Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Unfathomable Ruination - Finitude

My head hurts

I didn't really think of it until now, but Unfathomable Ruination have actually been basically a sister band to Abnormality in my eyes.  They both stormed out of the gate in 2012, with fantastic debut albums on a notoriously lame record label (Sevared Records), both of which were blisteringly fast, chaotic, and somehow also groovy and hooky brutal tech death albums that both blew me off my chair.  Afterwards, they both went relatively quiet, only for them both to roar back in 2016 with their sophomore efforts, both of which utilizing artwork prominently featuring a fractured face in washed out color against a black background.  That's... oddly specific, but interesting nonetheless.  The big difference between the two at this stage in their careers is that Abnormality has since jumped ship to Metal Blade and have found themselves backed by the closest thing to a major label you can find in extreme metal, whereas Unfathomable Ruination finds themselves still nestled snugly within the roster of that shitty BDM label I will probably always have a grudge against (blame my brief time writing for Metal Crypt, when Sevared would swarm us with terrible, faceless promos by the dozen).

Abnormality had the upper hand four years ago, but at this point, the Brits have easily usurped their crown.  Finitude here has one immediately recognizable strength above Mechanisms of Omniscience, that being the production.  The Americans found themselves recording with an extremely sterile sound, with squeaky clean snares, muffled guitars, and vocals shoved in the foreground, whereas the UKers instead find themselves continuing with what worked before.  The sound here is absolutely fucking savage, with guitars that carry a massively punishing crunch, drums that pound the living daylights out of you (including that signature pingy snare that 70% of all brutal death metal bands seem to utilize), and vocals relegated slightly into the background to act more as a secondary percussive force as opposed to a driving mechanism of the music.  It's amazing how much of a difference these small tweaks make, as the former album sounds like a clinical exercise running in the background and the latter is more akin to a furious hellbeast dripping lava from every orifice.  The little moments stand out so much more here, like the Cryptopsy-esque squeals that punctuate the blasting insanity of "Thy Venomous Coils", the ethereal introduction that leads to the crushing groove that drives "Neutralizer", to the neck twisting bass runs in "Nihilistic Theorem".  It's amazing how a small difference like giving some added rawness to the production and restructuring the balance of the individual performances can sound like night and day on albums that are functionally identical.

And on that "identical" comment comes the album's lone flaw; despite the occasional standout licks like the ones posted above, the album is essentially just a plateau of insanity.  Which is fine by me, personally, but when they have standout sections like that that show they can write a punishing groove or a killer hook or a memorable lead line it tells me that they can simply multiply whatever the hell they did during those moments to load the album down even further with great moments.  As it stands, they're pretty few and far between and the band repeats a few of the same tricks here and there, but they're all done quite well so it's not really a problem when all is said and done.  At the end of the day this is still a highly enjoyable romp through twisted depths of unending depravity.

I think the main thing that makes Unfathomable Ruination stand out in the crowd of samey tech death comes from something as simple as the songwriting.  The band always sounds like they're coming apart at the seams and juuuuust holding together enough to throw in those knee buckling curveballs every now and again to keep things fresh.  As soon as it seems like the drummer's arms are going to fall off and the vocalist is going to tear his own throat out, the pace will dip for a few bars and hammer you over the head with a Suffocation styled slamming groove.  They even take a page out of Origin's playbook and close the album with an 8 minute scorcher that slows itself down for a good portion of the time.  It's all kinda secretly brilliant.  The thing with most tech death is that it never really sounds aggressive, so to speak.  It's impressive, sure, and it's definitely heavy and fast, but it rarely carries a whole lot of fury outside of bands like Neuraxis and whatnot.  Unfathomable Ruination, on the other hand, sounds fucking savage.  Doug Anderson takes a more Alex Hernandez "flip the fuck out and play your whole drumkit at once" approach than a John Longstreth "focus really hard on not fucking up these lightning fast intricacies" one.  The riffs are frantic and spastic but also grounded and simple enough at times to headbang yourself into a coma whilst playing.  It's a perfect blend.

Long story short, this rocks like the stone age.  Listen to it.

RATING - 87%

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