ends" or the syncopated cymbals in the clean intro of "Dissolved Orders." While the melodic instruments may venture into moodier territory on this album, the drums keep it brutal and add their aggression to the composition. The only time the album really lags is "There Is No Horizon," which feels redundant and could have been trimmed away for a sleeker runtime.

Stare is a more pensive work than Ulcerate's previous albums, exploring a new side of an already adventurous band. Its big moments are more subtle than the immediate payoff of Everything Is Fire, and it demands repeat listens to fully appreciate it. (Debemur Morti)