Ulcerate - Cutting The Throat Of God (Cover Artwork)


Cutting The Throat Of God (2024)

Debemur Morti

Ulcerate’s last record, Stare Into Death And Be Still has become something of an artistic yardstick for dissonant, intelligently crafted death metal in the time since its release. The fact that it was the band’s sixth album and was their first after 2 releases via Relapse is an interesting aspect of the record and this, their second with avant-grade french metal label Debemur Morti does continue in a similarly dark and complex direction.

For the uninitiated, Ulcerate create a dense, unsettling paradigm of death metal. With a lot more guitar work focused on the higher end of the fretboard than might typically be the case in death metal (courtesy of guitarist Michael Hoggard), the weight and heft come primarily from the aural wrecking crew of bassist/vocalist Paul Kelland and drummer Jamie Saint Merat. All of the band, it should be said, are magnificent musicians. At various times on the record, it’s very difficult not to step outside of the song (as it were) for a second and simply marvel at the furious technicality of what is being played. The drumming is especially impressive, with tempo changes all over the place, stylistic shifts and metronomic accuracy, even through some of the most technically advanced drumming you’re likely to hear all year. The relentless nature of it is also worthy of note. Lord only knows how one person could play all of these songs live in a single sitting. Paul Kelland’s vocals are of the roared variety and sit perfectly with the musical canvas, though one might argue a little low in the mix on occasion. And then (arguably) the piece de resistance, Michael Hoggard’s guitar stylings. I’m not sure what scales he’s using, and I’m not convinced it matters, but he does have an uncanny ability to summon a riff or lick that excites, sets you on edge and beguiles you all at the same time. It’s something which has doubtless developed organically over the 20 years he has been playing in this band, but along with a pretty unique tone (in the death metal world, anyway), it does provide Ulcerate with something of a signature sound.

When I receive a record, I will generally know the genre or style from the band’s name, the record and song names, the track lengths, and the artwork. With Ulcerate, this is less obvious. They sound like a death metal band (the name Ulcerate isn’t exactly soft and squishy), but when I see a record that is basically an hour long, and made up of songs no less than seven minutes, then there is a tiny part of me that winces inside. Even as a huge death metal fan, there is an optimum length for a DM album. And an hour ain’t generally it. But this is where there is further deviation from the typical conventions. Because of the way that Ulcerate structure their songs, almost as if they are a stream of consciousness, there is no real opportunity for you to disengage with what they’re doing. I’m not going to go as far as to say there are Blood Incantation levels of songwriting, but they’re heading in that direction, certainly. And to draw another tenuous comparison to Blood Incantation, Ulcerate’s focus in terms of lyrical content and associated vibe, is much more nuanced than simply death. There is real contemplation here, and the fact that the lyrics are published speaks to this. There is a weight of import in the lyrics that the band want people to engage with. And that’s always a good sign.

There is a real mood created by this band, and by this album especially. It’s not a fun record by any means, but it is emotive, engaging and has a sublimely subtle touch for something as dark and heavy as it is. Sometimes death metal is at its best when it’s dunder-headed in the extreme. But when it’s done with this weight of intelligence, it can be pretty undeniable, too.