ReviewsUlcerate - Cutting the Throat of God (Debemur Morti Productions)

Ulcerate – Cutting the Throat of God (Debemur Morti Productions)

True innovators are a rare breed. They take what’s been created before, and produce a new form of which nobody else expected. This seldom attributed description doubtlessly applies to death metal stalwarts Ulcerate. Since their full-length debut Of Fracture and Failure, the New Zealand trio changed death for the better. Bands like Gorguts were arguably the earliest to bring immense discordance to the style, with Ulcerate representing a remarkable evolution of those ideas. Infusing cloudy, unusual rhythmic patterns and thick dissonance in such a distinctively profound manner was a shock to the system that was direly needed at the right time. Six albums later, Ulcerate now sit amongst the heaviest hitters in metal, and unsurprisingly, have continued to transform as they moved forward. Said next step is album number seven in the formation of Cutting the Throat of God.

Most recent predecessor Stare into Death and Be Still showcased a shift towards the atmospheric, while maintaining their well established disharmonics. Cutting the Throat of God furthers this direction with an album overflowing with subtlety and finite detail. These Kiwis continue to be incredibly difficult to pin down; a theme that serves their vision well. “To Flow Through Ashen Hearts” contorts unpredictably, throwing sudden time changes and mind-bending guitar passages that offer a twisted sense of foreboding. Ulcerate are masters of aural uneasiness, and Cutting the Throat of God may result in a few frightened glances over the shoulder.

Disturbing melodies have become a hallmark of Ulcerate, and no track epitomizes this trait here more than “The Dawn is Hollow.” A delightfully menacing romp, we’re offered multitudes of weighty moments accentuated by horrifying guitar leads that rattle around deviously, almost playing games with one’s mind. “Further Opening the Wounds” embraces the band’s more directly punishing mask, though still clenching tightly to their off-kilter aura. Throughout are passages of clean guitars that set an ominous mood – “Undying as an Apparition” stands out especially – in addition to entries like “To See Death Just Once” that provide blistering pace intertwined with the band’s contorted songwriting approach.

Some detractors over the years claim that a bit of their heavier edge has been eschewed for more strangeness. While true that Cutting the Throat of God isn’t as directly in your face as, say, their Everything is Fire or Vermis eras – it’s also decidedly more unconventional and expansive. Ulcerate still contains as imposing a level of ferocity as they ever have, but also have revolutionized their sonic profile to be even more distinctive. Nobody really knows where they’re going to go next – other than the band themselves, of course – and that principle brings this ear an abundance of (sinister) joy.

Speaking of the individuals who form this collective, their performances on this work ring of technical proficiency and thoughtful composition. Drummer Jamie Saint Merat continues to dazzle with his mammoth-sized percussive output, continuing to be the pulsating heart of Ulcerate. Guitarist Michael Hoggard bends and plucks his strings in ways that others can’t with an innate feel for the caustic that cannot be taught, in what may stand as one of his most crucial recordings. Bassist/vocalist Paul Kelland provides a thundering low end to go along with his deep, cavernous growls that have become synonymous with the band’s trepidatious and crushing vision of death metal. Top marks all around.

Truly every album Ulcerate has concocted possesses an identity unto itself. This latest foray is a juggernaut of dizzying creative impetus; truly maniacal in the most divine of ways. Make no mistake; as any fan of Ulcerate can attest to, the proper amount of time and patience is required to gain the most from the seemingly infinite tension-filled layers within. Doing so is of course more than worth the winding journey. Cutting the Throat of God has a dreary beauty buried deep within its recesses, whilst penetrating the psyche of anyone who fully embraces this profoundly complex record.

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9.5 / 10