Album Review – Ulcer / Heading Below (2016)

Trenchant riffs, bestial vocals and wicked beats overflowing from the third full-length installment by a band from Poland that has always been loyal to the foundations of Death Metal.

Rating5

ulcer-heading-below-frontThree years after the release of Grant Us Death, the implacable Polish Death Metal squad Ulcer strikes again with their third full-length album, entitled Heading Below, which will certainly drag you down to the underworld with its 50 minutes of devastating old school Death Metal in the vein of Swedish classics. Bursting with trenchant riffs, bestial vocals and wicked beats while dealing with topics like hate, anti-religion and death, this is a highly recommended albums for fans of the genre, and also an album that effectively solidifies Ulcer’s career not only in Poland, but anywhere in the world where Death Metal is respected and admired.

Formed in 2006 in the city of Lublin (around 200km southeast of the capital Warsaw) and featuring members from established bands such as Blaze of Perdition, Abusiveness, Deivos and Dira Mortis, Ulcer can be considered one of the (relatively) new European bands with the strongest loyalty to the roots of Death Metal, keeping their sounding as raw and aggressive as possible, but with the addition of distinct elements from other subgenres of Extreme Metal to keep the music always fresh and exciting. If the name of the band is not enough to prove you how vile and gruesome the music in Heading Below is before you hit play, take a good look at the austere cover art by Polish artist Piotr Kurek of Mentalporn (who was responsible for the artwork for another Polish Death Metal band  recently reviewed by The Headbanging Moose, the also excellent Embrional) and you’ll then realize it’s brutal Death Metal we’re talking about, and nothing else.

How else could a good Death Metal album start than with some eerie noises suddenly exploding into sheer inhumanity? That’s the opening track, named Down Below, a sonic thunder that will crush you mercilessly led by the demolishing riffs by guitarist Lucass and Mścisław, with hints of Black Metal inserted into the musicality to darken the final result even more. In Fiends Forever, melodious but fierce guitar lines open the gates for the bestial vociferations by frontmen D. and Angelfuck and the heavy beats by drummer Vizun, until the song’s Cannibal Corpse-inspired ending; whereas Sights To See presents ruthless Death Metal with hints of Hardcore and Black Metal, which obviously enhances the song’s savageness. D. and Angelfuck are once again a dynamic duo of destruction, spearheading one of the best and most devastating moments of the album for sure.

All In Vain is one of those songs where an epic intro morphs into blasting metal with huge doses of anger, with Vizun being the band’s unstoppable stonecrusher while bassist Szwed provides the low-tuned creepy lines we love in extreme music, all embraced by a somber atmosphere. As aforementioned, Ulcer definitely know how to grab the best elements from other subgenres of heavy music, as for example the Doom Metal-ish vibe that complements the ferocity of their Death Metal in the elegantly fast and furious The Phantom Heart, another brutish hymn perfect for some sick mosh pits. You Called, We Came is a direct Death Metal composition tailored for diehard fans of boisterous extreme music, with absolutely no magic ingredients added to its formula but old school destruction. Moreover, Lucass and Mścisław fire exactly what the music demands through their devilish guitars. On the other hand, despite presenting some good moments (like the guitar solo halfway through it), Miscarriage’s Lullaby is way below the quality found in the rest of the album.

UlcerphotoThe mid tempo Death Metal chant Howl Of The Jackal sounds very old school, obscure and hellish, with both vocalists offering precise guttural howls and harsh screams while the rest of the band smashes their instruments manically. Yet again, an ominous aura boosts the song’s vileness and, consequently, it’s overall quality, elevating it to the status of one of the best composition in Heading Below. Lastly, the bold and demonic 9-minute aria Enshrouded In Nothingness begins by displaying the darkest form of Blackened Doom you can think of, with its disturbing sonority being fairly different from the rest of the album. In addition, the second part of the song becomes a blend of Death and Symphonic Black Metal, always getting back to its original sluggish rhythm until its desolating conclusion, showing how versatile the band can be without affecting their Death Metal core.

Heading Below can be purchased at the Arachnophobia Records’ BandCamp page or webstore, and more details about the reverberating Death Metal by Ulcer can be found at their Facebook page and SoundCloud. As I said in the beginning of this review, Heading Below will help Ulcer cement their path to success without a shadow of a doubt due to its high level of energy, violence and devastation, keeping the demonic fires of Death Metal alive for the total delight of lovers of a type of heavy music that always takes the word “heavy” to a new limit.

Best moments of the album: Sights To See, The Phantom Heart and Howl Of The Jackal.

Worst moments of the album: Miscarriage’s Lullaby.

Released in 2016 Arachnophobia Records

Track listing
1. Down Below 6:04
2. Fiends Forever 5:46
3. Sights To See 4:29
4. All In Vain 6:09
5. The Phantom Heart 6:16
6. You Called, We Came 4:14
7. Miscarriage’s Lullaby 4:47
8. Howl Of The Jackal 5:12
9. Enshrouded In Nothingness 9:06

Band members
D. – vocals
Angelfuck – vocals
Lucass – guitars
Mścisław – guitars
Szwed – bass
Vizun – drums

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