Ascendancy through Hypnagogic Thought Process

Ascendancy through Hypnagogic Thought Process is simultaneously everything you expect and have heard from internet-ville brutal death metal projects, yet thoughtfully propelling the sound into a heightened realm of mind expanding slam mysticism.  Laparotomy is a studio project birthed by one Darryn Palmer, with drums and vocals provided by Justin McNeil.  Mr. Palmer is a prolific creator currently behind Perverse Image, and Spilling Entrails but maybe more well known of the defunct Slamophiliac and $lutrot.  Actually, and I hope this is an error, according to “ex-Laparotomy” is listed which is incredible considering Palmer is the lone member and this record came out at the end of April 2021.  He also runs VTLE Production as largely an umbrella for his own music.

I scour the virtual depths from decaying cathedrals, basement dungeons, and abandoned warehouses hoping to find audio relics of unique minds.  Projects that bend the rules but don’t exactly break them. That twist the form into something of their own image without being over-wrought or try-hard.  One would think finding such examples within brutal death metal is more difficult to accomplish ,or encounter, than with other subgenres of metal.  Yet, over the past few years a frontier is being pressed in brutal death metal, where the dumb mingles with the technical, is being transmogrified into ghastly new shapes by a small force of bands.

Like sentient nano-bio weapons evolving themselves and encroaching on enemy territories past known space, these dangerous new lifeforms threaten fragile treaties of traditionalism.  Bands like Afterbirth, Edenic Past, and Defeated Sanity are enhancing this style not only technically, but also in ambiance.  An element almost completely unregarded in slam.  However, Laparotomy is distinctly pushing the boundaries of ambiance…inward.  In some abstract way Ascendancy… is the counter to Dripping’s basement dwelling, drug induced psychosis suggested by, Disintegration Thought Patterns of a Synthetic Mind Traveling Bliss from 20 years ago.  Ascendancy… instead, however, leans into the ideals of a modern generations utilize the latest in natural hallucinogenic substances as tools to unlock greater understanding and potential of oneself, in effort that, in a collective sense, the self improvement and explorations that come from such exploratory sessions can propagate cultural and scientific uplifting for the positive advancement of humankind.  Laparotomy does this but for, you know…brutal death metal.

From the first shower of synth keys over straight up ‘dummy thicc’ guitar slams it’s clear Laparotomy is one of those projects that will likely draw a stark line with ‘old heads’.  Molesting The Decapitated this is not.  In fact, the album’s gauzy, timepiece melting slam is neither silly, gory, nor particularly dark.  The feel of these songs brought to mind Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.  The animated masterpiece is a lesson about the runaway effects on nature by man.  In it, much of Earth is being overtaken by an extreme mutation of nature; possibly a freakish consequence of man’s genetic manipulations over time.  Both the cover art and the music paints a similarly alien world dominated by complex and extreme plant life, fungi, mold, and insects in a disorienting saturation of texture and color, in a haze of expelling spores and fumes, bathing the air in low level intoxicating potpourri, attracting humans and other beings to this exotic and unique center of mind-body ascendancy.  The figure on the cover seemingly having been completely enveloped by the surrounding environment.

All of these elements best coalesce in the album’s track 5 centerpiece, “Delicate Yet Jagged Refinement”. Dense, euphoric synths deliver pharmacological peace while competing with ominous yet deceptively soothing drop-tuned riffs of poisonous gas replacing the oxygen in your blood.  Gradually, changing from creme toned sking to neon purple, over several minutes, you begin to commune with the fungal-ONE, represented by the vocals of drummer Justin McNeil; like a giant radioactive tardigrade gurgling sickly from its single orifice. Pulsing within its glowing lair deep under the noxious, living forest.  The album excels at remaining in its own writing pocket yet provides plenty of outstanding points of confusion such as in track 7, “Engagement in Extinguishing Malevolence”, which begins with a down right chiming, slightly stoned riff that wouldn’t have been out of place on any later era Dinosaur Jr. albums!  Shortly, death vocals boldly come in on top.  This transitions to a more traditional and menacing slam part, coming back once more into the Dino Jr. riff, before the song progresses toward rapturous indecency of pummeling gravity blasting and glistening synth maximalism.  One is liable to feel dehydrated, mentally disassociated, and physically dislocated as the guitars lumber back into the sparkling haze, trailed by keyboard wafting briefly and to a close in the final transcendental come down of “Rejoicing in the Vanquishment”.

Wow… what the fuck was all of that!  To my ears it’s easily earned a place in what will likely be a top 5 record on my metal year end list.  An album like this is what inspires me to spend many patient hours briefly sampling a lot of new music and, frankly, the real benefit of social media: that once in a while album that somehow seems custom made to fit your own finely sculpted taste.  Sometimes fulfilling a niche you never knew you were missing.  Laparotomy often enough lean into expected death metal blasting charge.  There is plenty for the brutal maniacs to enjoy, but it’s the measured, pulsating, almost hypnotic quality of much of the record that gives it character and charm.  Now, grooving as it can be, nobody is exactly moshing to Laparotomy’s narcotic elixir of progressive slam. It’s more of a hovering 5 feet off the ground, eyes rolled back, glowing purple -experience.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the often reductive genre of slam and crude brutal death metal, but like Disentomb, Afterbirth, or Edenic Past, Ascendancy Through Hypnagogic Thought Process is, and should make for, a stark exception of simultaneously moving, extrasensory ambiance and patiently executed riff macerations.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mars Budziszewski
June 9th, 2021


  1. Commented by: Dazz Palmer

    That was quite the word salad my man. Even I’m impressed. lmao. Appreciate the review though for real. Glad you appreciated this project for what it is. And don’t listen to Metal Archives, they get so much wrong just on my projects alone.

  2. Commented by: J. Mays

    Your writing style never fails to impress and engage me, Mars!

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