The Destroyers Of All sent seismic waves through the technical death scene with its release early this January. I had this shit preordered when it was announced, and it's no wonder that it is one of my favorites this year. However I feel like my love for Everything Is Fire is so great that I compared The Destroyers Of All to it a bit much.
A worthy sequel to what in my opinion is the epitome of the technical death metal genre, Ulcerate have become a bit more subtle with their technicality and focused more on creating subtle atmosphere. This atmosphere bears none of the crushing, gravitic similarities to Everything Is Fire, and is instead more focused on the spacier aspects that Everything Is Fire explored in moderation.
And this atmosphere works wonders. Although subtle, it allows Ulcerate's numerous technical nuances to shine through the music clearly. Everything from ghost notes and looped (layered) riffs to those glorious tremolo picking crescendos that Ulcerate is notorious for is present on The Destroyers Of All. Rhythmically speaking, the album is brilliant - although a bit less so than it's predecessor which emphasized a bit more improvisation. Here you have drummer and songwriter Jamie St. Merat playing some very technical, very jazz influenced beats, with Paul Kelland's organic basslines setting the backdrop for the sound of the apocalypse. There's also the appropriate amount of time signature changes that keep the music feeling fresh, with a degree of unpredictability. Something I noticed (and it's somewhat of a minor complaint), is that the production isn't nearly as strong on this album. The bass doesn't crush your skull and the drumming doesn't whirl you into the black hole of unpredictability that it did on Everything Is Fire. This is (almost guaranteed) to be because the band got a professional production job done as opposed to Jamie doing his own.
Angular and dissonant, Hoggard's no slouch on guitar either. Tons of jazzy, emotionally resonant chords create dizzying, alien soundscapes. With all those time signature changes comes some brilliant melodies that will have you humming along for weeks. I swear I had "The Hollow Idols" stuck in my head forever. "Burning Skies" and "Cold Becoming" were there too at other points. The best part about songs like this is that they all build to some sort of apex. In interviews the band has strongly emphasized linear songwriting, and on The Destroyers Of All it's easiest to hear it in practice. There are no stale riffs. No boring rhythms. There are droning sections, but it's all done in the name of a unifying atmosphere just the way it should be. There are some slower songs though, and both "Omens" and "Beneath" are quality tracks, although the former is probably the least Ulcerate-esque on the album.
Lyrically the album deals with the themes of the human condition, with a degree of nihilism thrown in. As opposed to the all-truth and absolution of Everything Is Fire (the idea that truth itself is an ever-changing and illusive ideal that doesn't really exist), this album applies this directly to humanity. This in some ways makes it resonate better. For example the apex of "The Destroyers Of All" is one of the most emotionally resonant pieces of death metal I've ever heard. "Bring me the comfort of cold inertia / Bring me the graves, poised for our leaden demise" - combined with that riff it truly does sound like absolution incarnate.
Although the songwriting is arguably more atmospheric and less intensely technical this time around, Ulcerate still prove to be spearheading the "other" (aka non wank-a-thon) kind of technical death metal. The production is the one thing that really hurts the album, and personally I did prefer the more wall-of-sound approach that Everything Is Fire had, but it's impossible to top perfection.
9.0 out of 10
|5.||The Hollow Idols|
|7.||The Destroyers of All|