(Season of Mist)
Ulsect’s debut self-titled release is certain to go down as the most impressive death metal release of 2017. The band, featuring members of Dodecahedron and Textures, play a style of progressive post-death metal that is and is not what you would expect from a band with that lineage. Ulsect’s dissonant death metal is exceptionally groove-oriented, without getting close to being djent; the Meshuggah influence is clear, especially in the album’s more pensive moments. So, in that sense, Ulsect marry Textures’ love of poly-rhythmic tech metal with Dodecahedron’s uber-extreme dissonant metal (but more death than black here). Ulsect is a lot to take in on first listen, often unsettlingly so.
That said, this Dutch group are masters at the push and pull, the explosion and recovery, of post-metal at its best. Listen to the sheer depravity of the technical dissonance in opener “Fall to Depravity” that gives way to a brooding and haunting mid-section before a final burst of cacophony. The band also understand, let’s call it “melody”, much better than their peers. Unlike, say, Ulcerate, whose style is often so purposely disorienting that it’s almost frightening, Ulsect really nail that balance between the extreme and (let’s go with) the “less extreme”. Take “Unveil” and “An Augury”, work almost as a salve to the preceding and foreboding insanity surrounding it. Also, there are honest to God riffs on here (“Fall to Depravity” and “The Ending” are most notable) that peep through the maelstrom.
Maybe that’s where it’s most clear: Ulsect, despite crafting a uniquely wonderful dissonant death metal record, have made something that doesn’t feel utterly disorienting. It’s dazzling and a bit harrowing, but these impressive musicians actually understand how to dole out pure madness at the right time for maximum effectiveness; Ulsect are masterful songwriters, and that shows throughout the expertly plotted debut. This won’t be everyone’s cup o’ tea, but if you’re looking for adventurous and exceptional death metal, few will do that better than Ulsect in 2017.