Ulcer – Heading Below
Polish death metal unit Ulcer return in 2016 with over 50 minutes of soul-sucking heaviness on their third full-length album, Heading Below. Ulcer purveys a style of death metal that possesses the gritty tone and penchant for buzzsaw grooves of the Swedish scene, with nuances of hardcore, grind, black metal and doom thrown in for good measure. The record can be likened to the works of At the Gates, pre and post-Wolverine Blues Entombed and the Swedish death metal inspired hardcore of Black Breath and others. Though the majority of this record utilizes the crusty Swedish-inspired sound that has become pretty commonplace at this point, it is when it attempts to switch things up that it begins to take on a character of its own. Tracks like”Down Below”, while good, are what listeners would expect from a band of this ilk. Tremolo-picked blackened riffs and propulsive drumming are churned out left and right on this track, and often lead to punishing metallic groove beatdowns and atmospheric interludes. This kind of approach is littered throughout but, as previously hinted at, the band tastefully provide some sonic twist and turns here and there. The second track “Fiends Forever” starts off with a lengthy onslaught of barreling, flesh-ripping death metal riffs and sludgy sprawls, before ending with a barrage of thunderous drumming and walls of feedback and cacophonous noise. Tracks like “Sights to See” see the band melding death metal with elements of furious, groove laden grind that is eerily reminiscent of some of Rotten Sound‘s material. Then there are cuts like the blasphemous nine-minute closing tune, “Enshrouded in Nothingness”, where the band opt for cataclysmic, melancholic doom crawls that are spiced up with occasional bursts of high octane riffage. When Heading Below plays around with style and composition, it really shines. But other times it comes across as a standard, albeit solid, Swedish-inspired death metal record. Though it would have been nice to see the more “experimental” moments fleshed out a bit more, Heading Below is still a hard hitting death metal album that is worth the time.
Release Date: 5/26/2016
Label: Arachnophobia Records
Favorite Tracks: “Fiends Forever”, “Sights to See”, “All in Vain” and “Enshrouded in Nothingness”
For Fans Of: Entombed, At the Gates, Blaze of Perdition and Dismember
The Guts – Birth
Brighton mathcore outfit The Guts make an impressively erratic entrance with their aptly titled debut EP, Birth. The short but satisfying release unleashes 16 minutes of unhinged noisy, mathcore-inspired post-hardcore that casually nods towards the works of The Jonbenét, Rolo Tomassi, Fear Before the March of Flames and similar acts. “Biteclub” starts off the release with dissonant chord shapes that are entangled by serpentine guitar riffs and a myriad of maniacal vocals. The song is propelled by boisterous percussion and an underlying southern metal swagger that pulses with catchy grooves. “Karatery” follows shortly after with a feverish display of psychotic instrumentation that is full of noise, off-kilter rhythmic shifts and general chaos. The track’s opening burst of mathcore wrath also transitions into a subdued melodic bridge populated by humming clean guitars and poppy, yet somber keys, before the track issues a climax of towering chord progression and subsequent moody outro. “Neckless”‘ approach is similar to that of “Biteclub”, with its onslaught of spiraling riffs, jerking rhythms and occasional hard rock grooves. But the track also features a surprising twist near its conclusion in which the band employ a procession of scathing, screamo-adjacent, tremolo-picked madness that is as melancholic as it is blistering. “Bloodhoney” brings everything to an explosive close with an opening dose of zany guitars that bleed into hardcore-tinged bruisers. The song’s brief but catchy synth-laden interlude calls The Blood Brothers to mind and paves the way for a final bombardment of rhythmically-jarring, noisy breakdowns. The Guts definitely wear their influences on their sleeves on this EP and don’t utilize this style drastically different than their contemporaries. But it is their playfulness and clear passion that makes Birth a fun and wacky listen. It will be interesting to see where they go next.
Release Date: July 22, 2016
Favorite Track: “Karatery”
For Fans Of: The Blood Brother, The Jonbenét, Fear Before the March of Flames, Rolo Tomassi and The Fall of Troy