Ulcerate – Stare into Death and Be Still (Debemur Morti Productions)

Sunday, 19th April 2020
Rating: 9/10

If there’s one name that’s increasingly become synonymous with dissonance and atmosphere in death metal, Ulcerate can lay claim to it. Over the last decade, their releases have resulted in a clashing of forces in a way that not many other bands can achieve. There’s frantic and complex riffing structures, but there’s also an atmospheric wave that cuts in at points that feels gloomy and occasionally psychedelic. Stare into Death and Be Still champions the band’s ongoing philosophy and gives it the finest polish to date.

Much of the time, Stare into Death and Be Still feels like movement between yin and yang. In this case, the band’s dissonant aggression and moments of chilling atmosphere make up the two sides. But they aren’t in competition with each other. Instead, one plays off of the other in order to achieve maximum impact within the listener. For all of the explosive turmoil on “There is No Horizon,” there’s also an almost meditative break in the middle of the track, which offers a slow build-up back into madness in the track’s second half. The calm between the storms, if you will. “Dissolved Orders” has one of the album’s strongest emotional openings, with introspective and depressive notes cascading through the speakers, which naturally builds into the band’s mountainous whirlwind over the course of the first 2-minutes. It all feels organic in tone, there’s never a jarring or odd transition – Ulcerate has really mastered the art of flow. This is aided by an increased attention to melody, even at the band’s most abrasive as well as dipping further into some doomier waters (see “Visceral Ends”). While it isn’t enough to make Ulcerate a riff-based act (though you can certainly dig and find some real winners), they don’t need to be, and what the listener will ultimately remember is the staggering emotions that built up while listening.

Stare into Death and Be Still may in fact be Ulcerate’s strongest release to date. They’ve achieved an incredible level of balance, and the attention to detail creates a series of moments throughout the album that are nothing less than awe-inspiring. They’ve all but perfected a way to make their oppressive, dissonant sound into something that has just the right amount of comfort and resolution – even if the atmosphere is as if the listener was about to take their first step into a chilling, unknown void below.

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