I don’t know who I can recommend Ulcerate’s Shrines of Paralysis to, but maybe that’s the point. I thought Anaal Nathrakh’s latest would have won Ugliest Listen of 2016 by a landslide, but Shrines dropped trou and shit all over that ill-fated notion. The whole thing, all 57 minutes, 44 seconds of it, is a fucking glorious mess, with a fuzzy guitar tone that isn’t so much atmospheric as it is asphyxiating, and drum production that’s drier than a 24 oz. can of cold Asahi.
As for the songs themselves, I admit I struggle to identify the structures as simply ultra-technical; Ulcerate seems confident, comfortable even, regarding simple verse-chorus patterns as paltry and juvenile, the playthings of lesser bands. Still, I find it hard to talk about Shrines on a single-song basis, as all the tracks do kind of meld together — if I saw Ulcerate live I’d have trouble distinguishing one song from another — but like Anaal Nathrakh, Ulcerate isn’t just spewing noise; it’s calculated chaos. Monstrous vocals roar over muddy, distorted guitars, which only halt their frenzied tremolo-picking for frequent dissonant melodies. But even that isn’t all dicks out, either; they know how to hold back and lay down some tasty layers, as the gorgeous latter half of “Yield to Naught” proves.
I can already say Shrines of Paralysis won’t be making my Top 10 list this year, but I think it may be the most sonically impressive thing I’ve heard all year. Sure, I can try forcing it into a coveted slot, but what I really want is to just give up, call it “art,” and put myself at the mercy of these Kiwis pummeling my ear canals.
Standout track: “Chasm of Fire” – Every song on Shrines feels like a fucking journey, but “Chasm” encompasses the full range of Ulcerate’s terrifying talents. A buildup of intense blast beats and sublime, awe-striking rage culminate in a final minute and a half of sheer ferocious beauty.
Support Ulcerate and buy Shrines of Paralysis here.