Ulcerate is a New Zealandian technical death metal band. Characterized by their dense and extremely complex compositions that blend dissonant technical death metal with post-metal, they have gone from a well-loved but relatively obscure name in the underground to a beloved figurehead of an entire movement of like-minded death and black metal acts who also incorporate post-metal into their sound.
Formed as Bloodwreath in Auckland in 2000, the initial lineup included Mark Seeney (vocals), Michael Hoggard (guitars), and Jamie Saint Merat, though Seeney was gone by 2002 and James Wallace had replaced him, while Jared Commerer also joined as a secondary guitarist (and was also gone by the following year; Phil Smathers was also very briefly a bassist before ducking out). Nonetheless, Commerer was around long enough to record two demos that dropped in 2003 and 2004, respectively, the first of which also brought the Ulcerate name change. Michael Rothwell and Phil Kusabs also joined in 2003 on guitars and bass, respectively; various shows followed, and by 2005, Kusabs was already out and Paul Kelland was in. 2006 brought a compilation of their two demos titled The Coming of Genocide as they prepared to record their full-length debut, though Sullivan left that same year and was replaced by Ben Read. The beginning of 2007 brought Of Fracture and Failure on Neurotic Records. While the initial fanfare was small, it slowly but surely started to become a name in the underground and even crept up onto a few end-of-year lists. 2008 brought the departures of Read and Rothwell, neither of whom were replaced; Kelland took over vocal duties, while Oliver Goater was eventually brought in the next year on a strictly live basis. It also brought a deal with Willowtip Records and the start of the writing process for a second full-length. 2009 wound up being their breakthrough year, as Everything Is Fire dropped in early April to rave reviews and was hailed as a modern classic. In spite of this, there was surprisingly little activity for a band that seemingly had that much momentum. 2010 brought the induction of William Cleverdon as a full-time second guitarist, though he arrived too late to appear on their then-impending third album. The Destroyers of All dropped in early 2011 and finally resulted in a fairly solid battery of touring that culminated in their first US appearances (including a very rude greeting when their van was broken into and robbed) and a deal with Relapse Records in 2012, as well as the departure of Cleverdon.
2013 brought Vermis, their Relapse debut, and 2014 brought the next round of touring, including a US run with Inter Arma and a European run with Wormed, Solace of Requiem, and Gigan. 2015 brought scattered shows but was otherwise quiet, while 2016 started with various teasers of a new album that eventually culminated in the one-two punch announcement that Shrines of Paralysis would drop that October and would also immediately be followed with a full US tour with Zhrine and Phobocosm that is wrapping up at the time of writing. A well-loved and revered act that has become widely influential in the 2010s, it stands to reason that Ulcerate will only continue to keep moving forward from here.
- Ulcerate (2003) (demo)
- The Coming of Genocide (2004) (demo)
- The Coming of Genocide (2006) (demo compilation)
- Of Fracture and Failure (2007)
- Everything Is Fire (2009)
- The Destroyers of All (2011)
- Confronting Entropy (2013) (single)
- Vermis (2013)
- Extinguished Light (2016) (single)
- Shrines of Paralysis (2016)
- Stare into Death and Be Still (2020)
The band contains examples of the following tropes:
- Bald of Awesome: All three members.
- Concept Album: None of their albums tell conceptual stories, but most are based off of general overarching themes.
- Everything Is Fire: Hubris, blind veneration and reverence, and tradition for tradition's sake.
- The Destroyers of All: Humanity's blind, unthinking destructiveness and simultaneous ignorance of its own local impact and overstating of its greater cosmic importance.
- Vermis: Oppression, the unwillingness or inability to resist it, and the ignorance of the privileged.
- Shrines of Paralysis: Humanity's repetition of the same few stories over and over again with a new dogma or creed attached to justify the same atrocities that have already happened numerous times and its seeming inability to break the cycle.
- Stare into Death and Be Still: The inevitability of death and loss and the realization that it is seldom sudden and/or violent, and in fact is usually quite slow, mundane, and predictable, but is inexorable all the same.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Their early demos and Of Fracture and Failure were far more straightforward and less dense and closer to Gorguts and Deathspell Omega worship than their later material.
- Epic Rocking: It would be easier to name songs that don't qualify as this, though they didn't pick up this tendency until Everything Is Fire (nothing on the demos exceeds four minutes, and six out of the nine tracks on Of Fracture and Failure are under five minutes).
- Humans Are Bastards: The focus of most of their lyrics, detailed above under Concept Album.
- Irony: The title of Everything Is Fire was a phrase coined by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus to refer to the fluid and constantly-changing nature of existence, whereas the album's lyrical concept is based around unreasonable, unthinking idolatry and adherence to tradition.
- Lead Bassist: Paul Kelland is a Type B.
- Lead Drummer: Jamie Saint Merat is known for his incredible technical ability and also produces and mixes all of their music and handles all artwork and design-related matters.
- Loudness War: Unfortunately played very straight, which is at least somewhat surprising given their prominent post-rock elements. All of their full-lengths are massively brickwalled.
- Metal Scream: Paul Kelland is a mix of Type 1 and Type 2, sporting a lower mid-ranged roar.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Solid 10 for their entire career.
- New Sound Album: Everything Is Fire essentially served as the Trope Codifier for their sound as a whole and featured far denser, more complex and less blast-heavy compositions.
- Old Shame: They don't like their demos or Of Fracture and Failure and have told fans who have asked about them that they will never play anything from them again; "Becoming the Lycanthrope" was the last song to still find its way onto the setlists, and even that was gone by the end of 2012.
- Post-Metal: Trope Codifier for the post-metal/death and black metal fusion style that has become common in the 2010s.
- Revolving Door Band: Went through a ton of lineup changes early on that didn't settle until 2008, though Kelland, Hoggard, and Saint Merat have all been in the band for over ten years (and, in the case of the latter two, were founders).
- Rock Trio: Off and on between 2008 and 2012; they didn't qualify when Cleverdon was in the band but qualified once again after he left and was not replaced.
- Signature Style: Expansive compositions that completely spurn traditional song structures with constantly shifting dissonant guitar work involving heavy usage of effects and a decidedly more texture-based approach, along with lengthy subdued passages and extremely complex and busy drumming that matches the guitars with a more freeform-based approach.
- Step Up to the Microphone: After Ben Read left, Paul Kelland just opted to do double-duty on bass and vocals and never looked back.
- Technical Death Metal: Along with Gorguts, they are the poster children for the dissonant side of the genre.