By Donnie Cuzens.
Shrines of Paralysis is the fifth LP from Auckland-based 3-piece Ulcerate, coming three years after their previous work Vermis. As anyone who’s familiar with the band’s work can guess, it’s an insanely good album. Clocking in at just under 58 minutes with 8 tracks, Shrines of Paralysis immediately sets itself apart from the rest of the band’s body of work in its first few seconds. Eschewing their trademark slow build of tension and atmosphere that opened their last three albums, opening track Abrogation has the band firing on all cylinders from the first beat, setting the pace and tone for the rest of the record.
Guitarist Michael Hoggard has always woven an incredibly unique strain of high, dissonant melody into the band’s songs between terrifying lows, defying and subverting traditional notions of musicality and tonality in ways that borrow and blend from all corners of metal. While these mournful and distressing long-form explorations of riffs and tones do litter tracks like Yield to Naught and the eponymous Shrines of Paralysis, this record focuses much more on the chugging, guttural, primal side to Ulcerate’s noise.
This intensity is compounded by a much more claustrophobic mix than Vermis and The Destroyers of All. The distorted bass punching a hole right through the middle (coming right to the forefront in Bow to Spite). The guitar tones take on a more rounded and upper-mids-heavy feel. There’s a lot less reverb and layers of ambient, soaring guitar drenching the walls of this thing than usual. The snare is deeper, much more present, driving the riffs home with a ceaseless, perfectly-pocketed thudding. (Jamie Saint-Merat’s drumming in general is, as always, precise and eclectic, at times a mesmerizing dance, at others an onslaught.)
All of which comes together to form the most blistering and modern record Ulcerate have released since their magnum opus, 2007’s Everything is Fire.
Vermis and Destroyers were ruminations on a theme they had started with Of Fracture and Failure, explorations of atmosphere and despair that recall the most extreme ends of black and technical metal, even ambient music and post-metal in parts. With Shrines of Paralysis, they’ve stripped their sound back to its exposed, bloody flesh, and they come running at you full tilt. It’s a rich, rewarding album, and a great addition to the canon of a band that continue to prove themselves one of the most important metal bands in the world.
Shrines of Paralysis