Ulsect– if you haven’t heard of them; now is the time to get acquainted! Emerging out of Tilburg (Netherlands), the band includes vocalist Dennis Maas, guitarists Arno Frericks and Joris Bonis(Dodecahedron), bassist Dennis Aarts (ex-Textures), and drummer Jasper Barendregt (Dodecahedron). Their self-titled LP debuted on the 12th of May 2017 through record label Season of Mist. On season-of-mist.com the band are boldly described as “death metal innovators” and they “cordially invite you to dare and explore their dark dimension”. Furthermore, across Ulcest’s various websites, the album is claimed to “embody relentless post-death metal aesthetics fraught with shifting patterns and dark tonality” and include “high technical precision and prowess woven into dense dissonance and lucent atmosphere”. Mighty words for a new band to boast; however I challenge you to listen for yourself and try to disagree.
The opening track “Fall To Depravity” kicks off with a brief but tense instrumental intro, before transitioning into a dark verse that builds on to form a hard and heavy choral wave to the face; quickly becoming clear that there is only one way to listen to this record; LOUD! There are sectional breaks of almost-silence, which serve to compliment and balance the more intense sections of the song.
“Our Trivial Toil” encapsulates a sense of ‘gloom and doom’. High cymbal crashes contrast with a deep rattle and grind of bass, creating texture against a sharp-edged guitar twang. Maas slams out a powerful chorus with aggressive conviction, bringing the track into a full-bodied sound. Once again there are contrasting sections, particularly in relation to slow guitar layered over fast drum beats. I find this element to really draw you in and grip your attention in anticipation of what will come next.
“Diminish” boasts a bold sound full of tension build and release; it transitions from intensity into calm with a writhing ascent and descent. Bass riffs form a solid foundation for an ever-present essence of being inside of a horror movie; cautiously turning dark corners, awaiting an inevitable fate. The outro is delicately haunting.
Lasting a mere 2:20 minutes, “Moirae” is the shortest song on the record and seemingly serves as an instrumental prelude to “Unveil”. The two tracks transition smoothly, with “Moirae” ending in a tension increase that is met by an explosive beginning to “Unveil”. The outburst fizzles out and simmers down around mid-section, before building its way back up to a throttling conclusion. I would recommend listening to the two tracks in this order as it makes for a smoother listening experience. They do sound great as stand-alone tracks; however I found that they feel somewhat cut short if you listen to the album on shuffle mode.
“An Augury” is another instrumental track and it’s quite refreshing; the lack of vocal content does not warrant a sense of emptiness as there is so much texture to the sound I fear the inclusion of vocals might’ve actually overpowered what the other instruments bring to the table. There is a consistent theme of contrast and juxtaposition throughout this record for the mind to feast on. This track is no exception; it’s energy both soothing and unnerving simultaneously. Eerie, yet tranquil. Beautiful, yet sinister.
“The Ending” further provides a nice dose of heavy drumming as Barendregt stomps the double-kick with a thunderous pitter-patter. Rich guitar screeches ebb and flow into resonant fade-outs. Once the track peaks it leaves you spoilt for choice in regards to a melodic focal point.
“Maunder” starts out melodic, coaxing you in without fully allowing you to transcend by use of semi-startling firm strums on guitar. This progresses at a steady pace into a final series of ambient tension build/release, which comes on like a malevolent entity luring a victim into vulnerability before dragging them straight through hell to the devil himself, then dropping them off dazed and on their merry way back into reality. The song draws a close and one might be left feeling in need of a shower, or perhaps an exorcism. Marvellous!
As the 8-track reached conclusion (and I reached for the repeat button), I found myself in a state of absolute eagerness to hear what the future of Ulsect’s career has to offer! Settling on a favourite track might prove to be a difficult task. They deliver intoxicating textured layers of atmospheric tonal quality throughout, emitting nothing but guts and glory along the way. The record maintains an ample presence of soaring otherworldly screams and gritty growls to keep the souls of extreme metal fans nice and blackened. There is nothing soft or clean about the vocal content; it’s more like a gradient between demonic gutturals and violent whispers. This record will take you on a journey through a dark realm that Ulsect have created and called their own, leaving your eardrums burning in sweet feverish satisfaction, akin to a well-worked muscle after a fulfilling session at the gym.
“Ulsect” out NOW via Season of Mist!