Stare Into Death and be Still (2nd Review)

When I heard a few months back that Ulcerate was working on a new album, I couldn’t have been more excited.  I own their entire LP catalog, and after seeing them live in San Antonio 4-5 years ago, I was floored at the atmosphere they create and the fact that they were able to produce their unique sound flawlessly in a live setting.

Now with this being my first shot at a critical review of one of their albums, I kept asking myself “what is it about their sound that (to sound like a Hallmark card for second) just reaches down deep into my soul in a way that no other metal band has ever done?”  And after pondering that question for a while and going through the album multiple times, I settled on the fact that it’s their guitar tone.  Guitarist Michael Hoggard has managed to hit on a sound that I have found to be totally unique; no small feat in the metal (or any other) world.  It’s got a hauntingly dissonant tone to it that sets them apart from anyone I personally have ever heard.  I’ve always felt that the sign of a truly great band is the fact that if you put someone’s entire music collection on shuffle and asked them to pick when X band’s song comes on, you would be able to pinpoint it.  I could do that with Ulcerate in a millisecond.

Stare Into Death and Be Still picks up right where Vermis and Shrines of Paralysis left off:  long songs (the shortest one is 7 minutes), the aforementioned guitar tone, the haunting death-growl of Paul Kelland that is neither under or over-used (which would be easy in songs of such length), and the absolutely other-worldly drumming of Jamie Saint Merat.  I am a (very average) drummer myself, but trying to dissect what that guy is doing or what time signature he’s in is like trying to decide who Taylor Swift is going to dump and sing about in her next Billboard #1 song.  This has been the same lineup for the past 4 albums (they were a 5 piece for their first one, Of Fracture and Failure), and it’s apparent that that familiarity has bred some astounding albums.

If I had to make one small criticism, it’s the fact that the songs can sometimes seem to run together, partially due to the fact that they do have only one guitarist.  But that’s being nitpicky, and in the case of this particular band it’s also what adds a sense of cohesiveness for an album that clocks in at just under an hour.  The production is organic yet true to the sound and vibe that’s truly put them in the top tier of metal bands in the entire world.  I only hope they don’t take some strange ass Opeth-ian turn into prog weirdness, and produce about 15 more albums like this one.  I’d buy every single one. 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kevin E
June 16th, 2020


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