New Zealand tech metal trio Ulcerate begin their 11 date UK tour this evening, taking US funeral doom duo Bell Witch and local lads Ageless Oblivion along for the ride, starting in Holloway’s Nambucca. Ulcerate and Bell Witch hail from entirely different ends of the metal spectrum, however, this is a tour unison that works. Bell Witch’s crushing, mournful brand of monolithian riffs compliment the dense and abrasive blasts of Ulcerate’s technical styled death metal.
Tonight’s venue is a small pub with a staging area, providing the perfect level of intimacy for the small yet dedicated crowd in attendance. Home grown talent Ageless Oblivion kick the night off; the five piece perfectly bridge the gap between Ulcerate and Bell Witch, providing all the high velocity ferocity of modern age death metal against a backdrop of sweeping soundscapes of progressive sludge, akin to the likes of Minsk and Neurosis. At times the crowd aren’t as engaged as they could be, with vocalist Steve Jones’ shouts of “make some noise!” met with total silence, however, opening for Bell Witch is a tall order to fill and the band are certainly not lacking in enthusiasm.
Having seen Bell Witch perform at Roadburn six months ago, with Adrian Guerra behind the drum kit and providing half of the vocals, tonight is a test of how well Jesse Shreibman fills his shoes. Adrian’s departure from the band was actually news to me and tonight is the first I’ve heard of any sort of line-up change, so as they take to the stage and I see someone new wielding sticks I’m fairly taken aback. The pounding bass and morose melodies entrance the crowd almost immediately, as the band showcase the best of their tracks from Four Phantoms as well as a song from Longing for good measure. Jesse’s vocals aren’t quite as booming or guttural as Adrian’s, however, he pounds the drums with aplomb, so the performance doesn’t feel like it’s lacking in anything. The giant funeral dirges paired with ethereal dreamy passages make for a hypnotic live experience and the 40 minutes that the pairing play for slips by all too quickly.
Ulcerate round out the evening with a set that’s every bit as bleak and undulating as the sounds they conjure on 2013’s Vermis. Paul Kellend’s vocals maintain a distinct lo-fi quality even live on stage; they sound as though they are rumbling from deep within the earth’s very core. They draw almost entirely from Vermis, however, at least one track from Destroyers Of All makes it into the setlist. There’s a fragile balance between anguish and violence, and the crowd are mostly subdued throughout – whether this is a byproduct of the punishing they’ve just received from Bell Witch or because the viscous sounds of Ulcerate are so oppressive is anyone’s guess. They are almost exhausting to witness, possessing a polished drive and focus that can only be described as eerie – you can almost liken it to watching machinery at work. No doubt there is a collective sigh of relief as they come to a finish and the stifling atmosphere is lifted.
Scribed by: Angela Davey