How awesome was it when New Zealand’s Ulcerate visited the desert planet of Arizona for the very first time touring in support of their latest offering, Shrines of Paralysis? Pretty fucking awesome, mate!
As I made my way towards the door of the Yucca Tap Room, I noticed that their merch table was outside, which was uncommon but practical for this smallish yet cozy drinking hole. I said "Hello" to the girl manning the table and when she reciprocated the greeting with a heavy New Zealand accented "Ello", I just had to make small talk to hear more of said accent. I asked her how she was liking the Arizona fall weather (It was approximately 9 p.m. and probably still around 80 degrees Fahrenheit) and she said that she was expecting it to be a lot cooler. That’s funny, that’s what everyone in Arizona is thinking right about now also. To punctuate this thought even more, when I went inside the Yucca Tap Room, the freaking air-conditioner was cranked. For fucks sake, it’s the second week of November! For those of you already wearing sweaters this fall, let that sink in for a moment....
I flew right past the opening band, Phobocosm, towards the bar and ordered myself a seasonal beer, more specifically, an imperial stout. It was delish! I loved the toasty malt flavor and at 10.4% ABV, it was hitting the spot! But I’m here to review the show… so, what I heard from Phobocosm, I liked. In fact, they reminded me of Ulcerate a little bit, with their complex song structures and growling vocals. The band after them, Zhrine, I missed altogether because of a coffee milk stout. Oh well…I’m here to review Ulcerate, so no fucks were actually given at this point.
Now I’ve seen Ulcerate before and they seemed gigantic/monstrous to me at the time, but it was on a much larger stage and the lighting definitely had something to do with it. As they took to their instruments on Yucca Tap’s very average bar stage, they appeared very human and non-imposing… until they hit the first notes of their opening track to Shrines of Paralysis, "Abrogation".
For the better part of the next hour, Ulcerate hammered the smallish crowd (about fifty very appreciative fans) with a variety of songs encompassing their whole discography. As I marveled at the intricacies of this trio’s ability to rival Meshuggah in regards to the complexity of their songwriting, I kept finding myself locked in on their drummer, Jamie Saint Merat. During the middle of their set, a friend texted me stating how he’d wished he had gone to the show. I texted him back to let him know that Ulcerate’s drummer alone was worth the $18 price of admission.
Not to be overshadowed, Ulcerate’s guitarist, Michael Hoggard, was also worth the price of admission. The precision to which he toggled his effects on and off (he had a pedal board that looked like a Death Star control panel) between chording and constant headbanging was beyond impressive. Last but not least, Paul Kelland’s ability to growl with the same conviction as the recordings was most impressive and he did this while inserting another layer of low end cacophony into an already chaotic, yet precise dissonant attack.
While Ulcerate were playing their finale, I couldn’t help but wonder when I’ll get to watch them again. I pondered this exact same thing a few years ago at Maryland Death Fest after I saw them for the first time. I came to the conclusion that the anticipation leading up to this show really added to the overall enjoyment of it. And you know what? I’m going to enjoy this ride again…someday.