Interview With Ulcerate

Ulcerate from New Zealand are known for their innovative take on death metal. They mix the complex and technical approach of Immolation with atmospheric postcore styled layers in the best Neurosis and Isis tradition. Their latest album, entitled The Destroyers Of All, is a devastating attack on the senses and arguably their best effort to date. On behalf of the band skinsman Jamie Saint Merat offered his thoughts on the creative and recording process of their latest album, the local scene down under and the possibilities of seeing Ulcerate some time soon in Europe..

Let’s start with your new record, entitled The Destroyers Of All. I think it’s very original and fresh within a genre saturated with Cannibal Corpse, Nile and Morbid Angel clones. Are you happy the way the album came out?

Yeah for the most part, there’s things in hindsight which bug me, but that’s inevitable. We’re starting to be more or less pretty happy with the songs we write at least, more-so just small things that we think we could do better recording-wise.

Ulcerate seems to take the technical and unorthodox approach of Immolation and fuse this with Neurosis styled post core elements. Am I right on the money and what other influences does the band have?

Well yes and no, it’s never been our intention to just blindly mash two styles together. I think anyone that is familiar with our back catalogue will see the development, and how we’ve always dabbled with a sense of atmosphere and a layered approach in terms of guitar work, and a definite reluctance for classic lead playing. For us, it’s come down to wanting to create an ungodly wall of noise, juxtaposed with a real sense of dynamics and tension and release points in the songs, and that’s obviously where I guess the line blurs over into the post-rock sensibility of dynamics.  But we have no intention whatsoever of  becoming a ‘post-whatever’ band, we just write parts that suit what we’re going for, there’s no desire to fit in with a certain scene or sound per se.

Songs like Burning Skies, Cold Becoming, Beneath and Hollow Idols are rather complex when it comes to song structures and arrangements. Is a certain level of technicality important for you and the band in general?

Complexity yes for sure, as challenging music always has some sort of complexity to it, but technicality to me has always meant more of a display of chops, often at the cost of what is called for in song-writing.  We never set out to make things intentionally complex, and for us, these songs aren’t really complex for us to play, it’s not like we’re always playing at the outer edge of our abilities.  We just work on things that sound interesting to us, nothing more, nothing less.  The fact that we utilise a lot of odd meters for example only really makes itself apparent when we’re showing the other guys in the band the riffs, it’s never been ‘lets write in 5/8 to really fuck with people’ haha.

What elements should an Ulcerate song have before it’s commited to an album?

A good narrative arc.  It needs to have climax points in the right place, and needs a total level of fluidity, regardless of how chaotic or stripped-back it may be. Asides from that, anything goes within our framework of how we want things to sound.

How did the creative and recording process for The Destroyers Of All go? What was the band aiming for this time around?

This time we were aiming for a bigger, more all-encompassing sound.  A lot of the initial ideas we had were very ‘open’ tonally, lots of dragging sustained chords, so we really wanted them to really open up and just sound as massive as possible.  Recording-wise certainly got close to where we were aiming, though we’re never going to able to nail it 100%. Writing-wise, we wrote for a period of six months or so on a full-time basis, and in a really linear fashion – the whole album was written almost from top to bottom, with one track-list alteration at the end.  We did a lot of pre-production recordings to weed out what was and wasn’t working, and to get a good sense for how the counterpoint instrumentation was working. And as for the recording process, we documented that on a sub-page of our site, which describes in detail what we were up to: http://www.ulcerate-official.com/The-Destroyers-Of-All/

Blame it on the distance or the lack of exposure, but it seems to me that there aren’t many (extreme) metal bands around down under. I’m familiar with The Amenta, Psychroptic, Alarum, Alchemist and you guys, but that’s it. Is there a thriving scene in Australia/New Zealand? What are the bands to look out for?

Yeah man for sure, I’ll list out bands that I’m interested in sound-wise: Australia: Portal, Impetous Ritual, Nazxul, Ruins. For NZ: Creeping, Diocletian, Witchrist, Entrails, Vassafor.

Long distances and a certain amount of isolation seems to stimulate bands and musicians to find an original sound of their own. The Canadian, French and Norwegian scenes are living examples of that. What’s your take on this and does it apply to Ulcerate as well?

Throughout recent history that definitely seems to be the case in Australia and NZ – particularly in the area of metal that we’re interested in, which is the very extreme, dark and oppressive end of the death and black spectrum.  For some reason there’s a real sense of bands in this neck of the words that really push the envelope in this area, and it’s fucking great to see.

When it comes to metal most things seems to be happening in Europe and North America, certainly in terms of bands and festivals. How difficult is it for a band from New Zealand to get a certain level of recognition/notoriety outside your own country?

The internet really makes those barriers more or less invisible though you know?  Obviously the touring side of things makes it a little more difficult, but most of the bands I mentioned earlier have toured internationally at some point.

What’s your view on the current state of extreme metal and metal in general?

As a music listener – same with any kind of music in current times, a glut of mediocrity, with a few diamonds in the rough.  But for us as a band inhabiting the sound, it’s fucking exciting, we feel no pressure whatsoever to do anything other than what we want to do… it’s great.

As a final question I would like to know when we can expect Ulcerate on a stage here in the Netherlands?

Not sure at this stage, we’re still in planning stages, but we’re aiming for later this year for sure.

Written by Raymond Westland

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