Friday, May 1, 2020

Umbra Vitae : "Shadow of Life"

Jacob from Converge decided to put together a death metal band so he enlisted  guitarists from Hatebreed and the Red Chord, along with the ex- drummer from Job For a Cowboy and the bassist from the Red Chord. It's not pure death metal. The drummer is the only one from a dyed in the wool death metal band as the Red Chord brought other elements into play. This works in the band's favor as it's not typical death metal. He admitted Converge was not metal despite being hyper aggressive. Vocally he maintains a hyper aggressive approach. He does not trade out his emotive bark for grunting. So it is more mid range and punk that the kind of vocal performance you would call death metal. There are some lower more Morbid Angel like growls. From songwriting perspective he continues to embrace punk by keeping these pretty condensed 3 minute bursts. Though unlike grindcore they are full formed songs.There are the required weighty chugs of death metal though there is a much wider canvas of sonic depth. 

As with any extreme metal band brutality if the pounding become to much of the focus the song suffers. They mange to do this a few times though the collateral damage is minimal. "Mantra of Madness" has a more conventional death metal groove to it. This is not the albums only foray into the expected bounds of death metal. There digging into the darkness of the more standard formula for death metal works well on " Fear is Fossil". The lyrics can be made out during the lower accented growls , but much like his performance in Converge, Bannon uses his voice as another abrasive instrument. "Polluted Paradise" focuses in on the blurred blast of a beating they give you.. "Intimate Inferno" is a continued after shock from the first explosion of the previous song. It is more interesting as more melodic elements are introduced by the guitar and the low growls give a hooky accent.

"Return to Zero" is a fine example of where maximum brutality can be achieved while still making a song worth repeat listens . I think we often mistakenly assume hooks are a form of selling out. They are not they are embellishments that bring you back to a song . They stick with you. "Blood Blossom" is slower, but the drumming is true to the genre. In other places it helps them take this in a more grind core direction. He has great double bass feet. Brutality is sacrifice for a creeping darkness on the title track that closes the album. Normally I would be over the blood red moon for this kind of experimentation when it comes to death metal . The blasty sections feel like the more death grind kinda thing you hear more in the underground corners of the metal scene. I will round this up to a 9.5 it blends hard core and death metal in a very effective manner and a welcome diversion until the next Converge album.

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